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The new way to purchase a consumer phone:

Well then, this is another day to remember. It’s the day Google got stuck into mobile merchandising and nailed the mobile operator to the wall.

That’s it: Thank you for coming, mobile operators, thank you for coming. You did your best. But now you’ve been ‘owned’. Well.. not yet. But do look out for the big G.

With the Nexus One, Google has ushered in an entirely new way of buying a consumer handset: From their website in 6 clicks.


Is it that simple? Yes.

You visit and select your financing option. You either buy your phone outright, or you get it financed by a bankmobile operator that also supplies your voice and data connection.

If you’d like a Nexus One — Google’s newest device — they’re shipping right now. You buy it from Google. Not from your operator.

Your operator is an also-ran. The operator has been relegated to bit-part status in the new Google process. It’s like choosing whether you want to pay with MasterCard or Visa. It doesn’t make much difference. Indeed you can never remember if your Capital One is Visa or MasterCard… pull it out your wallet — oh, it’s Visa — right then, Visa it is.

It won’t be long until I’ll just pay Google. I mean, what is the sodding point messing around choosing operators when Google just sorts it out.

Yes, we’ve had decades and billions of marketing dollars spent making sure we ‘care’ what operator we select. But, again — like any commodity, the reality is there isn’t much difference between operators. Who do you buy your electricity from? In the UK, the market has been opened to competition so instead of one supplier for an area, you can actually choose to pay a whole array of different suppliers. Most people stick with what’s easiest.

When it comes to, that’s what a lot of consumers will do.

I think it’ll be a little while before consumers — the normobs, the Great Unwashed — descend on and begin relying upon for their telecommunications needs.

You can see it happening though.

You can see the strategy.

If you, as an operator, are not on the page, then you’ve got a problem. 100% of people buying through this mechanism will never, ever choose you.

And Vodafone’s done the European deal, it seems.

Soon you’ll be able to buy all manner of handsets through All through a nice slick 6-step interface and powered by your Google Checkout account.

There are pitfalls of course. Your average mobile operator is — by now — pretty good at dealing with fulfilment. If I phone 3 at 11am on Monday and arrange for a new handset, provided it’s in stock, it’ll be at my door by 9am on Tuesday. Operators also have the rest of the fulfilment stream managed reasonably well. How will Google handle returns? Can I phone Google and complain about lack of T-Mobile signal? Where does my relationship lie with the transaction?

The overriding issue with Google is that they don’t give a stuff about the mobile operator. The mobile operators are standing in Google’s way. Google’s focus is — as commented via the Gizmodo coverage of the live event today — mobile advertising revenue. They are making a small margin on unit sales, but, “making sure people get access to Google services and get online is their #1 priority.”

To put this in perspective, here’s another quote from today’s event:

People search the web 30x more on an Android phone than they do on a feature phone.

The concept is not surprising. A shitfeature phone is rubbish for searching online. Oh the browser can handle displaying Google, but when it comes to anything else — and in particular, browsing search results featuring Google Ads — the devices are useless.

The fact Google report 30x more searches is quite surprising. Yet I can believe that figure. And goodness me when you start counting the billions of dollars of mobile ad revenue to be had over the next 5-10 years, yeah… Google definitely needed to wade into the existing marketplace more or less hampered by the operators.

Putting Google as the search engine of choice on the operator portal has been useful, no doubt. But I can certainly understand this strategy. If anything it points to the commercial imperative Google feels as they analyse the growth and potential of the mobile world.

Fascinating times.

If you’d like to read Google’s viewpoint, the team over at the Official Google Blog have prepared an overview of today’s announcement. It really does make interesting reading, especially when you read between the lines. Here it is: Our new approach to buying a mobile phone.

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