Google’s Nexus 4 Disaster

Nexus 4

Those of you who have been keeping an eye on my Twitter feed lately will know that I recently tried and failed to get hold of one of Google’s brand new Nexus 4 mobile phones. In this post I’m going to take a look at Google’s stratergy over the last few weeks and try and work out where the search giant went so wrong and what they can do to make sure such a situation never happens again.

A Quick Introduction To The Nexus 4

Having previously looked to manufacturers such as Samsung, HTC and Asus to build Android’s flagship devices, Google have this time looked to LG to build what will probably be seen as one of the most important smartphones of this decade.

The Nexus 4 (LG E960) comes with a 1.5Ghz quad core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro CPU, 2GB of RAM, Android 4.2 and a choice of either 8GB or 16GB memory capacities putting it at the very top of the specs chart alongside your iPhones and Galaxy S3’s.

Where the Nexus 4 has the edge however is with the price. Google have re-written the rules with this phone and instead of making their megabucks from the initial sale Google have decided to play this slightly differently. The phone is available in the UK for £239 (8GB) and £279 (16GB) sim free. The idea being that once you have the phone you’ll be using Google’s services and making Google money that way. Just to put this all into perspective if you were to buy an iPhone 5 directly from Apple that will currently cost you £529 for the 16GB model and a Galaxy SIII will cost you £499.95 sim-free from the Carphone Warehouse meaning that the Nexus 4 is dirt cheap.

A few reviewers have slated the phone for the lack of LTE but here in the UK where 4G services are currently run by EE’s monopoly prices are extremely bad value for money so the lack of LTE really doesn’t make a difference. Furthermore the phone DOES ship with DC-HSDPA which networks like Three are starting to roll out in the UK and provides near 4G speeds at the existing pricing structure.

If you want to learn more about the Nexus 4 and 10 it’s worth spending a few minutes watching this brilliant video by The Verge.

Just looking at the spec list and price it’s easy to see that demand for the handset would be through the roof, something that Google somehow failed to prepare for. As a result Google sold out of the Nexus 4 within minutes of it going on sale in many countries.

google-play-logoThe Play Store

A lot of the complaints popping up on the internet so far are in relation to Google Play, Google’s online entertainment and device storefront. Many customers including myself found that whilst they were able to see the device listed as in stock they weren’t able to add the phone to their basket and complete the checkout process because of an array of different errors. Some customers complained that they had the device in the shopping carts multiple times but were unable to complete the checkout process.

It’s not just the malfunctioning store too, in the days leading up to the device going on sale Google placed a ‘notify me’ option on the store so that customers could receive an email to alert them when the device went on sale. Unfortunately however these emails weren’t sent until AFTER the device had sold out in many countries.

Stock Levels

At first it seemed as if Google had deliberately understocked the Nexus 4 to produce hype sold out headlines, but as the story developed the picture became more and more clear. A handful of customers have been emailed by Google saying that their order has been placed on backorder and should be ready within 3 weeks indicating that Google have somehow managed to sell more stock than they thought they had, not just that the 3 week waiting time leads me to believe that both LG and Google just weren’t ready for the demand the phone would receive.

Google’s Response

Google’s response to this whole situation has been lacklustre to say the least. The only official news has been via the +Nexus page on Google+ where they said the following.

Earlier today, we began selling three new Nexus devices around the world:

Nexus4 — the new smartphone with Google Now and Photo Sphere camera:
Nexus7 — a thin, light and portable 7” tablet, now with up to 32GB of storage and the option to add mobile data:
Nexus10— a powerful 10” tablet, with the world’s highest resolution display (300ppi):

There’s been so much interest for the Nexus lineup that we’ve sold out of some of our initial stock in a few countries! We are working hard to add more Nexus devices to Google Play in the coming weeks to keep up with the high demand. You can learn more about Nexus devices and stay updated at

We’ve also begun rolling out Android4.2, JellyBean, to Galaxy Nexus and Nexus 7 devices, via an over-the-air update. Check out what’s new here:

It’s disappointing that Google first of all presented the news as if it was some kind of success and secondly there’s a huge lack of detail in the post, I’ve got no idea when I’m going to be able to get my hands on a Nexus 4, but at least for now my SII is still going strong.


In the UK you have the alternative option of buying the phone through The O2 network. This however is only an option if you have more money than sense. The 16GB version of the phone is available for £399.99 on pay as you go a £120 markup or you can get the phone free on a 24 month contract at £36 a month (£864 over the two years). The contract comes with unlimited minutes and texts and 1GB of data, although a little digging discovers that you can get a sim-only 12 month contract on O2 with the same unlimited minutes and texts and 1GB of data for only £20 a month. Times that by 24 and add the £279 cost of the phone via Google Play and you realise that you’re actually paying £759 over two years which works out as £105 cheaper for exactly the same deal.

This explains why the phone is still in stock in loads of O2 stores whilst us smart guys wait for Google and LG to get their act back together.

So What Should Google Have Done Differently?

There are two things that I think Google need to have done to have made this launch a success, the first being allowing pre-orders. If Google had a pre-ordering system in place they would have seen the demand days if not weeks in advance. It also would have prevented all of the issues with the late notification emails and reduced the strain on the Play Store.

The pre-ordering system is something I would still like to see Google implement before the next batch of devices go on sale which once again are bound to sell out and could again leave us in this situation. If I could pre-order now and be given an order conformation detailing exactly when my order is expected to ship even if it’s not going to be until late December or January I’d be a lot happier than I am right now.

Secondly I think Google need to communicate with their customers more, they should have told us exactly how many devices they’ve sold and exactly when they expect the product to be back in stock. Instead they’ve left us out cold and it’s anybody’s guess when the Nexus 4 will go back on sale.

Are you still waiting to get your hands on your Nexus 4? What do you think about the way in which Google is handling this all? Let me know in the comments below!


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Richard Lartey Written by: