Google has today officially announced the Nexus One, the company’s own Android smartphone. The Nexus One was described at the launch by Google product management chief Mario Queiroz as part of ‘an emerging category of devices which we call ’superphones’’.

Yet despite all the anticipation, Google isn’t adding anything radical to the Nexus One that will change the smartphone industry. Rather, it’s using the Nexus One as a showcase for the Android platform’s potential and it has made sure that the device has the most cutting-edge hardware and software available on the market. The Nexus One may be Google’s way of pushing device manufacturers to up their games by ensuring that their devices conform to Google’s standards.

Designed and manufactured by HTC, the Nexus One – which was initially distributed to some Google employees in December – runs on Android 2.1/Eclair (code-name ‘Flan’) and features quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE and tri-band UMTS/HSDPA/HSUPA at 2100/1700/900 MHz with HSDPA up to 7.2Mbps and HSUPA up to 2Mbps, as well as Wi-Fi b/g/n and Bluetooth 2.1+EDR.

Furthermore, onboard are GPS, cell tower and Wi-Fi positioning, a digital compass and an accelerometer. Built for browsing the Web, the device sports a 3.7-inch widescreen WVGA (480×800 pixels) AMOLED touchscreen and a 5-megapixel autofocus camera with LED flash AGPS support that is able to capture videos at 720×480 pixels at 20fps or higher, depending on lighting conditions.

The Google Nexus One is powered by a Qualcomm QSD 8250 CPU at 1GHz and runs Android 2.1/Eclair. It features 512MB Flash ROM and 512MB RAM and comes with a 4GB microSD Card (expandable to 32GB). Other cool features include light and proximity sensors, to let the device know when to save power by turning off or dimming the screen. Stereo Bluetooth support is included, as is a 3.5mm headphone jack.

The Nexus One is Google's first attempt at making its own device that runs on its open source Android OS

The handset also offers active noise cancellation through the use of two microphones — a first for Android phones. At 11.5mm thick and weighing 130g – together with a removable 1400mAh battery and no physical keyboard – it is slightly slimmer and lighter than Apple’s iPhone 3GS.

Android 2.1 is a Linux-based operating system offers graphical enhancements over its predecessors, such as animated wallpapers and refined icons. Google has also graphically refined menus and widgets, along with animated wallpapers that respond to the user’s touch. The new OS also offers server-side voice recognition that can be used in every text field on the device. This allows users to compose e-mails by voice alone. It does not currently support tethering, although this is not due to strategic reasons and that tethering is something Google says it’s looking at for future releases.

As with existing Android phones, applications can only be installed on internal storage. However, a future software release is likely to allow applications to be installed, encrypted, on the microSD card.

The Nexus One is available now online from Google (Google Checkout account is required), but for certain markets only. Initially it’s only available in the U.S. for $529 (unsubsidised) or $179 (subsidised with a new T-Mobile plan). However, Google is also shipping to Hong Kong, Singapore and the UK, but not to continental Europe where the partner will be Vodafone with an expected launch later this year.

While Vodafone will be Google’s European Nexus One-launch partner, it doesn’t mean that the Nexus One will be Vodafone branded or SIM-locked at all. It will just be distributed via Vodafone and Vodafone will offer it additionally with tariffs to subsidise the device. Customers are free to buy it without tariffs and it will stay Google’s Android smartphone, not Vodafone’s (in Europe) or T-Mobile’s (in the U.S.).