Online search and advertising giant Google marked its official entry into the wireless handset market on Tuesday with the introduction of the Nexus One smart phone that is intended to rival the Apple iPhone. Produced by HTC of Taiwan, the Nexus One will operate on Google’s open platform Android system for mobile phones and will be sold directly to customers via the Google web site. (Currently, 59 carriers worldwide offer handsets that operate on the Android platform.) Boasting a 3.7-inch touch screen, a 5-megapixel camera that takes video and still photos, and voice recognition capabilities that permit users to compose and send text messages by voice command, Nexus One will retail for $529 unlocked or for $179 when purchased with a two-year calling plan from T-Mobile USA. The unlocked phone will also run on AT&T’s “EDGE” GSM wireless network if the owner possesses an AT&T SIM card. Google expects to market Nexus One through Verizon Wireless and through Vodafone in Europe later this year and hopes to sell the device through additional carriers in the U.S. and worldwide in the near future. Applauding the phone’s debut, a spokesman for Google described Nexus One as “an exemplar of what is possible with Android on mobile phones.” Meanwhile, AT&T on Wednesday confirmed its plan to sell wireless smart phones that operate on the Google-sponsored Android platform. Experts say AT&T’s decision to market Android handsets in addition to the Apple iPhone testifies to the growing influence of Google in the U.S. smart phone market. A spokesman for AT&T—the last major carrier in the U.S. to add Android devices to its product lineup—acknowledged that his company “hung back and watched the market very carefully” but decided ultimately to market Android-powered devices “when we saw the demand was there.” Beginning in the second half of this year, AT&T will sell five new Android handsets that are produced by Motorola, HTC, and other manufacturers. Observing that “AT&T needs another leg to stand on beyond the iPhone,” one telecom analyst explained that the Android devices will give AT&T “a well-rounded portfolio.”