Google's approach to selling the Nexus One may have been noble. But it didn't work. Four months after launching a web store for its top of the line smartphone, Google is pulling the plug.
The Nexus One will be available in stores worldwide over the next few months, when Google will kill its e-commerce site. According to the search giant, the world wasn't ready for a wholly digital approach to purchasing cellphones. They certainly weren't ready for the pricetag.
The search giant hoped to evade the strangle hold that telephone carriers have on the cellphone market, selling its smartphone directly through the web. Unfortunately, carriers have gained their stable middle man status by subsidizing hi-tech gadgets. By locking consumers into two-year contracts, they can offer headsets at low prices and make up the difference on monthly charges.
Google opened the web store in an effort to change the ways consumers purchase cellphones. As CNET put it in January:
"What Google is proposing is a business model in which you pick a phone and then separately pick a carrier, all without having to leave your house."
But it didn't quite work out that way. The phone is only available through Verizon and T-Mobile in the US. Anyone who would like to purchase the phone to use with another carrier has to fork over $529 for the priviledge.
Since January, Google has sold about 150,000 handsets straight through its dedicated website. No longer.
Andy Rubin, Google's VP of Engineering, wrote on the company blog:
"As with every innovation, some parts worked better than others. While the global adoption of the Android platform has exceeded our expectations, the web store has not. 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."
Once the handset is available in more stores, Google will shutter the Nexus One website. They've already made some progress with carriers. On April 30, Vodafone became Europe's first Nexus One carrier.
Until a manufacturer can find a way to offer a new smartphone for a drastically reduced retail price, it looks like we'll be waiting awhile for another independent e-commerce approach to mobile.