REDWOOD CITY, Calif.--Of all the reasons put forth asserting why Google's Nexus One is not selling, I subscribe to the most simple one: no brick-and-mortar stores.
When the estimates came out showing the initial 74-day sales tallies of the Google Nexus One were a fraction of the iPhone and Droid, it was fodder for a lot of opinion about why Google's phone had already failed--or not. (The Apple iPhone hit 1 million on day 74, according to Flurry).
Allow me to ignore a lot of well-reasoned arguments about how Google is trying to break the typical cell phone business model mold and say simply that I still like to walk into a store and hold the phone in my hand, then test-drive the interface and browser.
All of this hit home on Friday, when I made a vain attempt to actually touch and feel a Nexus One--with the intention, if I was favorably impressed, of buying one.
While I knew that the phone had to be purchased through Google, I didn't know that T-Mobile carries no phones in its stores for prospective buyers to try out. Not a single sample phone on display--not even in Silicon Valley, Google's home turf, where I was traveling.
The best offer I got was from a T-Mobile store in the Redwood City area (near my hotel). A sales representative said that one of the sales associates--who wasn't at the store at that time--owned a Nexus One and that he would possibly let me try his.
Maybe Google isn't interested in moving millions of phones per quarter the way Apple and Motorola do. Fine. But that doesn't mean the company should make it virtually impossible for a prospective buyer to experience the physical phone.
The brick-and-mortar store still plays a huge role. Just stand outside an AT&T or Verizon store for about 15 minutes at almost any given time and watch the amount traffic that goes through those retail outlets. Ditto on the Apple Store. The online-only thing can go just so far.