Like many others today, I tried to get a Nexus 4. Also, with many others, I did not, and found the entire experience hearkened back more to the failed Nexus One launch than the successful launches since, like the Galaxy Nexus and the Nexus S.
To be clear, I don’t think this was a failure because I didn’t get a phone; it’s because of the multiple customer service failures that led to me not getting one, and being confused as to what was going on while not getting one. Android, with nearly 80% market share, and Google, which makes news dropping below 90% marketshare, are both winning, so all the hyperbolic “Android/Google won’t last if this keeps going on” nonsense on Twitter is idiotic. But it does certainly keep Android from attaining the perceived prestige of iOS devices. The lack of polish is endemic in Android. While I’m inclined to say that with Jelly Bean it’s visually more appealing and as polished as iOS, things like today’s launch reinforce that image.
The first of the failures was a total lack of pre-orders. There’s no reason not to use them in this day and age. The product is announced, the pre-order system goes live, and people receive a notification when they can expect to receive their device. Ideally this system would know what initial stock was expected to be, and send out emails saying that number would ship on day 0, and then stagger the dates as they’re expected to be produced.
This isn’t practical when there are multiple vendors, multiple sales portals or whatever; the logistics of order promises makes that kind of thing trickier to say in advance. But when you only have to sell X,000,000 devices to T-Mobile, and then everything else is sold through your store, there’s no reason to have this disaster. Due to the fact that they went on sale at the same local time, not all at once it would be easy to figure out shipping orders after all the sales were done.
If Canada gets 2M, UK 2M, US 5M, etc, you allot those amounts from the initial stock, calculate the first purchasers from those regions and let the buyers know that their devices will ship on day 0. All devices are going to be shipped from China direct to the purchaser, so it’s not like there would be shipping challenges by doing pre-orders. If anything it would simplify the shipping process by granting a month of headway.
Which brings me to the second failure, the way the launch times were handled. Despite Google having its Google Play account on +; Google Nexus, Android and Google Play Twitter accounts; Facebook page; Android blog; and Google Blog; nobody communicated how the launch was going to work to anyone. After a twenty minute sale in Australia left people asking if something glitched, there was silence online. People waited til midnight local, midnight Pacific, still nothing. I called Google Play and was told that it would go on sale 9AM local time, EST. Ok, thanks I have a time, off to bed, wake up, nothing. Not on sale, no news about it, nothing. The internet says actually it’s 9am PST, Google says nothing.
Quarter to noon rolls around the 8GB goes on sale, maybe? Sometimes it’s for sale, other times it’s Coming Soon. Then all of a sudden it’s errors galore, then it’s more errors, SSL failures, timeouts, fucking 1990s incompetence. I get it if your purchasing system crashes under load, it happens to everyone on launch day. But for fuck’s sake, this is Google, and their website is crashing, not just the purchasing portion, the whole kit-and-kaboodle.
Then for the next few hours people are still randomly scoring 8GB ones, Google has still said nothing. Then finally, 8 hours after they’ve sold out, with no fanfare or announcement, press release, anything, they flip to Sold Out, Notify Me instead of Coming Soon, Notify Me.
Which is the third failure, Notify Me. Within minutes of the page going live on the Play Store I had requested to be notified. To me this means I should be notified when the device is going to go on sale. It’s 12 hours after the device went on sale, I’ve received no notifications that it did so. Perhaps it would’ve been better had I not known about the sale, in which case I wouldn’t think it was such a poor show of customer service.
The final failure is going back to Notify Me after the initial stock is sold. Fuck you, Notify me. Not only did you not Notify Me last time, but what are you going to Notify Me about? That in a few weeks the same circus is going to recur? Why would I want to endure another shitshow where I have to keep hitting refresh to buy something. The internet was supposed to eliminate this legacy behaviour. You ship from China which means I don’t need to run to the store to make sure I’m first in line. I can click buy now, and wait til it ships.
Not only is Apple doing this perfectly, but so is everyone else. It’s not 2007 any more, there’s no excuse for launches this poorly executed. Obviously it was a great success for Google, and undoubtedly drummed up a bunch of press, but the byline to every story about how it sold out in record time is that people were super frustrated with the experience.