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Complaints throttle Google

| Friday, Jan. 22, 2010

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- The hype that preceded the launch of Google's Nexus One seems to have fizzled.

The gadget that was hailed before it debuted as Google's long-awaited answer to Apple's uber-popular iPhone has seen disappointing sales. Google sold just 20,000 Nexus Ones worldwide in the first week after it was offered, according to Flurry, a company that collects data on the sales and use of smart phone applications. In contrast, Flurry estimates that consumers bought 1.6 million of the iPhone 3GS in the first week after that phone debuted in June.

In addition, the new smart phone is drawing numerous complaints from users -- and so is Google, for not doing a better job of providing them with customer support.

Google's not commenting on initial sales of the Nexus One, which costs $179 if you sign up for a two-year contract with T-Mobile or $529 without a contract. But company officials, including Andy Rubin, who heads up Google's smart phone efforts as its vice president of engineering, have acknowledged that the company needs to improve its customer service.

"We want people to have a positive experience," said Carolyn Penner, a company spokeswoman. "We will continue to address any of the issues as quickly as possible."

The biggest complaint among users is access to the 3G high-speed data network offered by T-Mobile, Google's only domestic carrier partner so far for the Nexus One. Customers started posting complaints about spotty 3G coverage on Google's support forum Jan. 6, the day after the Nexus One went on sale. Several said they were unable to get 3G service in areas where either T-Mobile's maps indicated they should or where they could get such service with previous phones.

"I'm at the point where I'm about to send this thing back," read one post on the forum. "It ruins the whole experience if I can't ever stay on 3G for more than a few seconds."

Penner said the 3G connection problem was affecting a "small" number of Nexus One users, but she declined to say how many or what proportion of them. Google doesn't have a solution for the problem yet, she said.

"We're working with our partners to resolve it," she said.

Other users took to the board to complain about issues ranging from problems with the Nexus One's touch screen to short battery life to difficulties in ordering or receiving the device.

But other complaints focused on the lack of service Google was providing for it. Google is attempting to pioneer a new way of selling smart phones; unlike the iPhone or other devices, which can be purchased in stores and directly from wireless service providers, the Nexus One is only available through Google's Web site.

That has left customers confused about who they should contact when they need support. Depending on the nature of their problem, customers are being directed to Google, T-Mobile or HTC, which manufactured the phone.

If they have to turn to Google, the company is only providing e-mail support, promising to get to users' questions within 48 hours. That's much longer than other smart phone users, who typically call their carrier for support, usually have to wait.

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