Nexus S goes on sale with AT&T

The Google-optimized Nexus S smartphone is now available at a new bargain price, if you’re willing to sign up with AT&T.

The phone, which has the strongest support from Google among all Android handsets, has just been activated for the AT&T network, and carries a $99 price point for those who get a two-year service contract.

This is a big discount from the $199 price currently affixed by T-Mobile, which was the flagship carrier for the device when it first went on sale late last year.

The Nexus S currently has Android 2.3 – the most up-to-date version of the smartphone OS – and comes equipped with a 1 GHz Hummingbird processor as well as a 5-megapixel camera and 4-inch Super AMOLED display.

It’s also one of the first phones in the US to support NFC (Near Field Communication), a standard of mobile payment technology that is expected to really take off by next year.

It is the official successor to the Nexus One, a phone that was actually built and sold exclusively by Google. That device gained strong critical praise but was a commercial failure because of Google’s lack of experience in the channel.

For the Nexus S, Google brought Samsung on board to help with the manufacturing, marketing, and distribution, but it has still failed to make huge strides, even among other Samsung Android phones.

But the one good thing about the phone is that Google doesn’t want to tie it to one specific carrier, and with this new price cut from AT&T, it may well increase its presence in the market.