Google has received its last ever shipment of Nexus One devices from manufacturer HTC, bringing an end to the company’s attempt to change the smartphone retail market. The move follows an announcement in May that it was to close the Nexus One webstore. “Once we sell these [remaining] devices, the Nexus One will no longer be available online from Google,” the company noted in a statement Friday. “Customer support will still be available for current Nexus One customers. And Nexus One will continue to be sold by partners including Vodafone in Europe, KT in Korea, and possibly others based on local market conditions.” Google is keen to continue to attract developers to the Android-based device, however, adding that it will be offering the Nexus One through a partner for sale to registered developers “to ensure our developers have access to a phone with the latest Android OS.”
Google surprised many industry watchers in January at the launch of the Nexus One smartphone when it unveiled plans to only sell the product via its own online Web store. Such a move broke heavily with traditional mobile industry business practices, bypassing the mobile operator retail stores that serve as a key distribution channel for mobile phones. However, shortly after launch reports spread that sales were poor, a suggestion Google has always been quick to deny. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Andy Rubin, a Google vice president in charge of Android, said that as of March, Google had sold “well beyond” 100,000 Nexus One phones in three months–the figure at which Google “broke even” on its investment. Google was in discussions with Verizon and Sprint to carry the phone on their networks but the plans were dropped when Google changed course, he said. “It was a viable business; the reason we canceled it wasn’t because of sales,” he claimed, adding that several factors contributed to Google’s decision. Other phones powered by the Android operating system, including HTC’s Droid Incredible, were on their way to market and rivaled the Nexus One’s capabilities, he said. Second, Mr. Rubin said Google couldn’t figure out how to sell the Nexus One online on a global scale and that its resources would be wasted in trying to line up wireless carriers in foreign countries, one by one, to sell plans for the phone. Meanwhile Google has always maintained that the Nexus One was designed to indirectly boost the prominence of Android, a move which seems to have worked; according to ComScore it was the only operating system in the US to gain market share in the three months ending May.