May 11, 2010 | by Andrew Kameka
Next week, Google will host thousands of Android developers and enthusiasts at its annual Google I/O conference in San Francisco. In anticipation of this, Androinica.com hopes to give some totally unauthorized, completely unnecessary, but wholly-constructive criticism about how they can improve the operating system we all love so much.
Hello, Android team. My name is Andrew and I’m the Managing Editor of Androinica.com, a website dedicated to Google Android news.
As you can imagine, people often ask me to recommend the best Android phone. Since January, I’ve pressed “Ctrl+V” to say the Nexus One. Until a few weeks ago, nothing running Android could rival the Nexus One’s slick hardware and amazing software; it easily should have been my next phone.
And there’s the rub, Google. The Nexus One should have been my third Android purchase, but I never bought it because of your unique phone model. T-Mobile won’t let me apply my upgrade to a Nexus, AT&T won’t subsidize it at all, and I won’t pay full asking price if I’ll still be chained to one network. As a result, my eyes are focused on other pastures, and the best Android phone will sadly not be included in my arsenal of gadgets.
Google, I think it’s time you become a real phone company. I know you say that your goal is just to show “what Android is capable of,” but the best way to do that is to put the best product in the most hands. I don’t think you can do that under your current model.
PROBLEM #1 – Access
It takes a great leap of faith to purchase a phone sight unseen. The Nexus One’s online-only distribution method is severely limiting because it reduces the pool of potential consumers. Not everyone follows gadget blogs or wants to purchase a $500 phone they can’t hold in a store. Heck, the majority of Americans don’t shop online for anything. Sadly, even some Sprint and Verizon customers willing to take that leap are unable to because for whatever reason, those carriers backed out on the promised CDMA Nexus One.
People want to touch something before they buy it. Despite what any early adopter tells you, people buy phones based on what’s best at their carrier. That’s why smartphones don’t outsell feature phones yet, and it’s precisely why the Nexus One’s sales charts don’t reflect the phone’s virtues.
Every time I walk into T-Mobile to pay my bill, there’s a customer looking to upgrade asking, “What’s a good phone that you have here?” The Nexus One is never mentioned. Phones are sold by salespeople, yet your current model has created a policy in which salespeople do not acknowledge your product’s existence unless the customer prompts them. I know you didn’t intend for the Nexus One to be the best-selling phone on the market, but you should at least give it a shot at outselling the myTouch or Cliq XT.
PROBLEM #2 – Price
I don’t know the inner-workings of your deal with carriers, but I can tell you that it’s a big roadblock in purchasing your phones. The American consumer has been spoiled by a system that rewards loyalty with deals on expensive phones. Your current method for selling phones asks for loyalty with no rewards.
It’s time to work out the same kind of deals HTC, Motorola, and Samsung have with carriers. Provide the inventory and let them sell it in-store at a sensible price. Many customers balk at paying $529 for an AT&T-compatible Nexus One. Why wouldn’t they when an iPhone can be had for half that price on a new contract? I’m sure having a manufacturing partner complicates matters, but find a way. I’d love to give you some of my money but I just can’t give you all of it.
If all you care about is giving something cool for early adopters to play with, you’re doing a hell of a job. Maybe that’s really all you care about. But if your end game is to promote the OS and your services, attracting regular folks is what will trigger more Android adoption. Put your products in stores, and I’m sure you’ll see them in more people’s possession.