Google is expected to ring in the new year by unveiling its own smartphone on Tuesday, the Nexus One, in a bid to expand its powerful Web brand in the booming mobile arena.

The Internet search and advertising giant has already gained a foothold in the market with its Android mobile operating system, featured in a number of phones starting with T-Mobile’s G1 in October 2008 and more recently with the Droid from Motorola.

But the Nexus One, designed by Taiwanese handset maker HTC, represents a significant departure in that Google is expected to sell the Google-branded phone directly to consumers who will not be tied to any one telecom carrier.

Apple’s popular iPhone, for example, is available exclusively in the United States through AT&T, but buyers of the “Google phone” will reportedly have their choice of wireless carriers.

Technology blog Gizmodo, citing leaked documents, said the Nexus One will cost 530 dollars “unlocked” — meaning it isn’t tied to a specific carrier — or 180 dollars with a two-year service agreement with T-Mobile, a subsidiary of Germany’s Deutsche Telekom AG.

Google has been coy about any plans to jump headfirst into the fast-growing smartphone market, dropping hints but not confirming its intentions outright.

Agence France-Presse and other media outlets have been invited to a press event on Tuesday at Google headquarters in Mountain View, California, billed only as an “Android press gathering.”

“With the launch of the first Android-powered device just over a year ago, we’ve seen how a powerful, open platform can spur mobile product innovation,” the invitation said. “And this is just the beginning of what’s possible.”

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