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Is the Google Nexus One a turkey or just overhyped?

Compared to the Droid and iPhone, the Google Nexus One has pitiful sales numbers. But is such a comparison fair?

By / March 18, 2010

Why is the Google Nexus One selling so poorly? Perhaps it's not the number but the expectations that are out of whack.

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Google Nexus One has had a very slow start, according to the mobile-device analysts at Flurry.

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"Despite the fact that the Google Nexus One is the most advanced Android handset to date, and enjoyed substantial buzz leading up to its release, the launch has been overshadowed by lower than expected sales," the company says on its website.

How much lower? It took Apple 74 days to sell its first million iPhones. The Motorola Droid sold 1.05 million phones in the same amount of time after its launch. Compared to these big names, the Nexus One had a pretty wimpy opening. Shoppers picked up only 135,000 of the Google phones in the first 74 days.

Morgan Stanley – which recently dubbed the iPhone and iPod Touch the fastest adopted gadgets of all time – had bullish hopes for the Nexus One. It expected Google to ship 3 million of them by the end of the year. Surprised by this sputtering start, Morgan Stanley dropped its estimate to 1 million sold by 2011.

Why so few? The Nexus One packs enough processing power into its sleek design to make it a worthy iPhone rival. And the smart phone sports the latest version of the Android operating system – it's more advanced than the Droid's.

You could blame the carrier. At first, Americans could only use the Nexus One on T-Mobile's network, one of the smaller US carriers. (This week, Google announced an AT&T model and more carriers have signed on abroad.) Meanwhile, Droid runs on the largest cellular company, Verizon, whose customers were itching for an iPhone competitor when the Droid launched.

Or you could blame the store. Google sells the Nexus One exclusively online. There's no chance for potential shoppers to play with the phone in a store nor to ask questions of a salesperson.

But maybe you should blame the expectations. After unveiling the Nexus One, a Google rep told GigaOm that he expected the company to sell at least 150,000 copies of the phone. That's pretty close to the current figure. Perhaps Google never expected the Nexus One to sell millions. You could chalk up the online-only store as a company full of engineers that don't understand what regular shoppers want. Or, you could describe it as a company full of engineers that aimed to make a statement, not hit the jackpot.

"What Google really wants to do is change the way the mobile phone industry operates. Playing the same game as all the rest won't accomplish that: the ultimate measure of Google's success with the Nexus One won't be market share, but a market shift," writes CNET. "The hype surrounding the Nexus One launch, on the other hand, was stoked by those who thought Google was getting ready to sell its own phone in a mano-a-mano battle against the iPhone. That's not exactly what Google had in mind, but the prelaunch impressions did not entirely disappear after Google revealed the actual plan."

There's still plenty of time for the Nexus One to take off. But even if it never does, don't consider the phone a failure. Chances are Google won't.

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