How Google Goofed in Porting the Nexus One to AT&T

Some blunders are entirely understandable, like forgetting to put your pants on before walking out in public (we've all been there, right? Right?). Others have you scratching your head wondering 'what the frack were they thinking?' Google's latest move falls into the latter category, but we're getting ahead of ourselves.

In a blog post this week, Google announced that its Nexus One smartphone "superphone" is now compatible with AT&T's 3G network, something that hasn't been possible up to this point since T-Mobile and AT&T use different 3G frequencies. So how'd Google do it? No deals with the devil here, the search giant simply released a second model that's compatible with both AT&T's 3G network and will run on Rogers Wireless in Canada.

Brown and black areas represent 3G. Pink represents EDGE/GPRS.

On the surface, this is a brilliant move by Google. After all, the Nexus One hasn't exactly been smoking the competition in sales, let alone living up to the hype as a potential iPhone killer. And how could it, given T-Mobile's dismal 3G coverage? It can't, and the proof is in the sales. According to Flurry, a mobile analytics firm, Google sold about 135,000 Nexus One smartphones in the past 74 days. By comparison, Apple sold eight times as many iPhones during the same period, and even Motorola's Droid outpaced the Nexus One by the same margin.

"As Google and Apple continue to battle for the mobile marketplace, Google Nexus One may go down as a grand, failed experiment or one that ultimately helped Google learn something that will prove important in years to come," writes Peter Farago, VP of Marketing, Flurry.

Farago goes on to argue that Apple is enjoying much more 3rd party developer support, and that ultimately "developers support hardware with the largest installed base first." If that's the case, getting back to our original question, why then are we scratching our heads over Google's latest announcement? Because we can't fathom how the Nexus One will turn it's lackluster sales figures around at $529 a pop. Without a subsidized two-year contract -- and there isn't one being offered through AT&T, unlike T-Mobile, which offers the Nexus One for $179 -- Google's fighting an even bigger uphill battle than it needs to. Even more perplexing, Google appears to be just fine with that.

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"We're pleased with our sales volumes and with how well the Nexus One has been received by our customers," a Google spokesperson told "The Nexus One is one of a fast growing number of Android handsets which have been brought to market through the Android ecosystem. Our partners are shipping more than 60,000 Android handsets each day compared with 30,000 just three months ago."

That's fine for the Android platform, but if Google is serious about pushing its own hardware out along with it -- and they should be, considering the Nexus One is really nice smartphone -- they're going to need a different game plan.