interesting article on the USA today App.
Google's Nexus One phone sparks flood of complaints
By Jefferson Graham, USA TODAY
Google thought it could sell phones in a new way — without retail stores or customer-service reps to hold shoppers' hands through the experience.
Think again: Just eight days after Google (GOOG) opened its online store to sell the new Nexus One smartphone directly to customers, its support forums have been overloaded with complaints on a variety of issues. They stem from coverage and delivery problems, network compatibility, dropped calls and operation woes.
The wireless industry sells phones several ways: through company-owned stores; via third-party retailers like Best Buy and RadioShack; and online, where customer telephone service is an option. Google historically hasn't offered telephone support even for its multibillion-dollar online advertising service.
Even though the Nexus One is offered at a discounted $179 with a two-year contract from T-Mobile, T-Mobile isn't involved in the marketing, delivery or customer service, beyond wireless service issues. Google sells the phone directly to consumers at google.com/phone. The Nexus One, built by Taiwan's HTC, runs an updated version of Google's Android operating system.
Issues are posted on a support forum, where Google promises an e-mail response within 48 hours. Based on the volume on Google's message forums (as of Tuesday evening more than 650 people had written about "spotty" 3G coverage alone), Google has a lot of e-mail to reply to.
"This is an epic failure for Google," says Rob Enderle, an independent analyst at the Enderle Group. "It tried to create an Apple-like experience, but it's so far off from the Apple experience, it's not even on the same planet."
In a statement, Google said it works "quickly to solve any customer-support issues as they come up." It said HTC would provide telephone support for "device troubleshooting and warranty, repairs and returns."
Another issue that popped up this week: the fine-print in the contract. The early-termination fee (standard with wireless carriers) is a double-whammy for consumers, at a whopping $550 for Nexus One. Google charges a $350 fee if you opt out of the contract within the first four months of the contract, and T-Mobile hits you for an additional $200 if you disconnect early.
Charles Golvin, an analyst at Forrester Research, says T-Mobile's fee is standard, but Google's additional fee is new.
Golvin says Google "clearly neglected" to realize what was involved in being a retailer. "It needs to make sure the experience gets better going forward."
Google, says Enderle, has a massive Web presence, and if it doesn't want to offer phone support as the carriers do, it could have used Web tools and social networking to better communicate with customers. If Google doesn't solve the issues, fast, "The brand is at risk," he adds