The Nexus One — Google’s Next (But Likely Not Final) Frontier

CES 2010 has come and gone, but perhaps the biggest consumer technology announcement that week came before CES even kicked off, with the announcement of Google’s Nexus One on January 5th. This new device ensured that the Google brand would be in the CES news coverage all week long.  Nice job grabbing some attention early!

However, not all of the initial news was promising for Google and the Nexus One.  While the handset has received very positive reviews among consumers and professionals, commonly citing it as the best Android device by far, there have also been complaints.  These ranged from things like 3G connectivity to customer service problems, a new issue for Google to think about as it enters the world of consumer electronics.

Regardless of Google’s growing pains as it expands into the world of online retail, one thing about the Nexus One launch is for sure: Google drove a tremendous amount of internet traffic to its new phone page.

  • On the day of Google’s press event, over 464K people researched the Nexus One on Google.com.
  • Traffic increased dramatically the next day, as nearly 700K people researched the Nexus One.  This was also the first day that the Nexus One was available for $179 (with a 2-year T-Mobile contract).  Only the unlocked version was available on launch day, priced at $529 (with no contract required)
  • All told, 1.96 million people researched the Nexus One in its first five days of availability! 

To put this in perspective — the last marquee Android handset to launch was Motorola’s DROID at Verizon Wireless.  The DROID launch was one of the strongest launches of 2009 and rivaled both the Palm Pre (Sprint) and Apple iPhone 3GS (AT&T) launches earlier in the year. Almost 400K people researched the DROID at VerizonWireless.com the week it launched — the Nexus One bested that in a single day!

The reasoning behind this impressive traffic has to do with the way Google has leveraged their core strength — the visibility of Google.com and Google’s new usage of it as a sales platform for the Nexus One.  While the device isn’t markedly different than the DROID or other Android handsets on the market, the way it is being sold represents a departure from the norm.  Traditionally, the vast majority of handsets in the US are sold through a wireless carrier —AT&T, Verizon Wireless, etc – or through a 3rd party retailer like Best Buy or Radio Shack.  Those places (either the online or offline presence) are also the primary resources used for researching devices, along with the manufacturer site itself, such as Motorola.com for the DROID.

Google is looking to flip that process on its head.  Google wants to change the consumer behavior by making Google.com a one-stop shop for researching and purchasing Android phones.  Right now, the ONLY place you can purchase a Nexus One is at Google.com/phone.  You can’t purchase it through T-Mobile (the carrier of choice) either online or offline, and you can’t purchase it at HTC.com, the manufacturer of the phone’s hardware.  And while we don’t yet know how successful this new sales strategy has performed or will perform, it is very clear that Google’s ubiquity on the Internet (Google.com has been the #1 most visited website for the last 23 months) puts it in a unique position to drive attention around its products.

The Nexus One really just represents the beginning of Google’s wireless phone strategy, however.  Over the coming months we will see how serious Google is about stepping up as a wireless phone retailer and competing for online sales with carriers and manufacturers alike.  Google may have some growing pains, but it can be a serious player in this market thanks to its ability to drive some truly incredible traffic.