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Google Nexus One review scores dim amid lackluster customer service

Could poor customer service be the tragic flaw of the Nexus One "superphone?"

By / January 11, 2010

Google's Mario Queiroz holds up the Nexus One. The phone's review scores shined last week, but now customers are crying foul over support woes.

Robert Galbraith/AFP/File

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The Nexus One received glittering review scores last week, but will reports of poor customer service sully its early halo?

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Google's new "superphone" departs from the firm's traditional business model. In the past, Google programmed software destined for other companies' hardware. But the Nexus One stands as the first device to be branded, sold, shipped, and serviced by Google.

That last point has been sticky for Google. "Confusion over who should answer customer queries has led many to file complaints on support forums," reports the BBC. "Many people are unhappy with Google only responding to questions by e-mail and are calling for it to set up phone-based support."

Initial problems mostly fall into three main camps:

1) Disputes over whether customers should be charged the subsidized T-Mobile price ($178) or the more expensive "unlocked" ($529).

2) Complications with T-Mobile's 3G service.

3) Frustrations over Google's slow response to questions.

As Ars Technica writes:

The latter problem—Google's responsiveness—seems to be the more pressing issue, at least if you go by the volume of complaints online. Google has set up support forums for customer inquiries and has a page set up for those who need a more direct line of contact, but people have found themselves limited by these options. Customers who have already bought the Nexus One—especially an unlocked one at full price for $529—feel they should be able to call a customer support line instead of waiting on Google to respond via e-mail, whenever that may be. Google has said that it may take days to answer inquiries online, but that's not fast enough for dissatisfied customers.

"We've worked closely with our Nexus One launch partners to make support available through a variety of channels," a Google spokesman told the BBC. "This is a new way to purchase and support a mobile phone, and we're committed to sorting out the few kinks that do exist."

Google has never been known for customer service. Even before the Nexus One, the company's general support webpage has addressed common problems, but offers few avenues for more specific solutions. The company's telephone number (650-623-4000) lies mostly hidden from view – and if you do call, the computerized system can be labyrinthine. This distanced approach has not been a problem for Google in the past. Its products chug along smoothly; bug fixes often arrive promptly; and most grumpy users can take comfort in the fact that Google's past projects were available free of charge. With the Nexus One, the company cannot hide behind that defense any more.

Speaking of price tags, iSuppli unleashed its team of appraisers on the hot new phone. The California company has made a name for itself by getting new devices, breaking them in pieces, and then assessing the value each electronic component for a ballpark estimate of the products "real" cost. Each Nexus One contains $174.15-worth of materials, the company revealed on Friday. Add in licensing fees, marketing budgets, and the salaries of all the designers and developers, and you get a sense for why a $174 collection of circuits and plastic becomes a $529 unsubsidized phone.

For comparison sake, iSuppli appraised the newest $79 Apple iPod Shuffle at $21 and the $359 Amazon Kindle at $185.

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Have you had problems with the Nexus One? Are you still in love with the new phone (whether you own one or not)? Let us know in the comments or connect with us on Twitter.

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