One of the likely reasons that initial sales of Google’s critically acclaimed Nexus One smartphone have been disappointing is that Google chose to sell the device directly to consumers and tied its 3G performance to T-Mobile USA, the fourth largest US wireless network operator.

(As we reported, Google and HTC which manufactures the Nexus One, sold just 135,000 units in the first 64 days according to Flurry, the web analytics firm.)

In contrast Apple, which sold about 1m iPhones in the same period, and Motorola, which sold about 1.05m Droids in the initial sales period, harnessed the marketing muscle of AT&T for the iPhone and Verizon Wireless for the Droid.

Both Verizon Wireless, the largest US network operator, and arch-rival AT&T operate extensive networks of retail stores and typically spend heavily in print, TV and online promoting their flagship handsets.

Of course, network operators who typically pay hundreds of dollars per handset in subsidies for the right to market a new smartphone exclisvely, have every incentive to recoup these costs by selling them with new two-year contracts.

From a manufacturer’s perspective, the next best option – and the one that Google/HTC now appears to have chosen – may be to ensure that the handset is available on all the main networks.

Hot on the heels of the news that Google will sell an unlocked version of the Nexus One for $529 that works on AT&T 3G wireless network (previously, the Nexus One was only compatible with AT&T’s lower speed 2G or EDGE network), Sprint announced today that Google will soon offer a version compatible with Sprint’s CDMA/EVDO rev A network.

Assuming Google makes good on its promise that the handset will also be available with Verizon Wireless, sometime in the spring, it means that the Nexus One will be one of the first smartphones to be available on all four leading US wireless networks.

No word yet however on pricing for the CDMA/EVDO versions. Currently Google charges $179 for the Nexus One with a 2-year T-Mobile contract.

Get alerts on Technology sector when a new story is published

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2019. All rights reserved.
Reuse this content (opens in new window)

Follow the topics in this article