Verizon Wireless and Vodafone plc were supposed to become network partners for the Google Nexus One Android smartphone this spring, but it seems that Verizon will not, after all, join up with that part of the ‘droid army. In its Nexus One blog on Monday announcing that Vodafone support is imminent, Google Inc. noted: “In the U.S., if you’ve been waiting for the Nexus One for Verizon Wireless network, head over to http://phones.verizonwireless.com/htc/incredible to pre-order the Droid Incredible by HTC, a powerful new Android phone and a cousin of the Nexus One that is similarly feature-packed.”
HTC’s Droid Incredible will land in stores April 29.
The loss of Verizon is a bit of an about-face for Google. When the Nexus One debuted back in January, it did so with a brand-new business model that took the distribution (and exclusivity) out of the hands of carriers. At the time the expectation was that would offer the phone via its own sales portal in such a way that consumers could choose a plan to go with it from any of the top wireless carriers; T-Mobile USA was an initial launch partner, with AT&T Inc. entering the fray shortly thereafter. Sprint-Nextel Corp. announced that it, too, would support the Nexus One when a CDMA version was released; Verizon and was soon to follow suit.
The new sales model quickly found itself under scrutiny as support issues came to the fore; Google found itself having to answer network questions and consumers were confused as to who they should call for help. Meanwhile, there was some speculation that Google’s move to cut out the carrier sales relationship with the subscriber would have the effect of diluting the impact of other, exclusive Android-based handsets, like Verizon’s Droid and Droid Eris. Someone at Google apparently agrees with that speculation; or, it could be that Google has decided against making a CDMA version.
For Verizon’s part, a spokesperson told Bloomberg that the carrier would be open to Google wanting to “do business” with the Nexus One in the future, indicating the carrier was not concerned with cannibalization.
Aside from the Nexus One, Verizon’s Droid handsets are among the higher-end Android smartphones in the market and have proven to be a big differentiator for the carrier, especially in light of the advertising dollars it has poured into the Droid launch, which directly challenged the iPhone. The campaign managed to get the Droid phones into the consciousness of the consumer as top-level smartphone choices in a way that Sprint and T-Mobile’s Android offerings have not managed to accomplish.
Vodafone, which owns Verizon Wireless along with Verizon Communications, will start selling the Nexus One in stores in Britain beginning April 30 — the first Google launch overseas. It will then take the device to France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain.