Support problems good reason to avoid Nexus One

Google is learning that what works for freebies doesn't cut it for $529 smartphones

Google's poor tech support for its Nexus One smartphone is making some buyers downright hostile toward the company we've all been programmed to love.

Though not alone in the low-support world of online services, Google is learning that what works for freebies doesn't cut it for $529 smartphones.

Since its introduction last week, support forums have been busily documenting customer problems, mostly 3G service issues, which T-Mobile has acknowledged. Google admits it offers no telephone support and can take three days to answer e-mails.

One site headlines that the "Nexus One unleashes a googol of complaints." Certainly an overestimate, but an eye-catcher nonetheless.

Google and the other online leaders, Facebook and Twitter, do not understand support. Except that providing live human support can waste lots of money on people they feel should just read the online help and then go away.

The goal for each company seems to be designing services that don't require much support and to then handle problems with tutorials, help files, and user-to-user help.

But, a cellular handset is more complex than Google's online services, and paying customers have a right to get answers quickly and even hand-holding if they require it.

Google's Nexus One help page is remarkably sparse and, as the company admits, offers no option to speak to Google support. While it promises paid Google Apps customers that "phone support is available for critical issues," it isn't obvious where to find that, either.

Google isn't alone: I tried to find a support telephone number or even an e-mail address for Facebook and eventually gave up. Likewise, the "Contact" Twitter page, never led me to a way to actually contact the company with a technical issue.

While the best support is not needing support in the first place, this lack of direct support is a tad ridiculous. But, it saves money for the companies who are, after all, offering lots of things for free.

That brings us back to the decidedly-not-free Nexus One handset. And to its arch-enemy, the iPhone, for which excellent support is available through a variety of channels, especially if you are willing to buy a support plan from Apple.

Google instead tries to answer all questions online and then pawn its customers off on HTC, for hardware and repair issues, and T-Mobile for carrier issues. That customers can be confused as to what company they should contact is a given. But, at least T-Mobile and HTC have numbers to call and humans to speak to.

As I've said, the Nexus One could be a major misstep for Google and, so far, unhappy customers are proving me right. Sadly, quality telephone support isn't something Google can roll out overnight, which is another good reason for would-be customers to wait until Google has a better handle on support issues before purchasing a Nexus One.

David Coursey has been writing about technology products and companies for more than 25 years. He tweets as @techinciter and may be contacted via his Web site.

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