Google's new phone in its new store: A User Experience view

by Mru Kodali on 8 January 2010

Google’s launched its own branded phone (with HTC) after plenty of speculation in the mobile and business worlds. The move, however, came through its new e-commerce store, which was more of a surprise. As a User Experience enthusiast (and practitioner) I couldn’t help but investigate how Google tackled the customer experience  of their new online offering. Expectations are high given that Google’s notorious for copious research on making their services user-friendly.

I haven’t yet got my hands on a Nexus One phone so I checked out a 3D tour in their new online store. The store followed Google’s familiar minimalist look and feel and the pull tag just wanted to be clicked. The ‘feel’ option intrigued me – how was I going to know how it felt? It was a neat way of demonstrating the phone’s scale in relation to your palm but perhaps ‘Fit’ would’ve set my expectations better as I didn’t know any more about its tactility.

The weight option left me a little dissatisfied. I don’t know about you but I’ve never carried 53 pennies in change so couldn’t quite figure out how much this phone weighed or indeed how it compared to others on the market without leaving their site (as a slave to the metric system ounces meant little to me). A conversion calculator here would have helped; turns out it’s roughly 133 grams. Now, it may well have been a business decision not to offer comparisons with other phones but all this did was send me traipsing round the internet looking for comparison tables, not the best experience in my view.

The screen display looked impressive, it even offers a magnifying glass to see how pixel perfect it is. But I was hit with jargon here – AMOLED display. I had no idea what this meant, presumably new technology that made it better. But with no contextual help, I was off looking elsewhere again.

Accessories…doesn’t that mean things you can buy in addition to the phone? Apparently not…they’re features (such as noise cancellation and camera) that come with Nexus One. Hmm…interesting choice of words there.

All in all, I came away disappointed with the store’s labelling and navigation (or the lack thereof, if you discount the back button on most of its pages), and surprised that it wasn’t under Google’s perennial Beta. Perhaps the search giant has fallen prey to its own user experience bar set so high but I suspect the store wasn’t tested as rigorously as it could’ve been.

The caveat being of course that this store is intended for American audiences so aspects like weight in ounces may not pose an issue and perhaps our cousins across the pond have a higher propensity for marketing-ese than we Brits do. Let’s see whether and how Google localises its store when the phone’s available in Europe.

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