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Google expects Nexus One to sell out by end of July -- what's left of them that is

You may have fewer than 11 days to purchase what many critics still call the best among the stable of 60 or so Android phones on the market.

Google is selling off the remaining stock of its Nexus One phones through the online store by the end of this month, a Google spokeswoman said.

[Updated, July 21, 5:55 p.m. Sales seem to have exceeded Google's expectations. The Web store was shut down on Wednesday, a day after this story was originally published.]

The Nexus One, which hit the market about seven months ago, is the first handset primarily backed by Google. Though manufactured by HTC, Google sold the smart phone through its own online store and provided customer support, which initially was heavily criticized.

If comments from the company's chief executive, Eric Schmidt, hold true, it will go down as the only exclusively Google-branded phone.

"The idea a year and a half ago was to do the Nexus One to try to move the phone platform hardware business forward," Schmidt told the U.K.'s Telegraph newspaper. "It clearly did. It was so successful, we didn't have to do a second one."

Google laid out its ambitions from the beginning when it unveiled the "superphone" in January. The Nexus One and its Web store were supposed to reshape the wireless industry, untying hardware from telecoms. Customers could pay a premium to dodge the two-year contracts that are prerequisite for most wireless devices.

But Google announced in May that it would shut down the online store. On Friday, the company said it received its last shipment of Nexus Ones, though the product will still be available in a few other countries.

A Google spokeswoman told The Times on Tuesday that the Mountain View, Calif., company expects to sell out of its remaining supply by the end of the month but wouldn't say how many units it received.

Though Google won't release sales figures for its handset, analysts believe it did not live up to expectations. The Nexus One got off to a rocky start when just a week after its launch, analytics firm Flurry reported disappointing sales. Verizon Wireless, the largest U.S. wireless telecom by subscribers, had pledged support for the Nexus One, but those plans changed before Google could provide a phone for the Verizon network.

Andy Rubin, one of the brains behind Google's Android operating system, places much of the blame on its online-only distribution channel. Selling phones directly to consumers "didn't pan out," Rubin said at an on-stage event in May. People like to get their hands on a phone before they plunk down the cash for it, he argued in a company blog post.

"I think it's ironic that Google of all people say there are things you can't do in the online environment," said Adam Hanft, a consumer products and marketing analyst. "It didn't have a clearly differentiated reason for being in the market."

During Hanft's involvement with AT&T a couple of years ago, the company managed to convert about 10% of sales to the telecom's burgeoning Web store, he said. More recently, Apple and AT&T sold a sizable chunk of preorders for the iPhone 4 through their websites, as evidenced by the large lines at stores on launch day.

Rubin, a Google vice president, disputes claims of poor sales, saying the company had sold "well beyond" 100,000 Nexus One devices worldwide. "It was a viable business; the reason we canceled it wasn't because of sales," he told the Wall Street Journal.

Android phones accounted for 13% of smart phones sold in May, behind Research In Motion's BlackBerry, Apple's iPhone and Microsoft's Windows Mobile, according to ComScore. Google says 160,000 Android devices are activated every day.

-- Mark Milian
twitter.com/markmilian

Photo: Google's Nexus One. Credit: Associated Press

 
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