There’s a lot of talk today about how the Nexus One’s initial roll-out has been a flop. And while the numbers aren’t official, things do look pretty grim for the first Android device Google is attempting to sell itself. But Google is wasting no time answering its critics — indirectly — with the launch of a version of the device that will work on AT&T’s 3G network.
To be clear, this isn’t Google teaming up with AT&T on the device. Instead, it’s simply a second version of the Nexus One that works with AT&T’s 3G frequency, which is different than that of T-Mobile’s (the current Nexus One U.S. carrier). The original Nexus One does actually already work on AT&T, but only for 2G connections, so this new version will obviously be significantly faster.
With the new 3G frequency, the new Nexus One will also work in Canada with Rogers Wireless. And, as Google notes, “And like the first version of the Nexus One, it can be used with most GSM operators globally.”
Certainly, giving consumers more choices is always a good thing, but it seems that Google’s attempt to sell the phone itself is really the problem here. While it makes sense that phones, like most other goods (digital cameras, for example), should be an easy sell online, there’s also some thought that the Nexus One isn’t selling well because customers are so used to walking into a store and playing with a phone for a bit before buying it. If that’s the case, the AT&T addition isn’t likely to help sales.
The right play here would be for Google to offer shoppers a full list of plan options for both T-Mobile and AT&T and let them decide which carrier to pick. Unfortunately, that won’t be happening here, because again, this new Nexus One is only being sold as an unlocked phone that can work on AT&T if you get a SIM card on your own (something which most consumers will never do in the U.S.).
Eventually, if Google can offer that list of options from all the carriers (including the CDMA ones like Verizon, which, yes, will require another version of the Nexus One), that could be enough to drive customers online to buy the phone (and has always been the Nexus One’s promise, in my opinion). This move today, won’t be. Also, with all the bitching about AT&T’s network by iPhone owners (though, again, it has been great at SXSW), why on Earth would anyone want to buy a smartphone to use on the network unless they absolutely had to (as they do with the iPhone)?