Google and Samsung need to learn how to launch a phone

Taylor Martin
 from  Concord, NC
| November 14, 2011

It has been nearly a month since Google and Samsung teamed up and took the stage in Hong Kong to announce the latest and greatest in their portfolios. Samsung showed off some of the sweetest mobile hardware to date – a 720p 4.65-inch Super AMOLED display on a (mostly) buttonless device, with a 1.2GHz dual-core processor, a seemingly fantastic camera and more all wrapped in a super sleek 8.94mm thick body. And Google unveiled the next delicious treat in their Android lineup, the fusion of tablet and smartphone software, Android 4.0, better known as Ice Cream Sandwich.

When the lights faded and the last speaker left the stage, however, we were left wondering just about as much as we were when the keynote started. Sure, a few things were finally made official. But they really didn't answer the questions we were truly wondering. As Dustin Earley of Android and Me points out in his article The Samsung Galaxy Nexus and the launch that could have been, "we still don’t know the full who, when and for how much of the device."

We are now only four days away from an entire month since the Galaxy Nexus was unveiled and we don't really know any more about it than we did before the announcement. We don't officially know when the device will launch, or even which carriers will be adding it to their lineups – other than the strong hint that it's headed to Big Red, of course.

You may recall that Google originally pushed up the launch date a couple of months to snag some of those fence-riding iPhone owners. It's now pretty clear; that won't happen. The iPhone 4S launched an entire month ago and shattered sales records, as always. And the Galaxy Nexus? It's still nowhere to be found. It's worth noting that Samsung and Google respectfully decided to push back the date of their announcement due to the untimely death of Steve Jobs. But that should not have affected the actual launch date. Everything should already have been in place, ready to go after the announcement: an official date, carrier confirmations, price and so on. These are things that should always be covered at a product announcement, at least tentatively.

What this proves is that Google and Samsung still, after several launch fumbles, can't seem to get a product launch down to an art.

The iconic Nexus One was a victim of a total marketing blunder. The device was originally supposed to land on all four major carriers at some point or another. Long story short, AT&T and T-Mobile versions were both offered, unlocked-only, through Google's web store. Google faced apprehensive customers by not putting physical devices in stores and not allowing any subsidization. With the Nexus S, Google did offer subsidized phones and the launch did go more smoothly. However, T-Mobile had a few months of exclusivity. Let's be honest, carrier exclusives are so 2007. If you want to capture the market, giving one carrier the device a few months before all others is hardly the way to do it.

And Samsung? They're really no better at this than Google. The Galaxy S II and all of its variants are some of the best Android phones to date, there's no question about that. But the original Galaxy S II launched overseas in April of this year. The three (well, four) US variants landed just last month with next to nothing new or exciting. For those keeping count, that is six months on latency between an international version and the US versions ... for what? Subtle design differences? And one with a different processor?

I hate to make this comparison, I really do. But the perfect example of a smooth product launch comes from none other than Apple. Every time (with the exception of the CDMA iPhone 4) Apple launches a new version of their ever-popular iPhone, everything happens at the same time. There is no question in the consumer's mind when the product will launch, and the announcement is quickly followed by the ... actual launch – not a month of anticipation, confusion and frustration. It almost seems as if Motorola is starting to get the process down, too. The very day the Galaxy Nexus was announced, the DROID RAZR (as well as the international version, Motorola RAZR) was also announced by Verizon and Motorola. That device launch has come and gone and even though we were not given a specific launch date at the time of the announcement, we were given a pre-order date. On the day before pre-orders were available, the official release date was revealed. Not too shabby, Moto. (At least they've learned from their BIONIC blunder.)

If Google wants people to take their Nexus lines more seriously, they, themselves, need to tidy up and quit being so sloppy. They need to at least appear as if they're in control and taking charge. Every variant of the Galaxy Nexus should have already launched, simultaneously, without any exclusivities. And for future reference, Google should give a definitive date long in advance rather than leaving wanting customers without a clue as to when the device will actually become available.

Oh, and if the phone isn't ready for prime time – ahem, BIONIC, anyone? – don't announce it.

I was 100 percent positive that the Galaxy Nexus was going to be my next device. It still likely will be, for what it's worth. But I have found myself contemplating just buying another phone already, simply because I do not know exactly when the Galaxy Nexus will arrive. Next week? The week after? Will they even launch it in November like they promised? All fingers are pointing to sometime within the next week or so. But does anyone really know? I'm beginning to question whether Google or Samsung even know what's going on.

The point is, not everyone is dead set on stock Android or even Samsung hardware, not even when the two are vertically integrated. Without a solid date to go on, those that were on the fence about the Galaxy Nexus have probably already purchased an iPhone 4S, Galaxy S II, DROID RAZR or some other similarly spec'd Android phone. If I weren't such an Android purist specifically in pursuit of a Nexus device, I probably would have kept my Amaze 4G or bought something else already.

What say you, folks? Has this product launch, or lack thereof, been as frustrating for you as it has been for me? Do you feel Google has dropped the ball ... again? Could they learn a thing or two from Apple or Motorola even?

Image via Engadget