December 24, 2010 | by Michael Heller
As I wrote before, I find it hard to believe that Google ever expected or planned for the Nexus One to be a commercial success. The Nexus One was the pinnacle of a phone designed and distributed for the tech elite, early adopters and other geeks. No one else would be willing to brave buying a phone sight unseen from a web store. No one else would be likely to do the research needed to understand the benefits of the stock Android experience. No one else would be likely to look past the fairly utilitarian UI after seeing the far prettier options like the Sense UI from HTC. Now, Google is distributing the Nexus S to the masses via Best Buy and Carphone Warehouse, but, as far as I see, it’s still a geek-only device.
While the phone will be available in brick-and-mortar stores, so people will be able to discover and play with it, the issues of the stock OS are still there, and the device is currently only available on T-Mobile in the US. So, I can see the Nexus S gaining more popularity in Europe than in the States. Imagine this: a customer wanders into Best Buy, they see the signs for the Nexus S, they pick it up and they like it, but they don’t want to use T-Mobile. Maybe they have a Verizon family plan, or maybe they don’t live in a big city where T-Mobile would have 3g (or pseudo 4g connectivity). So, the worker at Best Buy suggests the Samsung Captivate or Fascinate or Epic 4g, claiming that it is basically the same phone, which to a certain extent, it is. The average customer may not understand, or care about the benefits of stock Android: the guaranteed upgrades, the faster performance, no locked-out features, etc.
The true reach, and therefore success rate of the Google Experience still lies with the power users, the tech elite. But, we all know that the media won’t consider that, just as few in the media ever considered the influence the Nexus One had on the Android ecosystem, regardless of sales. I’m sure that the Nexus S will outsell the Nexus One, but I also wouldn’t be surprised to see a bump in sales for the other Galaxy S phones in the wake of the Nexus S release, especially if Google never spreads the Nexus S out to other carriers. Because, regardless of the distribution model, the Google Experience is still meant to showcase the stock OS, and push manufacturers both to release updates faster, and add more value to their offerings, like the upcoming “natural interaction” and media store in the HTC Sense UI.