Google began directing customers looking for the Nexus 4 in the U.S. to T-Mobile this morning, since Google itself hasn’t had stock for quite a while now. The search giant was advertising a special offer, whereby T-Mobile customers could get the Nexus 4 for $199 on a 2-year contract, after a $50 mail-in rebate. That’s still not nearly as good a deal as the $300 Google was charging off-contract, but people apparently didn’t care that much, because T-Mobile is now sold out only hours after Google started pointing shoppers in T-Mobile’s direction.
The Nexus 4 seemed to be a hot seller initially, with Google selling out of the handset in markets around the world within hours or even minutes (a friend joked that I must have been one of 15 who got in under the wire for Canadian pre-orders). The smartphone is Google’s latest Android reference device, meaning it carries stock Android 4.2, and will always be first in line for future updates, regardless of carrier. The phone is made by OEM partner LG and shares many of its internal specs with the Optimus G, save for the absence of LTE connectivity. Its shared internals with LG’s own branded phone, which could very well bring in higher margins, might have something to do with its stock scarcity.
Google likely didn’t anticipate the kind of demand that the Nexus 4 is seeing, hence the global stock shortage. In fact, one of its execs even said in a recent interview it doesn’t expect Nexus devices to be top-selling Android handsets. But it’s interesting to see the company have to direct users to carrier stores, and away from its own Play device marketplace, if only because Google’s attempts to sell hardware directly to consumers haven’t gone swimmingly in the past. In fact, many pointed fingers directly at the carriers as the cause of problems when Google’s initial attempt to sell Nexus devices (specifically, the Nexus One) directly via its online store.
This time around, the price and other conditions appear to be right. Now all Google has to do is keep the thing in stock somewhere, hopefully in time to satisfy hungry holiday shoppers.