Google's Nexus One Backlash: Shoddy Service

Let the backlash begin.

Nary a week after Google (GOOG) unveiled its new Nexus One smart-phone -- billed as the first real challenger to Apple's (AAPL) wildly popular iPhone -- complaints about shoddy service and weak developer support have begun pouring in. Customers are complaining about poor connectivity over current, third generation (3G) wireless networks, while developers bemoan the lack of tools for building new applications to run on the phone's Android 2.1 operating system.%%DynaPub-Enhancement class="enhancement contentType-HTML Content fragmentId-1 payloadId-61603 alignment-right size-small"%%Taken together, the complaints suggest that the Nexus One's honeymoon -- short-lived as it was -- is now over, and Google must move quickly to address the issues before the Nexus One gains as reputation as, well, a dog.

For customers, the main issue appears to be spotty 3G service, a failing more frequently associated with AT&T (T) service for the iPhone. Because Google has decided to market the Nexus One itself, users are looking to it for answers on the 3G issue -- but Google doesn't have anywhere near the customer service infrastructure that the major wireless service companies have.

In a bland message posted to online support forums, Google and T-Mobile acknowledged the new phone's 3G issues. "Google and T-Mobile are investigating this issue and hope to have more information for you soon. We understand your concern and appreciate your patience," the companies wrote on a T-Mobile support page that was inundated with complaints over the weekend.

In response to a call from DailyFinance, Google simply replied, "We are aware of the issues that have affected a small number of users, and are working quickly to fix any problems." The response went on to say that when the company has more information, it will post it to the user forum.

Figure Out the Problem

"Honestly we should be able to just expect the 3G service on this phone to work like any other phone on the T-Mobile network," wrote one disgruntled customer in a representative comment on Google's mobile help page. "The fact that it's not working as expected means HTC and T-Mobile need to get together and figure out the problem. And quick, because I'm going to return this thing before my 14 day return period expires if this isn't solved before then."

Nexus One owners are reporting everything from no 3G service, to intermittent service, to service that switches between 3G and EDGE networks. And users report that they are receiving little help from either T-Mobile, the phone's service provider, or HTC, the manufacturer. Google, meanwhile, is only accepting email help queries, which it promises to return within two days.

In short, there is a customer service vacuum plaguing the Nexus One, which none of the companies involved appears prepared to address at the moment. Obviously, that needs to change pronto.

Customers aren't the only ones complaining about the Nexus One. Software developers, which Google has aggressively cultivated through its support for open-source platforms, are also unhappy. This is particularly ominous for Google, which has relied on the developer community to build new applications for its Android open-source operating system, which powers the new phone.

Developers Unhappy Too

Android's open-source status has led developers to build some 20,000 applications for the Android Market, Google's version of the iPhone app store, creating an essential, developer-driven ecosystem for Android. But in recent months, Android developers have begun to express their frustration with the platform.

The Nexus One is supposed to represent a leap ahead from previous Android systems, which have begun to be deployed on devices like Motorola's Droid, available on Verizon Wireless (VZ). The Nexus One runs on the latest version of Android, 2.0, but Google has yet to release the SDK (software developer kit) for Android 2.0, which would allow the developer community to begin building applications for the latest Android devices, led by the Nexus One.

"How is it even remotely acceptable that people will have 2.1 in their hands before developers even get to touch the SDK?" one developer raged on a Google support forum last week. "I already have users using the Nexus-Droid 2.1 rom saying that my highly used widget doesn't work."

"All this does is frustrate users when apps don't work and further degrades the market...because developers don't have a chance to update their code," the developer, who posted under the handle pcm2a, added.

It's still early, and Google has a chance to turn this around. But if customers and developers don't see movement on these issues by the end of this week, what is now a flurry of complaints may turn into a blizzard -- and ultimately, an avalanche which could do irreparable damage to Google's image, and seriously harm its Android platform -- derailing its efforts to become a leader in the wireless business.

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