At the Mobile World Congress roundtable discussion today, Jamie Rosenberg, VP of Google Play, confirmed that Google’s business model of providing unlocked, vanilla Android devices is “here to stay.”
Now, if this doesn’t come as much surprise given the recent success of the Nexus 4, 7, and 10 family of devices, remember, it wasn’t very long ago that Google had to reverse its plans of being a direct retailer of its devices with the HTC Nexus One. Due to lacklustre sales, Google pulled its Nexus store offline, offering the Nexus One exclusively through other channels. As Director of Android Andy Rubin explained at the time,
It’s remained a niche channel for early adopters, but it’s clear that many customers like a hands-on experience before buying a phone, and they also want a wide range of service plans to chose from.
The next year, Google updated the Nexus line with the Nexus S, a phone that was only sold through carriers despite being fully unlocked and excluding carrier bloatware.
Google gave direct selling of their devices one last shot in 2012 when they announced that the Nexus 4, 7, and 10 devices could be bought from the Android Play Store. We all know the problems the company had particularly with the availability of the Nexus 4 smartphone, as the device was famously pulled from the store on launch day due to erratic supply problems the company was experiencing with its LG manufacturer.
It should be noted however that Google seems to have ironed out its problems in its retail division, as all Nexus devices and accessories seem to now be consistently available on Play. Rosenberg commented on the improvements Play has made in recent months,
We’re getting better at fulfilling demand and kind of operating the store in a way that consumers expect us to. [The Play Store is] a reliable way for us to get these devices into market in different countries around the world.
Despite these improvements in retail availability, the Play store still has a long way to go. Although Canadians can go to Play right now and order any one of the Nexus devices, the charging orb for the Nexus 4 still isn’t being sold to Canadians, and let’s not forget the fact that the Canadian store doesn’t even mention Google’s line of Chromebooks, currently only being offered in the US and the UK for reasons unexplained.