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Googlephone sales off to a sluggish start?

'Only 20K' in first week

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A new report suggests that as few as 20,000 Google Nexus One smartphones were sold during its first week of availability. By comparison, 1.6 million iPhone 3GS units were snapped up in its first seven days on the planet.

First the caveats. Then the dirt. The Android handset's debut was nothing like that of the iPhone 3GS. The Nexus One is available only through Google' new online store, it's the company's first attempt at hardware sales, and Google is shipping only to the US and three other countries. When the iPhone 3GS appeared last June, it was available in eight countries and could be found both at brick-and-mortar Apple Stores and in carriers' storefronts.

But still. A meager 20,000? Even T-Mobile's Android-based myTouch, which launched last August with a fraction of the Nexus One's pre-release buzz, garnered an estimated 60,000 sales during its first week, according to Wednesday's report.

The numbers in the report, it must be noted, aren't hard-and-fast vendor-supplied sales figures. Instead, they're extrapolations of data acquired by Flurry, a company that tracks app and handset usage in what it claims to be 25 million "end user sessions" each day.

And Flurry itself notes that "key business decisions and other factors related to the Nexus One launch make an 'apples-to-apples' comparison difficult." Those other factors include handset availability, market saturation, advertising, and more.

But still. Motorola's Droid, carried by Verizon, garnered a hefty 250,000 first-week sales, according to Flurry. The Droid, of course, benefited from a long and expensive pre-launch ad campaign - but you'd think Google's name recognition, plus carefully managed leaks that resulted in innumerable buzz-generating media reports, would have resulted in more than a mere 20,000 early adopters.

Remember, though, that we only have Flurry and its analysis of its army of Flurry-enabled apps to trust for these numbers.

But still. Other factors must be weighing in against the Nexus One - not the least of which being that buyers may be reluctant to trust their phone's support to a customer-service noob such as Google. And according to more than one report of poor service, that reluctance appears to be justified.

Plus, the Nexus One is sold only online. An Android smartphone is a unfamiliar piece of kit to the average consumer, one that could best be explained by an actual flesh-and-blood human. Perhaps potential Nexus One purchasers who aren't thoroughgoing handset geeks are shying away from buying one without first poking and prodding it under the watchful gaze of an Android-trained salesperson.

And then there's the question of apps. Whether you agree with their premise or not, Apple has done a good job of convincing prospective customers that a smartphone isn't just a communications device, it's an application platform. Apple has well over 100,000 apps in its App Store. Google's marketplace offers about a tenth of that.

Perhaps Google is attempting a slow and measured roll-out of the Nexus One, carefully calibrating expectations and gradually building momentum while it improves its customer-service chops and builds its app base. If so, and if the Flurry figures are anywhere near correct, Google is certainly succeeding on the slow, measured, and gradual fronts. ®

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