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Google nixes Nexus One

In retrospect, maybe it was a mistake to give a phone a name reminiscent of the line of "replicant" androids hunted down in the movie Blade Runner.


It's now time to die for the Nexus One, Google's ambitious attempt to revolutionize the smart phone market by selling directly to customers. In a blog post blandly titled "Update: Nexus One changes in availability" -- and published with traditional bad-news-dump Friday-afternoon timing -- Google announced that it had received its last shipment of Nexus One phones and would stop selling the phone online once that allotment ran out.

Some carriers will continue to sell the Nexus One overseas, but U.S. consumers will be out of luck: T-Mobile, the one carrier to support it directly, doesn't sell the device on its own site.

Google's quick surrender, which came after Verizon and Sprint abandoned plans for their own versions of the Nexus One, makes this device the second-fastest phone flameout of 2010 after Microsoft's ill-fated Kin. And that's really too bad.

Although the Nexus One didn't live up to breathless forecasts when it arrived with support for only T-Mobile's mobile-broadband service, it was still a stylish and powerful piece of work.

Newer Android models like the Verizon's HTC Droid Incredible and Sprint's Evo 4G are either as thin as the Nexus One or offer features absent from Google's phone, but they also come with carrier-selected applications bolted in place -- a depressing instance of telecom companies adopting the very worst habits of the PC industry. The Nexus One also offered substantial savings over time for users who bought one at Google's unsubsidized price of $529 and then signed up for T-Mobile's cheaper, subsidy-free "Even More Plus" plans.

Now it's back to the carrier-controlled model of phone design and distribution -- except for the iPhone, where only Apple gets a say in the device's features and software. Do you think that's ever going to change in this country?

By Rob Pegoraro  |  July 19, 2010; 11:55 AM ET
Categories:  Mobile , Telecom  
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Hunh? I think you misunderstand the dynamics of the failure here. Sure, the software options was open, but that was no different than any other Android phone offered out there. The problem was that Google (initially) refused to let anyone touch the phone in a store before buying. They refused to let any carrier (T-mobile) or store sell the phone online. It was a stupid distribution plan from an advertising perspective: No news stories about people lining up at stores for this phone.

Posted by: prokaryote | July 19, 2010 12:46 PM | Report abuse

You said "...but they also come with carrier-selected applications bolted in place -- a depressing instance of telecom companies adopting the very worst habits of the PC industry"

There's a difference. The telecoms have gone one step further: those apps are not removable. At least with a pc, you can uninstall all the useless and trial software.

Posted by: tundey | July 19, 2010 1:00 PM | Report abuse

A shame. But the concept of open platforms is hardly dead.

Posted by: dcc1968 | July 19, 2010 1:08 PM | Report abuse

Rob, when the Nexus One was initially discussed and then when it was announced, and finally when it actually came out, it had multiple goals. Several clearly failed, as you note, but one, equally clearly, succeeded: it became the "reference phone" for Android 2.x. All other phones, especially the Droid line, had to see how Google intended to have Android phones built, and respond to that. Big success.

It would have been nice if the carrier-free model also succeeded, and perhaps a different implementation might yet work out, but this failure does not detract from the success of the "reference phone."

I'm concerned about how we'll get the same effect in the Android 3.x world. Who will build the strong vanilla (carrier-free) phone that really shows off the new features in Gingerbread? I hope it's still HTC, and they can find a carrier that will be willing to sell an unlocked version of it, but if not I wonder how it will be done.

Posted by: mike_leavitt | July 19, 2010 1:25 PM | Report abuse

There is always rooting your phone, and goodbye carrier baggage.

Posted by: Sean33 | July 19, 2010 2:06 PM | Report abuse

I think their main problem, besides absolutely no main stream marketing, was the price of $529.00 I purchased an unlocked Nokia through Dell's website, but that cost was $250. I think over $500.00 is just too much for American's who are used to the 2-year subsidized pricing model for new phones to swallow. It is too bad, I am thinking about getting an AT&T device before they are gone forever...

Posted by: bwparker1 | July 19, 2010 2:06 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: Sean33 | July 19, 2010 2:07 PM | Report abuse

Many see this as a sign of failure instead of what it truly is - a sign of complete success. Android now dominates as the smartphone platform of choice outside of the Apple universe.
Google no longer has a need to be in the hardware business. HTC and others are throwing their weight behind the platform and can develop hardware far better than could Google. Google's choice to exit the hardware business was the smartest move they could make.

Posted by: Antigone42 | July 19, 2010 4:06 PM | Report abuse

This made no sense from the beginning. The difference between the T-Moble subsidized and nonsubsidized rate is only $10 per month. That means you would have to use the phone for 4 1/2 years before you recouped the $529 purchase price. The public rightly figured out that this was a bad deal.

Posted by: buffysummers | July 19, 2010 4:08 PM | Report abuse

I have a N1 and love it. If you don't want to buy a carrier controlled "locked" phone there are plenty of "unlocked" phones that will work. They can be expensive like the Nexus One, but at least you don't have to worry about signing a contract.

Google didn't really advertise the N1 that much. Couple that with the online only ordering, and you have a great but failed product.

To bad, the phone is quality built, and offers a great deal of things....

Posted by: mwesty11 | July 20, 2010 9:26 AM | Report abuse

I am looking seriously about jumping ship from a BlackBerry to an Android phone. One of the things that BlackBerry does right in regards to those mandatory pre-installed apps is that it allows users to hide any icons they choose. I have done that with ALL the Verizon crapicons they force on me. Hopefully, Android does something similar?

Posted by: WoodleyParker | July 21, 2010 2:53 PM | Report abuse

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