Google offers unlocked Galaxy Nexus

Google has decided to offer its Galaxy Nexus phone direct to consumers.

That means they won’t have to go into a mobile store and sign up for a two-year service agreement. But it also means they’ll be paying full price for the phone – a whopping $399.

The last time Google tried to offer a phone to consumers without a middleman, it was an admitted flop. The Nexus One smartphone was by all accounts a great phone, but without any help with distribution or marketing, it was a commercial failure.

The Galaxy Nexus is the Nexus One’s grandson. Google had an active hand in developing it, and right now it offers the phone through Verizon and Sprint.

But by offering it as an unlocked device, now consumers can choose to power it through T-Mobile or AT&T.

The Galaxy Nexus also represents one of Google’s biggest endeavors right now – Google Wallet. It has support for Near Field Communication (NFC), the standard that allows Google Wallet to act as a virtual credit card in stores around the country.

But so far, very few people even have the capability of using the software, since only Sprint has pledged support for Google Wallet. Nevertheless, it is one of the big selling points for the Galaxy Nexus.

In the wings is a competing service called Isis, which has been adopted by Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T. It seems impossible to compete with that, but Google has said time and again that it is committed to the mobile payment market.

There are ways it can offer value, such as partnering with stores to offer Google Wallet-exclusive deals. But will that really be enough to go against a conglomerate of 75% of the major carriers? We’ll see.