Google backtracks on phone strategy
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Google has signalled a U-turn in its efforts to shake up handset retailing by deciding to sell its Nexus One smartphone in Europe through mobile operators’ shops rather than its online web store.
Analysts said the US technology company’s decision to use European operators’ shops reflected disappointing initial sales of the Nexus One in the US.
In a further change to its Nexus One strategy, Google has also dropped plans to use its online store to sell a version of the smartphone suitable for the network of Verizon Wireless, the leading US mobile operator.
Google is instead telling Verizon’s customers to consider buying another smartphone featuring the technology company’s Android operating system.
When the Nexus One was unveiled in January, Google highlighted its interest in changing the way mobiles are sold by saying the device would be available through a new US online store hosted by the company.
Google’s move was seen by some analysts as a move to curb the operators’ power, given most mobiles in the US and Europe are sold through their shops.
But Google said on Monday the Nexus One would be available in Europe through operators’ shops. Only consumers in the US, Canada, Hong Kong, Singapore and the UK can buy the Nexus One through Google’s online store in the US.
“We have decided that the best and fastest way to get Nexus One into the hands of European consumers is through our partners,” said Google.
Vodafone will start selling the Nexus One in its UK shops this Friday, and from next month in Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain.
The Google smartphone will also be available next month in the shops of SFR, the French mobile operator that is owned by Vivendi and Vodafone.
The Nexus One, made by HTC of Taiwan and featuring Google’s Android operating system, has been billed by some analysts as the strongest challenge yet to Apple’s iPhone.
The device’s features include voice recognition software so that users can dictate e-mails and other instructions without using the on-screen keyboard.
Initial sales of the Nexus One in the US this year have fallen short of analysts’ expectations. Flurry, the web analytics firm, estimates Google sold just 135,000 devices in the first 64 days.
Ben Wood, director of research at CCS Insight, said Google was “on a learning curve” in the mobile industry.
He added the mobile operators were still a “major control point” in the industry because of the way they subsidise handsets so that customers sometimes get the devices for free.
“The operators can make or break a device,” said Mr Wood.
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