AT&T (NYSE: T) has agreed to sell the carrier-oversight free Nexus S for its network, bringing Samsung and Google’s flagship Nexus phone to the carrier for the first time and giving its users the option of a phone with the nascent NFC wireless payments technology.
The Nexus S launched with T-Mobile last year and Sprint (NYSE: S) this year, but a version for AT&T’s network will be available in Best Buy stores for $99 with a two-year contract starting Monday, Google announced on its mobile blog. The Nexus category of Android phones refers to devices that Google (NSDQ: GOOG) and a manufacturing partner sell as “pure Google” experiences, meaning that carriers and handset makers aren’t allowed to add the kinds of user-interface skins and third-party applications that otherwise allow Android makers to differentiate themselves from the competition. Likewise, AT&T won’t be allowed to hold up new versions of Android as they are released, because Nexus owners get first crack at new software from Google.
It’s also a test to see how much demand for NFC (near-field communications) technology there is at the second-largest wireless carrier in the U.S. AT&T is actually a member of Isis, the mobile industry wireless payments network, which sort of competes with Google Wallet for the hearts and minds of retailers. But it’s so early in the rollout of mobile payment technologies that there’s plenty of room for experimentation.
Preorders for the AT&T Nexus S can be placed starting today at Best Buy’s mobile website.