Google struggling to support angry Nexus One buyers

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New owners of the Nexus One are complaining that they can't find answers to support issues from Google, and that they're being passed back and forth between it, HTC, and T-Mobile.

A report by PC World detailed several of the hundreds of complaints users have posed to Google's support forums.

Prior to the phone's launch, many pundits predicted that Google's positive brand familiarity with consumers would give it a strong position to market a smartphone. However, the new smartphone (or "superphone" as Google executives like to call it) is the company's first attempt at selling hardware to consumers.

Like Microsoft, Google is discovering that selling software (or in Google's case, giving away free software supported by ads) is a very different business than selling and supporting hardware.

Despite its global domination of the PC operating system and productivity suite markets, Microsoft has struggled to even break even with its Xbox franchise as support issues ballooned into a $1.4 billion write-off. The company's effort to push the Zune against the iPod fell completely flat, even with major retail partners lined up to promote it.

Google avoided the difficult business of retail in the launch of the Nexus One. The phone was designed and built by HTC but is marketed and sold by Google directly from its website.

However, customers buying the device are finding that Google's level of customer support is limited to email, which is only answered in a day or two. There's no direct phone support available at all.

That might be sufficient for users of free software, but it isn't being received well by customers who spent $540 on the new unlocked device. Users who went to T-Mobile or HTC reported getting a general runaround and bad support there as well, with some users complaining that they were told the phone doesn't support 3G at all.

One user in the report said he'd spent an hour and a half being transferred between HTC and T-Mobile after Google failed to help. "T-Mobile also said Google hasn't provided them with any support documents for the phone. Welcome to direct sales Google!" the user complained.

Another user facing similar issued wrote, "I guess I was under the wrong impression but I thought Google would handle the service on the phone."

Apple has faced some issues at each launch of new iPhone models, but had resources in place to handle those issues based on its decades-long experience in selling and supporting consumer electronics.

When launching the iPhone, Apple staunchly insisted that AT&T and other carrier partners allow it to handle much of the customer support itself, which helped to head off the problem of users being passed back and forth between the hardware vendor, the carrier, and the software developer.