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Hey Google: If your Nexus 4 is sold out, just say so

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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.

32 Responses to “Hey Google: If your Nexus 4 is sold out, just say so”

  1. It’s very frustrating that here in Switzerland The device will be available only through retailers. For example says they will have stock in December and at 499 Swiss Francs which are more or less the same amount of USD, quite more expensive than on most places. :(

  2. Same. Stayed up until midnight, nothing. Morning, nothing. Email arrived at 8:38am, but webpage hadn’t changed. Page refreshed sometime later so clicked on Buy Now and it went back to original page. Now I want to know when can I try again, at least place an order even if it takes a month to come… I’m wasting my time. Annoyed with Google for lack of information..

  3. West Coast in the USA here. I signed up for email alerts (Gmail account) and got nothing. No alert. I don’t understand why they don’t just take pre-orders. Take my money and tell me when you expect it to ship. That’s how most retailers handle it. I do think it’s funny that T-mobile is selling them for $499. Apparently there are a lot of dumb people out there.

  4. Kareem Omara

    I was actually there when it was released. at 10:30AM (CT). I picked the 16gb version and went to my cart. It then asked me to proceed with the purchase, and of course I clicked proceed. It was then supposed to bring up google checkout to complete the transaction but for some reason I just kept getting errors and it would not load up. 10 minutes later they ran out of the 16gb version.

    I mean come on I’d waited forever for this phone and stayed up until midnight and then learned it was going to come out later that morning and I even sacrificed precious sleep and study time just to order it and then the checkout has a glitch. I should get a discount or something!!

  5. i entered the information completely shipping and billing address when I clicked on agree and buy it says there is some error on your order we have cancelled your order and your card is not charged.

    This is crazy, why these big giants playing games like this. seriously pissed off.

  6. I got 2 16gb nexus 4 after a couple error with playstore, plus some error with google wallet during checkout…I initally wanted to buy only 1 but after couple errors and I kept trying and ended up with 2 charges and both charges went through. Even got email receipt confirmation from them

  7. Christopher Nelson

    Rio and Mike, you both seem to have had some knowledge of how fast this was going to go, since you were up past midnight waiting and up again early refreshing the page. Now you are upset that your inclination was true?

    • Mike Clark

      I’m not complaining about my inclination. I’m complaining about how Google (mis) handled this situation. There was a notification system set up, but never used. There was no way to pre-order the phone, either. The site, when accessed, was flaky at best, and you couldn’t reliably tell if there was product remaining to be purchased or not. And, since when are there “hours” associated with an e-commerce site? They never to my knowledge said a THING about “Oh, it doesn’t go on sale until such-and-such a time on the store.” The ONLY thing they said is that it went on sale today.

      Why else do you think people like myself would have been there at the crack of midnight, all set and ready to spend our money?

  8. I don’t know why can’t it set up a queue and hold number of units first come first serve. Plenty of other sites have this setup. i got all the way to clicking accept to confirm order and it says would complete momentarily and never got anything after that, so I’m not even sure if its going through or what. Doesn’t show up on the wallet…

  9. Submitted my order twice (as I had similar issue other people had) and looks like both were pending.

    But really got annoyed the way google handles their retail process.

    1. Keep getting stack trace on the page.
    2. Now again there is ‘coming soon’ message on site which is incorrect.
    3. Even though lots of people (in europe and other countries) had similar issues; google did not correct those before launching it in USA.

    Hope google’s top executives come across these messages :)

  10. Mike Clark

    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?

  11. 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.

  12. 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

  13. 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 :)

      • 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

  14. Mark Palmos

    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.