The Google & LG Nexus 4 Partnership Has Been A Failure Of Logistics

If you have been looking for a new Android Nexus 4 smartphone from Google and LG, you have probably been banging your head against the wall in frustration. The Nexus 4 has been scarce both through the official Google Play store and carriers like T-Mobile in the United States. The unavailability of the latest flagship Android smartphone has been a debacle for both Google and LG to the detriment of enthusiastic consumers across the globe.

Who is to blame?

The answer is not straightforward. Dan Cobley, managing director of Google UK, told commenters on his Google+ page on December 15th that, “supplies from the manufacturer are scarce and erratic, and our communication has been flawed.”

So, that puts the onus on LG as the manufacturer had underestimated the demand or could not keep up with it. On the other hand, an LG official speaking to Korean publication Chosun Ilbo earlier this week said that there were no supply issues with the Nexus 4 and that one of its manufacturing plants was building the device as planned.

The month between Cobley’s statement and the official speaking to Chosun Ilbo could be telling. Maybe there were supply issues win November and December that have been resolved in January. That does not really help consumers that have been waiting (not so patiently) to get their hands on the device.

T-Mobile, the U.S. carrier for the Nexus 4, said earlier this week that Nexus 4 would be available in-store nationwide by the end of this month and available to purchase from its website as of January 23rd. As of today, both 8 GB and 16 GB versions of the device were sold out on Google Play. T-Mobile will also be releasing a data-enabled version of the Nexus 7 tablet this month.

High Hopes

Before the release of the Nexus 4, many Android consumers were hoping for new blood in the Nexus series. The Nexus One (the first in the series) device was built by HTC  while the next two (Nexus S and Galaxy Nexus) were built by Samsung. Many applauded the decision to go with LG, a manufacturer that has been underrated among smartphone analysts while creating quality Android devices. The Nexus 4 is one of the first quad-core smartphones to reach U.S. shores and boasts impressive hardware specifications. 

Complicating factors in Nexus 4 availability include the distribution strategy. The Nexus 4’s primary distribution channel has been Google Play, where consumers can order it directly without going through T-Mobile. Google had tried this route before with the Nexus One and sales were minimal. The Galaxy Nexus that was released at the end of 2011 had marginal sales figures compared to the rest of Samsung robust Galaxy S figures.

So, expectations were probably tempered for both Google and LG that likely suppressed initial orders from the manufacturer. The difference is that Samsung, the largest and most agile smartphone manufacturer in the world, would have been able to ramp up its supply if there had been robust demand. 

So who's to blame? Everybody. Google for its choice of partner that could not meet demand, and LG for the scarcity of supply and failure to meet expectations. In the end, it has been a failure of logistics that all parties are responsible for.