Poor Nexus One. Despite earning mostly positive reviews and becoming an obsession in the tech blogosphere, the Google phone reportedly sold just 20,000 units in its first week. That's just 10 percent of the Motorola Droid's debut sales.
If those figures are correct -- they're not official, but calculated in a roundabout way by market researcher Flurry -- there a few takeaways as to why the Droid had better early commercial success than the Nexus One. You could argue that in-store Droid sales trump the Nexus One's online-only distribution, or that Verizon Wireless is a bigger carrier than T-Mobile, translating to more potential customers.
But even if you could buy the Nexus One in stores, and on Verizon Wireless, Google's marketing would still be problematic. Google plans to focus its marketing efforts online, within its own pages, the Wall Street Journal reported. That includes Google home page promotion (though I don't see any at the time of writing this), search ads and a Nexus One channel on YouTube. It's a very Google-like outlook on advertising, where all you need is a little online message here and there to make an impression. Verizon, meanwhile, relentlessly used the Droid to bash the iPhone, and AT&T. It approached the stage with the cockiness of a professional wrestler And it worked.
Google's approach just doesn't stack up. Phones are more than just a purchase. They're your constant companion, probably for two years, and like it or not, they convey a message and a lifestyle. The Droid's lifestyle is that of a manly man who favors function over form, unlike that pretty princess iPhone. The iPhone's image is one of smug satisfaction: Can your phone do this?
Google's in a tough position with the Nexus One, because it can't really knock either of those phones. Obviously attacking another Android phone makes no sense, and iPhone-bashing probably isn't in Google's best interests, because so many Google services -- Search, Maps, YouTube -- are tied up in the iPhone. Verizon can get away with an anti-iPhone campaign, but Google, which is selling the Nexus One directly, cannot.
There's hope for the Nexus One. Perhaps Google's online marketing strategy will be a slow burn, sinking in over many months as word of mouth spreads. Verizon Wireless took the shortcut by bashing the iPhone, but the Nexus One has a long road ahead.