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Cracks Show in Google's Nexus One Strategy

Nexus One

Google's Nexus One just keeps popping into the news, but this time its for all the wrong reasons: Barely a week since its launch, the complaints targeted against it are growing from lots of angles. Did Google make a boo boo?

Over at PCWorld is the most damning collection of charges against the Nexus One, and that's even without ripping into the nastiness of the "superphone" label used by Google's team during the launch event. That's since been called into question, after it turned out the Nexus One is merely an up-specced version of the existing Droid Eris handset made by HTC, and carrying the latest installation of Android OS—an upgrade that'll hit many other Android handsets soon.

Customer Service

This seems to be the biggest gripe. Part of the N1 launch was concentrated on Google's new phone store, which the company proudly promoted as the global venue for potential N1 customers. They even played up the fact it'll be expanding soon to sell other handsets across the World—it really is a big deal, according to Google.

But the company totally messed up the other half of a new online business. That's the hidden infrastructure that makes it all tick—it's not enough to merely have a glossy store front, if you've not got the resources in place to support all the tricky details of dealing with Jo Public. And in Google's case, the biggest failing is in customer support: There are recurring tales of woe with consumers being referred between Google, T-Mobile and HTC client helplines without anyone taking responsibility or even offering to genuinely help.

If this effort really is to transform the way Android phones are sold, Google needs to get all ship-shape and Bristol fashion on its customer liaison as soon as humanly possible. Otherwise Apple will just steal the lead again with the next-gen iPhone.

Developers and Android 2.1

The magic juice that's poured into the N1 to make it zing is Android 2.1, the latest official version of the OS from Google. The company chose to hold the code very close to its chest before the N1's launch, perhaps reasonably, so that it could surprise users with the added bells and whistles it provides—like voice recognition. But since then it seems that Google's continued to hold on to 2.1 too hard, and it isn't letting developers have a look at the code. There's no Android 2.1 SDK out yet either, which is effectively stifling any efforts to write apps that support the new OS.

Given the Android Marketplace's lagging position behind Apple's iTunes App Store, this seems a very odd move by Google—wouldn't you expect to get everyone working on the new code as quickly as possible?

Vexed Vendors

Perhaps the biggest issue of the Google Nexus One is that first bit of its name: Google. By branding the phone as its own, and clearly setting the device ahead of every other Android smartphone out there—particularly the recent highly-hyped Motorola Droid—Google's slapping every other Android vendor in the face.

As PC World notes, "If the Nexus on launch is any indication, Google and HTC may always be one step ahead of the competition" by cooking up exciting new hardware and software combinations that push the Android cutting edge, but doing so in private. In other words, Google may choose to do this sort of stunt again at any time, squashing the competition right out of the very market it's trying to promote.

If you add in the news that a banking data phishing scam app just made it into the Android Marketplace, thanks to the open-door policy for app submission (in contrast to Apple's closed vault-like tactics) this week isn't a good one for Google's Android phones, and the problems seem to stem right from the top.