Google's Nexus One: Can it recover after an early bellyflop?

Google's Nexus One came out of the gate strong but promptly fell on its face, selling a mere 135,000 units. Is it too early to call the Nexus One a flop?

This is a guest post from Larry Dignan of TechRepublic’s sister site ZDNet. You can follow Larry on his ZDNet blog Between the Lines, or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Google's Nexus One came out of the gate strong and promptly fell on its face and sold a mere 135,000 units, according to mobile analytics company Flurry. Is it too early to call the Nexus One a flop and was such dismal performance really that surprising?

The Motorola's Droid and Apple's iPhone both sold 1 million units or more in the first 74 days of sales, according to Flurry. Flurry took the Droid and iPhone 74-day sales and compared it to the Nexus One. The Google phone was a train wreck.

So what went wrong? A lot of things that had little to do with the phone. Once you digest the reality of the Nexus One you realize that Flurry's numbers aren't all that surprising. Among the lessons learned:

  • The phone is $529. Sure it's unlocked and yes you don't have a carrier contract. But the reality is that folks in the U.S. trade off a contract for a subsidized phone every day. We're not going to break that habit just because Google wants us to.
  • Marketing matters. Google went with an opening day splash, but didn't market the Nexus One a bunch. Sorry folks, keywords aren't going to rally the masses or spark dinner conversation. What did the Droid and iPhone have in common? Verizon and AT&T marketing. And in the iPhone case, Apple wasn't shy about the commercials either.
  • Who you going to call? Just peruse the Nexus One information and you see a three headed monster-Google, HTC and T-Mobile-of support. You may hate your carrier, but at least there's one throat to choke.
  • There's no choice. If the Nexus One wanted any love it would have had Verizon Wireless at the launch. T-Mobile is a fine carrier, but it's about the network folks. And in the Northeast corridor-my home base-T-Mobile isn't much of an option. Now the Nexus One is compatible with AT&T's network, but it wasn't on opening day. How many of us really checked out the Nexus One site after that first week?

The big question: Will the Nexus One get off the mat? If Verizon Wireless backs it up there's a puncher's chance of success. If not, the Nexus One will be reserved for a few folks that will pay up for an unlocked phone.

You didn't expect Google's Nexus One to flout tradition, consumer habits and the wireless ecosystem and become a roaring success did you?