Google is sticking with Play to sell phones, retail stores aren't on horizon

Andy Rubin
Rubin rubs out retail rumors

Google executives turned revelatory today during roundtable talks at the Barcelona rendezvous that is Mobile World Congress.

Both Jamie Rosenberg, vice president of Google Play, and Andy Rubin, head of Android, offered up some interesting insights into Google's strategy as it relates to retail moving forward.

First, Rosenberg: According to the VP as reported by The Verge, Google's plan of selling devices straight to customers in the Play store isn't going anywhere.

This is despite the supply debacle that Google experienced when it launched the Nexus 4 - a saga of sellouts that's been well documented and chalked up by hardware partner LG as the result of Mountain View's failure to properly anticipate demand.

Virtual purchases

For those that speculated Google might reconsider its Play-to-customer supply chain in the face of the Nexus drama, Google isn't budging.

"We're getting better at fulfilling demand and kind of operating the store in a way that consumers expect us to," Rosenberg said.

He called the online store "a reliable way" to get products to different parts of the world, which wasn't always (and arguably still isn't) the case.

Google debuted its direct sale initiative with HTC's Nexus One, though when that effort landed on its face the company decided to put the handset in stores as the web outlet remained a "niche channel for early adopters."

"[It's] clear that many customers like a hands-on experience before buying a phone, and they also want a wide range of service plans to chose from," Andy Rubin wrote in a May 2010 blog post.

Whatever the problems from three years ago, Google feels confident it's got something that works, even if that wasn't initially visible at the Nexus 4's launch.

Stores shot down

Rubin's turn in the Spanish spotlight came as the Android chief said that, despite various reports Google is exploring building its own brick-and-mortar stores, there's not really a need for the company to do so.

Unlike in days past when users needed to touch devices before making a purchase, consumers have enough data through reviews and from friends to make informed buying decisions.

"They don't need to go in the store and feel it anymore," Rubin, as reported by AllThingsD, said.

Furthermore, Rubin said Google hardware isn't far enough along to support a retail push.

He hit the final nail in the rumor's coffin with this:

"Google has no plans and we have nothing to announce."

Michelle Fitzsimmons

Michelle was previously a news editor at TechRadar, leading consumer tech news and reviews. Michelle is now a Content Strategist at Facebook.  A versatile, highly effective content writer and skilled editor with a keen eye for detail, Michelle is a collaborative problem solver and covered everything from smartwatches and microprocessors to VR and self-driving cars.