The new Android flagship took minutes to sell out in the UK and Germany, but the Google Play Store makes it look as though it never even went on sale. The company needs to work on its retail mechanisms.


Are you in Europe and jonesing for a fix of Androidy newness? Good luck – the Nexus 4 smartphone and Nexus 10 tablet, both of which went on sale on Tuesday, are already sold out on the Google Play store in the UK and in Germany.

Reports suggest that the smartphone took all of 30 minutes to vanish from availability for customers in the UK. The Nexus 10 must have gone pretty quickly too, in both its 16GB and 32GB variants – both are showing up as “coming soon”.

Google Nexus 4And that grates, at least for me. OK, I’ll admit that I’m a bit ticked off, as my current smartphone is dying and I was hoping to at least place an order for a Nexus 4 today. But I do think there is a problem with Google’s ordering system – the type of problem it really should fix if it is to succeed in selling physical products directly to consumers.

The issue is that “coming soon” tag. When Google announced its new devices a couple of weeks back, I (like many) was quick to fill in the “sign up to be notified by email” box on the Play Store. The device would become available on 13 November, I was told. Then, first thing this morning, no email, and still a “coming soon” tag on the Nexus 4 Play Store page. (If I was one of those people who’d stayed up until midnight to get my order in first, I would already have been annoyed at this point.)

So off I went to a conference, part of the way through which I received an email on my phone saying the Nexus 4 was available. By the time I got my laptop to a connection, I saw exactly the same “coming soon” tag.

Now, even I – a reasonably seasoned tech journalist – initially thought this was a glitch. It was only when I complained on Twitter that someone told me I was simply too late.

So here’s my question: would it kill Google to write “out of stock” on that Play Store page, or perhaps to give some estimate of when new stock might arrive? I already found it strange that prospective customers could only pre-register interest, rather than pre-order. Now the system is effectively asking me to register my interest a second time, post-availability.

In short, Google’s retail system gives every appearance of being broken. Selling out within minutes can give a good impression, but not when it leaves thwarted customers-to-be this much in the dark.

Perhaps Google really doesn’t know when it will be getting more stock in. It’s certainly the case that the Nexus 4 rollout is a bizarre beast here in Europe. LG, the manufacturer, has been trying to set an eye-watering recommended retail price for the 16GB device of €599 ($760) in countries such as Italy and Austria, where Google isn’t selling it directly to customers itself. A reminder of Google’s pricing for exactly the same handset: €349. How much stock is going the LG retail route, and how much the Google Play route?

On the positive side, Google Play Music is, as of Tuesday, finally live in the UK, Germany, France, Italy and Spain. This will be really crucial for the company in these markets – once you’ve got your customers buying into your iTunes-rivalling paid content ecosystem, it becomes a heck of a lot easier to hang onto them and get them to buy stuff.

If only Google could make life a bit easier for people trying to buy its hardware.

  1. Yes,, fully agree… I got a notification email at 8:29 am. ONE minute later I was on my computer, placing an order. Except the play store system kept crashing, giving me errors. Once i got to the point where you verify your credit card details, I said yes fine, go ahead, purchase, and again an error. I tried again and again, it WAS available, and then minutes later, said coming soon.

    Bloody annoying.

    1. Same experience. VERY annoyed. As a tech giant, google can not figure out a way to guarantee the on-going transaction get through first??!

      1. OK, it seems that phones are not sold out. Nexus 4 are available again on google play and transaction goes through smoothly this time.

  2. It is frustrating how google handles its order process. I am in USA and it is 9.40 central time and page still mentions coming soon. Do not know whether it is sold out or not :)

    1. sold out bro, ive been up since 12 not knowing if it was gonna sell then and tried to order it since 9pst time or 12east time and i couldnt order it im pissed

      1. same for me, I went on at 11:55 getting ready for it to launch and never even saw it available.. bummer I am almost leaning towards getting an iphone 5 seeing as that inventory got better

  3. I am trying the same thing for nexus 10 and am frustrated to a point of going for a different tablet.

  4. It appears that Google assigns its engineering washouts to run its retail operations, instead of hiring people with retail experience.

  5. I managed to order a Nexus 4 in the US at 11:33am. Only had one cart error, but I must have been early, because after that it went straight through.

  6. I got two nexus 4, two bumpers, and one nexus 10

  7. In US i even didnt recieve the email notifying it is out but it is showing the same message.

  8. Simply… this level of customer service is outrageous / amateur…

    I am a disgruntled fan… having following all the news about the Nexus 4 and then putting in the hours trying to purchase …come’on Google… lets start with an apology

  9. At least you got an email. The husband and I BOTH signed up for email notifications. We also called several times yesterday. At first we were told it’d go on sale at midnight. So we waited up. That annoying Coming Soon button never went away.

    We called Google again at 12:15am and were told, “We’re not exactly sure when it’ll be up for sale, but we’ve been told it may be 9:00am Pacific time in the US. We were told to sign up for the email, which we already had, and check back at 9:00am or after.

    We’ve been watching the site and at 8:45am Pacific time, the Add to Cart button finally appeared! By the time we added to cart and clicked Proceed to Checkout, we received an “Error cart empty” message and one minute later was back to Coming Soon.

    No email was ever sent to either of us, stating it was up for sale. No one at Google CS seemed to even know what time it would be available. I cannot believe it was only up for sale for 1.5-2 minutes. This has been so frustrating.

  10. I’m seeing the same thing here, and I live on the east coast of the U.S. Google never stated “when” on the 13th this thing was going on sale. I was trying, on and off again, since midnight. I finally got at about 11:35 my time a brief glimpse of both the 8GB and 16GB being available. I tried to get my credit card info in, it went to an indefinite processing screen… and then, when I couldn’t get anywhere after about 10 minutes of that, they were no longer available.

    Google really needs to get their s**t together here. How can a company that huge and well-heeled, and comprised of some of the absolute best and brightest, not do an inherently better job than this?


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