Nexus 4 launch proves that Google still has a lot to learn
We take a look back at Google’s disastrous Nexus 4 launch
Google’s Nexus 4 handset may be grabbing column inches right now, but it’s not all for the right reasons. The quad-core device went on sale a few weeks ago and was snapped up by eager punters in less than half an hour.
The trouble is many were left thinking they’d secured an order when it fact that hadn’t, while others complained of being charged for two phones (until they realised they could sell the second for a bumper profit, at which point their moaning stopped).
This inauspicious start was only half of the story, however. For around 24 hours after the initial sell-out the Nexus 4 landing page on the Google Play store continued to dangle the carrot by insisting that more stock would be available soon. However, the ominous ‘Sold Out’ message soon appeared, leaving thousands upon thousands of expectant Android fans wondering what had just happened.
A second US launch happened this week, with equally laughable results. Potential buyers complained that orders weren’t being processed and that delivery estimates were slipping by the hour. What was intended as a move to pacify keen Android fans Stateside quickly descended into yet another PR nightmare for Google.
Of course, when a product sells out it’s usually a positive thing for the manufacturer and creates additional demand. What was particularly frustrating in the case of the Nexus 4 was Google’s inability to cope with the demand that was there in the first place. It’s almost as if the company was blissfully unaware that if you create a cutting-edge mobile and sell it for half the price of the competition, it might prove to be quite popular.
Google hasn’t released official figures of how many units were sold on that opening day, but we’re guessing it was a very small amount. Further sorrow came for those who were lucky enough to actually secure an order, as some were made to wait for over a week before their device arrived.
The same story also applies to accessories – the much-hyped wireless charging pad isn’t available at present, but the near-essential bumper case is (regardless of how you feel about cases on phones, the Nexus 4’s glass front and back most certainly require protection from accidental drops).
We placed an order for the bumper case almost two weeks ago and still haven’t received anything - despite the fact that at the time of writing the UK Google Play listing for the product still shows ‘In Stock’ with a shipping quote of 3 to 5 days.
Customer service emails have since informed us that the wait for bumpers is now two weeks - despite the listing page saying otherwise, and - one would assume - still accepting new orders.
All of this proves one thing - Google really doesn’t have a clue when it comes to distributing physical items.
Google is the king of the online world - there’s no doubt about that. The company rules web searches, has a massive influence in the mobile arena thanks to its Android platform and sells thousands of apps and games every day through its Google Play store.
However, selling physical items is a different beast altogether and the Nexus 4 debacle shows that Google simply doesn’t have the infrastructure to successfully orchestrate a major launch.
No company should risk annoying its fan base by launching a small quantity of units and then botching the online ordering process. You have to wonder - how can an internet giant like Google fail to effectively manage traffic demand on its store?
And the topic of new stock has caused even more annoyance. Although fresh units are apparently on their way, there are thousands of people expectantly waiting, cash in hand, to purchase a Nexus 4 - yet Google and LG don’t seem to be able to produce them in the desired quantities.
We’re possibly being a little unfair on Google - no one could have predicted the massive amount of interest show in the Nexus 4, even though it was obvious that it would be popular. Google’s previous Nexus phones have never been blockbuster sellers, so perhaps the company was just being cautious with the small quantity of launch units.
It’s also quite possible that the blame lies squarely with LG - which actually makes the phone - rather than Google. Perhaps the South Korean tech firm is struggling to produce the device in the volumes required?
Whatever the reason, it’s clear that the Nexus 4’s terrible launch has overshadowed the fact that it is one of the best Android devices we’ve yet seen. That 4.7-inch screen is wonderful, and the Snapdragon S4 Pro chipset is a truly fearsome piece of technology that makes Android 4.2 positively sing. To top it off, the Gorilla Glass II cladding adds a sense of style, which makes previous Nexus handsets look cheap and tacky in comparison.
Now all Google needs to do is actually make sure there are enough of them available to satisfy demand, but it would seem that for many Android lovers, Christmas is going to be a little less exciting without a Nexus 4 under the tree.