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Summary:

With Sprint reportedly not planning to allow the Google Nexus One on its network, is the Nexus One even more of a failure than before? Not really, because Sprint has nothing to gain by supporting the Nexus One. Sprint’s decision won’t hurt Google Android either.

Sprint today follows its CDMA cousin, Verizon Wireless, in choosing not to ink a deal with Google to carry the Nexus One. HTC builds the Nexus One for Google, which in turn sells the device online, but HTC won’t be hurting — it also builds the two handsets that are the likely reason Sprint and Verizon are passing on the Nexus One in the first place. So neither Google nor HTC are likely to be impacted negatively impacted. For that matter, neither is the Android operating system as a whole, which outsold the iPhone in the first quarter of 2010.

When Google announced the Nexus One in early January, it said the phone would arrive on the Verizon network in the spring — to no avail. It turns out that Verizon didn’t need it, as the carrier just released the HTC Incredible. Aside from a few minor hardware differences, the Incredible is nearly the same phone as the Nexus One, although it runs the HTC Sense user interface atop Android 2.1. Even that can be had on the Nexus One if you want to flash a cooked ROM, as I have on my handset. So Verizon had little to gain by supporting two very similar phones on its network — and with the news of Sprint’s EVO expected this summer, Sprint has nothing to gain from a Nexus One deal, either.

The EVO will be Sprint’s first 4G handset (it falls back to 3G mobile broadband when outside of a 4G coverage area). Like the Incredible, the EVO also doubles up on internal memory, supports 720p video recording and runs on the same 1 GHz Snapdragon processor powering the Nexus One, though at 4.3 inches the display is slightly larger. With such subtle differences, what reasons does Sprint have to allow the Nexus One on its network? I can’t think of one, and if anything, it wouldn’t help the company tout its 4G network since the Nexus One isn’t capable of using it.

So is the Nexus One any more of a failure that some previously thought as the result of Sprint’s decision to pass? I’d argue that it never was a failure and certainly isn’t now. The Nexus One strategy was never about a single handset (GigaOM Pro, sub req’d). Instead, the idea was for Google to shoot across the bow of controlling carriers and to show consumers and mobile operators alike that an unsubsidized, full-priced and unlocked handset business model can work in the U.S. — much as it does today outside of the country.

Google sold an estimated 135,000 Nexus One handsets in the first 74 days without any of the mainstream media marketing often employed by carriers, and without long-term contracts. It’s easy to call the Nexus One a failure if you simply look at sales figures. But if you apply those figures to a business model that few have succeeded at, the Nexus One is seen in an entirely different light. After the dust settles, the customers that waited for a CDMA version of the Nexus One will happily buy an Incredible or an EVO — both of which are slight upgrades to the Nexus One they planned on purchasing — so Google, HTC, and the public win. Come to think of it, so, too, do Verizon and Sprint.

  1. The problem is the Nexus One was the only phone to keep up with Android releases. Every other phone is a mess as far as updates.

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    1. Do you really believe the handset makers and mobile providers are happy in providing you with free fast updates?

      Android in a sense is just re-animating the dead like Motorola, Sony ericsson.

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  2. what i for one would really like see is an unlocked carrier neutral CDMA phone. such a phone could be activated verizon, sprint, metroPCS, cricket or anyone of a bunch of small regional carriers. i had been hoping that would be what the CDMA nexus one would turn out to be: the first ever CDMA phone sold in the US without carrier branding. that would help change the way people think about phones and the relationship between phone and carrier.

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  3. The problem is the Nexus One was the only phone to keep up with Android releases. Every other phone is a mess as far as updates.

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  4. Kingsnarfer Tuesday, May 11, 2010

    “But if you apply those figures to a business model that few have succeeded at, the Nexus One is seen in an entirely different light. After the dust settles, the customers that waited for a CDMA version of the Nexus One will happily buy an Incredible or an EVO”
    Translation: the N1 did better than expected considering the crummy marketing approach, and it forced improvements in handsets.
    Do you really think that the N1 prompted the creation of better handsets in just a few months?

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    1. Conquistador Tuesday, May 11, 2010

      You might be able to make that argument – prior to the N1, all the Android phones were using chips far slower than the Snapdragon class ones that are now in EVO and Incredible. If N1 convinced HTC to step it up on processor offerings – then yeah.

      Also – it’s a dead horse – but the momentum changed significantly since that “first week of sales” – there have been a ton of Android phones sold, and they could not all have been Moto Droids. So we don’t really know how well the N1 sold. Like Kevin says above – it was never about one handset – even though 99.9% of the tech press wanted to make it an N1-iPhone duel to the death (comparing sales #s in the process)

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  5. The only fair measure is SALES. Looking at sales the Nexus One has been nothing short of disaster. The iPad came in, priced similarly to the thing and it outsold it by hundreds of thousands. The original iPhose outsold this by a bucket load. Google gave this thing a huge exposure in its Google homepage, a massive marketing drive considering the sheer volume of people who visit google.com.

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  6. I will not happily buy an Incredible because of Verizon’s ‘incredibly’ high rates, and will not buy an EVO because 1) the screen is too big 2) I am not paying for 4G when it is not available anywhere in my area. Others may be ‘happy’ with the Incredible and EVO, but I am very disappointed with a 3.7″ AMOLED screen phone, w/camera flash, w/1 GHz processor not coming to Sprint. I have thought very seriously about going back to T-Mobile to have the Nexus One. Come on Sprint, give us better choices! Bigger is not always better. What, is Sprint based in Texas or something?

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