Google to Stop Selling Nexus One Through Webstore

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2010-05-15

Google will stop selling its Nexus One Android smartphone through its Webstore, Android creator Andy Rubin said in a blog post May 14.

Google will instead work to make the HTC-built Nexus One, which runs the Android 2.1 operating system, available through wireless carriers' retail channels, including online, in stores and over the phone, in the United States and other countries.

When the device finds sufficient success in retail stores, Google will turn its Webstore into a showcase for Android phones.

"While the global adoption of the Android platform has exceeded our expectations, the Webstore has not," Rubin said. "It's remained a niche channel for early adopters, but it's clear that many customers like a hands-on experience before buying a phone, and they also want a wide range of service plans to chose from."

The move can't be considered anything but a sign of a failed experiment by a company intent on disrupting the wireless operator market. It is also the ultimate sign that consumers are not ready to purchase phones without laying hands on them.

Google Jan. 5 began selling the Nexus One unlocked for $529 or for $179 for a two-year contract with No. 4 U.S. carrier T-Mobile. Verizon Wireless and Vodafone were expected to offer the speedy device, which sports a 1 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor and multitouch access to rival Apple's hallowed iPhone, in the spring. Sprint March 17 also pledged to sell the device.

Vodafone began selling the Nexus One April 30 in its UK stores, online and over the phone, but Verizon and then Sprint backed out in the two weeks that followed.

Google directed consumers to buy the HTC Droid Incredible from Verizon, while Sprint said it would focus on offering the HTC Evo 4G phone. Both the Incredible and Evo 4G run Android 2.1.

Offering the device solely through its Webstore was a move on Google's part to disrupt the traditional model in which carriers sell mobile phones through their stores and retailers such as Best Buy. Google tried to cut the middleman out, but consumers proved reluctant to buy the phone sight unseen.

Google Chief Financial Officer Patrick Pichette said April 15 the Nexus One was profitable, but analysts believe the device sold in the neighborhood of 250,000 to 300,000 units, nowhere near the more than 1 million units Verizon shipped of the high-end Motorola Droid smartphone.

Unlike Verizon's $100 million marketing campaign to push the Droid, Google didn't market the Nexus One, another failure. Banishing the Nexus One from its Webstore reflects the biggest failure of all.

While some analysts said the Webstore was not a failure, Forrester Research analyst Charles Golvin never cottoned to the idea, telling eWEEK May 12:

"I think [Google] had two purposes-to begin to alter the retail model for phones, and to provide an exemplar of what Android could do. I don't think U.S. consumers are ready for the retail change (though things are indeed changing with the expanding prepaid market), and other devices like the Incredible are eclipsing what the Nexus One can do."

Google's Rubin put this positive spin on the experience in his post:

"Innovation requires constant iteration. We believe that the changes we're announcing today will help get more phones to more people quicker, which is good for the entire Android ecosystem: users, partners and also Google."

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