The Nexus One was a big mistake


Anybody cares about the customers?

Everybody that knows me even a little bit knows how much respect I have for Google as a company, but with the Nexus One they messed up BAD.

I’ve been reading a lot about revenues, relationship with carriers, with other cellphone manufacturers (let’s say Motorola) etc… but everybody ignored the customers, the 150k that actually shelled the money for a phone that’s a bit of a mess.

I know the casual reader will jump on their chair reading this, but the defining the Nexus One a mess isn’t too much of a stretch and here is why:

UX Issues

I’m sorry to say this, but the standard set of widgets and UI controls in Android 2.1 looks bad. Sloppy bad.

The integration between the standard apps and the OS is very poor: a good example is the Google Navigation app, that when engaged asks the user to turn on the GPS receiver if inactive. The kicker is that instead of just turning the GPS on, Android brings you to the settings screen where you will have to do so manually, then hit the back button to go back to Navigation… the first time I had to do that I thought “you gotta be kidding me…”

Bonus points for the Droid family of fonts: it’s a mediocre font at best, and looks cheaper and cheaper the more you pump the resolution up: great job giving that ridiculously high resolution screen something to work on…

Hardware Issues

Since launch, the Nexus One was plagued with 3G receptions issues that were only partially addressed by an over the air fix. The latest news is that the guys at Google decided to give us all a giant middle finger, coming to the conclusion that it’s not worth spending any more time trying to, you know, make the phone people paid for work properly.
But this isn’t all: the screen on the device is a glorious mistake. Who would have thought I would want to use my phone in plain daylight? A phone whose main feature is a full featured GPS navigator.

Not to mention the questionable color reproduction, and the incredibly evident problems displaying color gradients: this isn’t a hard problem to spot, you just need to look at the damn screen ONCE. All of this, topped by serious touch sensors problems, well known since the G1 is sharing the same screen, that Google decided to just ignore.

Customer Support Issues

At the very beginning, Google was only equipped to provide e-mail support. Everybody remember how that didn’t work too well.

The very storefront where the phone was sold was a real train wreck: the page wouldn’t display any feedback in case of transaction failure, was a case study in bad usability and was essentially slapped together hastily by people that never worked on an e-commerce site before.

For a full week I tried to buy the phone on-line, only to be faced with cryptic error messages, unresponsive customer support… something I would expect from Fusion Garage, not from one of the biggest companies in the world.
And this isn’t all: scores of customers experienced the incredibly frustrating lack of preparation on Google’s part that wasn’t ready to handle mistakes in the shipping address: this would be ridiculous if it wasn’t sad.

A Lasting Damage

The compounding of all those problems is very bad news for Google: they let their most loyal customers down.
With the botched public lunch of the Nexus One, Google trained the public to consider them an unreliable provider when it comes down to customer support, a company that rushes a troubled and untested product out the door expecting their paying customers to be their testers.

This approach might work well when you’re providing a free service like Gmail (thanks Google, I really love it!) but for a phone that is going to cost me over the span of the contract a cool $2000, this is very un-cool.

There is still time for Google to fix this mess, but they really need to show their paying customers a little love (and respect).

By Luca Candela

Born in Italy, after a MS in Computer Science in Torino, Italy, I moved to Madrid first, then to California to pursue my dream of working in the epicenter of the digital revolution, the Bay Area. I'm currently the Head of Product Management at Treasure Data. I'm passionate about Agile development, User Experience and social media. In the rare occasion when I'm not working, I like to play electric guitar, ride my mountain bike and enjoy Asian food.

1 comment

  1. I totally agree. I have right now the Nexus S and I am not happy with it. Here are three more points:

    The GPS localization is really bad. It is a mess. Sometimes I have to wait 2 or 3 min. to get a signal. Before the Nexus S I used a iPhone 3. The GPS in the iPhone was much better/faster. Even inside of buildings I got a GPS signal with the iPhone.

    Since I synced my Adressbook with Outlook & Google I have every contact twice times! If I am delete one both are deleted.

    The image gallary sometimes shows the images not in chronological order. Sometimes the images are just randomly mixed together. I assumed that the google Ingineers are able to implement a simple "sort by date". This should not be a big deal.

    Next time than I am again in Germany I will by a simlock free iPhone.

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