Will Google’s New Sales Strategy Help Android Overtake Apple?

Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) is putting a single phone on sale on its Google Play online market, a move that many believe is an experiment before tablets go on a similar route. Google has reportedly been unhappy with sales of tablets based on its Android operating system made by equipment manufacturers.

The Samsung Galaxy Nexus phone will be sold unlocked and without a wireless contract for $399, and will work with AT&T (NYSE:T) or T-Mobile SIM cards. The phone currently sells for $200 with a two-year contract at Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) and Sprint (NYSE:S). The phone, pegged by Samsung as one of the main competitors to Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone, comes pre-installed with Google’s Chrome mobile web browser.

The phone is stocked in Google Play’s new devices section.

In 2010, Google tried to sell HTC’s Nexus One as the flagship phone for Android directly to consumers, but removed it from the online store in a few months after doing poor sales. The idea is that improved Google Play customer support and marketing strategies may help the company do better this time around.

Google earlier said it was frustrated by sales of Android-based tablets by Samsung, HTC and Sony (NYSE:SNE), and wanted to sell those directly to consumers on its own. Android tablet sales lag way behind those of Apple’s iPad. Google currently generates mobile revenue through advertisements and sales of apps and digital media, but direct equipment sales could help it boost revenue by taking a cut from manufacturers as well.