The Nexus 4 supply issue – marketing boom vs fumbled launch

Despite having a worldwide market share of 75% of the smartphone market as of the latter half of 2012, Android is consistently seen as trailing behind Apple and its range of iPhones. While such a view overlooks many economic and usability considerations, it’s still fair to say that the iPhone has left a cultural imprint far deeper than any single Android handset, in part through its iconic design and the cult following inspired by the late Steve Jobs. With no Google stores littered across the globe where customers can queue for the latest Android handset, and no real single device around which to focus the year’s marketing effort, it’s been a lot more difficult for Mountain View to attract the same kind of attention, at least amongst the average consumer.

The Nexus range of devices, which combined a pure Google software experience with top of the range hardware, were meant to change all of that, and while the latest Nexus product, the Nexus 4, garnered well-deserved critical praise, its launch demonstrated that Google still has a lot to learn from Apple in terms of the best-in-class supply chain fostered under the leadership of current CEO, Tim Cook.

The fact that the Google Play Store sold out of an item isn’t necessarily the problem, as that’s usually taken as a good sign for a product launch. The question is whether or not Google should have either held back on the launch until they had more nexus 4 devices readily available and if they could have improved the online customer experience. More important though is how this all affected the image of Android and future Nexus phones. While Google almost certainly wish that they had retained a little more control over the course of the sales window, it was hardly a complete disaster even if there are unquestionably some important lessons that Google needs to take away from this experience.

Admittedly, the launch of the Nexus 4 was disadvantaged before it had even occurred. Due to Hurricane Sandy, Google had no choice but to cancel its event on October 29th, an event, which could have served as a perfect platform from which to hype up the launch of the Nexus 4. While this was far outside of Google’s control, the actual build up to launch day was mired by a serious of self-inflicted problems that could have been easily avoided. In general, a basic lack of communication and transparency were at the heart of the issues that developed between soon-to-be frustrated customers and Google. Judging by the overwhelmingly positive consumer reaction to the price-points and specifications of the Nexus 4 range, it was evident that demand was going to be high. However, in not allowing for any pre-orders from the Play Store, Google left itself completely unprepared for just such demand, likely severely underestimating the potential number of initial orders. It certainly didn’t help that Google left the actual time of launch vague, merely stating that it would be on November 13th. After word got around that the device would go on sale from 9 a.m. PT, many hopeful buyers got ready to make the jump at that time but, when sales started 15 minutes earlier than expected, it soon turned to absolute pandemonium.

Despite being one of the foremost names in computer technology, Google’s server infrastructure seemed to all too quickly buckle under the strain of innumerable attempted orders. The site didn’t merely crash, but went on to display errors, with rejected orders and double orders being commonplace. Even after they had reached sales capacity, the status of the Nexus 4 kept switching between “available” and “coming soon”. Users who actually managed to snag the device were then disappointed to find out that the back orders meant that the device itself would only be shipped “within three weeks”.

Even with some time having passed since the initial launch, things haven’t really improved. When the Nexus 4 went back on sale on December 4th in the UK, it once again sold out rapidly but, while the initial errors seemed to have been ironed out, new buyers were mostly aggravated to see a delivery estimate inflated from the initial “1-2 week” to “4-5” weeks, thereby missing out on a likely desired pre-Christmas delivery. While most companies are eager to tout ‘sold out’ as signifiers of economic performance, Google has been adverse to do so, knowing full well that such a claim could well backfire if shareholders and investors know full well that you could have, and perhaps should have, sold even more.

While it’s fairly clear that elements of the Nexus 4 launch could have been handled better, in the end, it’s incredibly unlikely that any of this will go on to have much of a negative effect on Google. If anything, the problems that have accompanied the launch have helped to create a degree of buzz around the Nexus 4 as a product that’s desirable and something that should be prized should you be lucky enough to actually get your hands on one. This has been evidenced by the obscene mark-ups on eBay and certain UK networks that people have been willing to pay to get their very own Nexus 4. With time, no one will remember that Google botched certain elements of the release, all people will talk about is the fact that the Nexus 4 was in incredible demand. Sure, there are no photos of queues of people lining up outside a store and waiting overnight for the device as there are with each iPhone release, but the stampede of internet buyers still made the headlines and this sort of coverage will invariably paint a rosy picture regarding the market’s view of the high-end Nexus handsets and the future of Android.

Is the Nexus 4 supply issue a marketing boom or fumbled launch?

Over on Google Play they have yet sold out once again, maybe you should look into the Nexus 4 availability as well as offers on the latest smartphones via 3 Mobile. When 3 UK gets stock in do you think they will do a better job of supplying stock than Google?


11 thoughts on “The Nexus 4 supply issue – marketing boom vs fumbled launch”

  1. Reply
    cenkistan says:

    I ordered yesterday, and they stated that shipping will be 4-5 weeks, however they sent me a mail stating that my phone was sent, today.

    1. Reply
      Tom Watney says:

      Interesting. My shipping time was stated as 1-2 weeks and no update on my order as of yet. Order at 1708 GMT.

      1. Reply
        zade says:

        I ordered a 16gb Nexus and 17:07 and it said that I would receive it within 1-2 weeks. Is that true? or was it a grammer error?

      1. Reply
        cenkistan says:

        I am not kidding, I made my order at 2153 GMT on Tuesday. According to TNT, The status of my parcel is Out for delivery between the hours of 09:00 – 18:00. In other words, I will receive my telephone today :D.

  2. Reply
    mixedpixel says:

    Received a mail this morning, it’s apparently shipped. Mine did say 4-5 weeks delivery. I did prefer the 16GB one, which is still in stock though…

    1. Reply
      Mike Smith says:

      Do we speak here for the US market or for the UK? I’ve ordered mine almost 2 weeks ago and the order status is still pending…

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