Kissing Cousins: Verizon Dumps Nexus One Because Incredible Is Better

Google’s Nexus One phone was supposed to be the Internet giant’s big entrance into the mobile market. It was the first so-called “Google Phone” in that Google was entirely in charge of selling the thing, and it carried the Google branding in a more prominent way than other Android devices. Today, the Nexus One just got kicked in the pants — big time — and it’s Google fault.

Verizon, the nation’s largest wireless carrier, will not sell the device. Big deal, you might think — after all, the carrier also doesn’t sell the iPhone, and it seems to be doing just fine. The problem for the Nexus One though, is that Verizon had originally agreed to sell the device. In fact, Google announced the partnership at its Nexus One unveiling event in January. So what happened?

Some people will read this as Verizon potentially getting ready for the iPhone. That’s interesting, but then why continue to promote and sell other Android devices in a loud way? Others will see this as Verizon fearing Google entering its own space. If that’s the case, why agree to partner with Google in the first place? And why be more afraid now when sales through Google itself don’t look that strong? No, the real reason Verizon is dumping the Nexus One is much easier to understand: There’s simply a better Android phone coming shortly.

Just read Google’s own wording on their site that sells the device: “For Verizon’s network, you can buy the Droid Incredible by HTC, a powerful Android phone and similarly feature-packed cousin of the Nexus One.” In other words, Verizon is dumping Nexus One for another member of the Android family. Scandal!

I enjoy the way Google’s statement to Bloomberg about the move makes it sounds as if it’s Google’s idea.

Google decided against selling the Nexus One with Verizon because of “amazing innovation happening across the open Android ecosystem,” spokesman Anthony House said in an e-mailed statement.

Google was betting big on the Nexus One, and yet they’re the ones telling Verizon to sell the Incredible? I don’t buy it. Seems more like a small face-saving maneuver by the two companies who are, after all, still partners.

The HTC Incredible, by all accounts, is better than the Nexus One (which itself, by most accounts, was better than the Droid), so Verizon’s move makes absolute sense. Why not sell the best device rather than the second-best device?

For its part, Google should have seen this coming. After all, we did, and so did many others. There’s an interesting problem going on with the Android platform right now. Every few months a new device is coming out that one-ups the previous “best” device. It’s the reason I would never spend money right now to buy an Android device. If I’m buying a phone, I want the best version possible — that’s the myTouch 3G, no wait, it’s the Droid, no wait it’s the Nexus One, no wait, it’s the Incredible. As I wrote in February, “Here’s all I know about Android: if I were in the market for one of these phones right now, I would need a Xanax.

Back in December, before the Nexus One was official, we noted that Google releasing their own Android phone made it seem as if they might be eating their own young. The problem was that Google, the company behind the Android platform, was releasing the best Android device. How would the others compete? Well, they are. And it’s actually more of a problem. The safest bet on an Android phone would have seemed to be the one Google was officially backing — nope. They’re all eating each other.

Innovation is great, and as an iPhone user, I’m happy to watch new Android phones come out and push the entire industry forward. But the problem for Google is that this internal battle to be king of the hill could dismantle an area where they really could have disrupted things. As I noted months ago, the real power of the Nexus One wasn’t the device itself, but the way Google was selling it. If Google could convince people to buy phones online, through vendors other than the wireless carriers, it could shake up the entire industry which, for too long, has been completely controlled by said carriers in the U.S.

This was going to be a slow process. When the Nexus One launched, there was only one carrier partner, T-Mobile, so there wasn’t much point to buying online. But eventually, the promise was that other carriers would sell the device this way. AT&T got on board, and Verizon was set to. This way, a customer could sign on and have the option of not only which plan to get, but which carrier to get. More competition between the carriers can only lead to good things. Except now, with Verizon backing out of the Nexus One experiment, it’s back to square one.

According to Google’s site you can’t order an Incredible through them, you have to go to Verizon to do it. Fail. Where are those “series of devices” we were promised, if this isn’t one?

[photo: flickr/snowkei]