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Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Android - the retail experience

I just stopped off at my local branch of Carphone Warehouse on a whim, to have a quick look at what's being sold and how. (By coincidence, this is actually CPW's first ever store, opened in 1989).

It's been a while since I'd been in there, and one particular thing caught my eye - the removal of the Apple iPhone point-of-sale island, with the live demo phones. Instead, there was a podium with dummy Samsung devices.

There was also, against the wall, a specific Android display. It was awkwardly placed, so I had to keep getting out of the way of people moving around the shop. It has a display for four phones - the Samsung Galaxy S, Motorola Milestone (European equivalent of the Droid), an HTC Desire and an empty space where there was supposed to be a SonyEricsson X10.

I thought I'd have a quick play with these, to see how they looked to a potential customer:

- The Milestone didn't appear to have a SIM in it, or it was otherwise not working properly. A click on Maps from the homescreen gave me a "waiting" logo for about 60 secs and then told me it didn't have an Internet connection.
- The Desire was switched off, and it wasn't immediately obvious how to switch it back on (the phones are held fixed in clamps).
- The Galaxy S had a demo running. All attempts at button-pushing to take me to the menu failed. I gave up. Nice screen, though.
- The X10 wasn't there

Net result - major fail. They might as well have been plastic mock-ups bolted to the wall.

Honestly, could you imagine that in an Apple - or even Nokia - store? Or an Apple display in a normal phone retailer?

I'm guessing that the point of sale material was either put together by CPW corporately, or the specific store itself. I'm sure you'll appreciate the slightly vulgar irony of the abbreviation for "point of sale".

Now clearly, this is just a one-off visit, and I haven't been Android-shopping anywhere else. And clearly, they're selling devices by the bucketload. But if my experience is typical, I'm unsurprised that people aren't generally buying them for their apps, but because they are now the typical "default high end devices" in much the same way that S60 Nokias used to be.

Sooner or later, I expect we'll see Google develop a retail presence, either under its own brand or specifically for Android devices. Until then, the in-store experience is going to be driven by the individual manufacturers rather than any form of unified pitch to the customer.

(Separately - no sign of 3G-embedded laptops either, all of them are sold with external dongle modems. Who would have predicted that....)

EDIT - by an amusing coincidence, GigaOm has an article today on smartphone retail as well, featuring Best Buy, which owns half of CPW in Europe


chris said...

google is making an attempt to seperate the cellphone from the provider and make phones more universal than they are now (like with the nexus one). So your retail assumption in my opinion would be correct.

eurotravelmonkey said...

Reminds me of the countless times I walked around PC World stores little Macintosh sections. All Macs either turned off or generally buggered up with people having dumped applications in the trash. No love from any of the PC World sales people because it was easier to sell a Packard Bell machine than a Mac.
Well done Apple fro being in control of the buying experience. CPW staff do remind me a little of those PC World sales people...

Dan Young said...

The Motorola Droid and Nexus One had the major disadvantage that nobody was able to hold and use one in store, before stumping up the cash.

When the HTC Desire launched every mobile store in the land was plastered with posters, yet when I went inside and asked to actually see one working... still nada. There might be a dummy unit in a metal clamp if I was lucky. After two weeks I eventually found a Vodafone shop with a demo handset.

What a lot of hassle! Perhaps even car test drives and house viewings will be eventually be displaced by YouTube demos instead.