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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Is Google’s new mobile phone distribution model really a big deal for the UK?

Mark Bridge writes:

“Google offers New Model for Consumers to buy a Mobile Phone”. Not my words but those of Vodafone as it announced it was the first operator to bring the new Google phone offer to Europe.

There’s a lot of talk about Google’s online ordering process for its Nexus One smartphone… or ‘superphone’ as the company described it at yesterday’s launch.

Google itself talks about its new approach to buying a mobile phone in a blog post that says the goal of its online store is “to provide an efficient way to connect Google's online users with selected Android devices”. Or, as we say here in the UK, to make it easy for people to buy Android phones.

Google Nexus OneNow, the Nexus One itself is a smart piece of kit. Running Android 2.1, it offers some technically clever stuff like voice control and noise-cancelling microphones – and some colourful frippery, including moving wallpaper, a tilting photo gallery and a multi-hued trackball.

But – as ever – I digress. Back to the ordering process. People are talking about Google taking over the ordering process and about mobile operators being relegated to ‘dumb pipes’ or ‘utility companies’.

I really don’t see it’s that different from buying an iPhone two years ago. You chose your device and then you put up with the network and tariff that was offered.

If anything, this sudden interest in Google’s web store is a reflection on the process of buying a mobile phone in the United States. Here in the UK, networks have tried in recent years – albeit half-heartedly in some cases – to make it easier to connect. Easier to understand their tariffs. Easier to get a decent deal if you already have a phone.

From what I hear, things haven’t progressed that much in the USA. I’ve seen the sales process of buying a mobile phone in the States equated with buying a car. Hours spent with a salesperson. Over there, it’s fair to say that Google has the potential to disrupt the traditional distribution model. Over here – at least at the moment – it’s barely raising eyebrows. This could be the start of something big… but it’s certainly not something starting big.

Author: The Fonecast
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