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10 reasons why the Google Nexus One flopped

Matt Wainwright

Why the Google Nexus One launched with a whimper rather than a monumental bang.

So the launch of the Google Nexus One came and went. And in its first week on sale Google sold approximately 20,000 units of its super-hyped, iPhone Killer.

Let's put that figure into some context. The T-Mobile myTouch Android touchscreen shipped 60,000 in the same period. The Motorola DROID - another Android smartphone - sold 250,000 in its first week on sale. And the one they are all striving to dethrone - the Apple iPhone 3GS - shifted 1.6 millionunits within 7 days of its launch last June.

To be fair to Google, it hasn't spent tens of millions on advertising and marketing around the launch of the Nexus One. But then it hasn't had to - the hype machine has been churning out reams of free publicity across the online and traditional media. After all 'Google versus Apple' is the kind of ding-dong brand against brand headline that journalists and punters love.

Could it be that once you remove all the sound and fury what you're left with is a capable smartphone, made by HTC, running a promising but immature OS that sports the badge and brand of a search engine? You could even go further and compile a list of Nexus One flaws that have contributed to its underwhelming debut on the market...
10 reasons why the Nexus One 'flopped'

   1. 'Virtual' customer service
      For 10 years Google has relied on email forms to deal with enquiries from its user and customers who pay it for AdWords advertising. It probably thought the same 'email it and wait 48 hours' system would work for hardware sales as well. Unfortunately when people are paying up to $529 for a product they expect be able to pick up a phone and talk to a real person about their order. Another manure-like layer of poor service was laid by the three-way snafu where no one was sure whether Google, T-Mobile or HTC was responsible for customer enquiries.

   2. Paltry internal storage - especially for apps
      The iPhone 3GS comes with 16GB of flash internal memory - so why is Google short-changing us with a paltry 512MB on the Nexus One? Yes we know it ships with a 4GB microSD card - whoopee doo! A 16GB card only costs about £20 on Amazon and probably a fraction of that to a big company like Google. And to add insult to injury you can only allocate 190MB of space to your apps. That's just bonkers!

   3. 3G or not 3G?
      Following the launch of the Nexus One, the interweb was awash with reports of people finding that their brand new smartphone could barely keep a 3G connection and defaulting to the snail-slow EDGE. It's not just spotty 3G connections that blighted the launch honeymoon - if you spent $529 on a Nexus One and tried to use it with a carrier that wasn't T-Mobile you'd find that you couldn't get 3G at all. Something to do with the frequency bands that the Nexus One operates on apparently. Fail. As geeks are won't to say on blogs.

   4. That bloody trackball
      Ooh it lights up when you have a new email or message. Otherwise as much use as a chocolate teapot.

   5. That bloody Back button
      You spend 5 minutes crafting the perfect email, go to click Send and suddenly your thrown back to the Home screen because you've somehow managed to click the Back touch button. Time and time again. Usability testing. Ever heard of it Google peeps?

   6. The camera
      Yes we know it has 5 megapixels, which is considerably more than the 3 megapixels on the iPhone. And it has an LED flash, which the iPhone doesn't. But the Nexus One camera's overall low light performance is abysmal. And in many situations - eg where there is a sharp contrast between light and dark, or a strong background light - the Nexus One trips up while the iPhone delivers a decent, usable image. Megapixels aren't everything, it seems.

   7. No physical mute button
      It may sound petty but this is one of the things that I really missed when I swapped my iPhone for a Nexus One. In a darkened cinema and your phone starts ringing? With as iPhone you can just slip your hand into your pocket, feel for the side mute button and switch it off while the phone stays out of sight. With a Nexus One you have to pull the phone out, light the OLED like a beacon and advertise to everyone what a plonker you are while you find the onscreen mute function.

   8. The Android Market
      Google doesn't vet every application like Apple does. Developers are free to sell what they want. Theoretically that's a good thing. But still the Android Market comes off poorly when compared to the iTunes App Store. It's poorly laid out, there's ton of spam comments everywhere and we've yet to see an Android Twitter client that can compete with the likes of Tweetie or Twitterfon on the iPhone. The names say it all. The Android Market does actually seem like a noisy, cheap and chaotic street market while the App Store is like a John Lewis department store: a bit more expensive, but infinitely classier.

   9. No multi-touch
      For whatever reason, possibly because it fears a patent lawsuit from Apple, Google has chosen to disable multi-touch functionality on the Nexus One. That means no pinching to zoom in and out, or to select text for cut and paste, typing quickly on the virtual keyboard or rotating an image by moving two fingers. Clicking on a mini magnifying glass to zoom in and out seems so Noughties on a smartphone that aspires to be the state of the art.

  10. The Google and Android brands
      Whisper it softly, but Google really isn't a particularly strong brand in the consumer electronics market. It's dominance of online search is down to the fact that it produces better results than any of its rivals. If another search engine started providing better results its market share would disappear overnight. Remember Altavista anyone? And Android and Nexus One are just plain geeky. Apple on the other hand has possibly the most desirable brand in the world - and one that successfully made the transition from the computer industry to the consumer electronics and mobile phone markets. The techies might sniff, but Apple's 'cool' factor does actually make a difference to a lot of people.

So there you go. 10 reasons why the Google Nexus One launched with a whimper rather than a bang. Feel free to flame me in the comments below but remember in terms of their sales-to-sales ratio it's Google Nexus One, Apple iPhone 85...


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