Why we should all celebrate the sale of the millionth Nexus 4

February 8, 2013
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Should LG and Google pop the champagne? According to an unofficial tally, the two companies could soon celebrate the sale of the millionth Nexus 4. But is this a performance to be proud of? Or should they better keep it to themselves?

Before we dive in, the tally comes from an XDA Developers user who found out that, by plugging a Nexus 4’s IMEI number into an LG web app, they could access information about the device, including a serial number that is supposedly the device count. Yesterday, a device sold in Turkey was reported to have the serial number “999998”, which means that LG manufactured at least 1 million devices. However, there could be devices out there that haven’t been checked, with higher serials numbers. In other words, the actual number of Nexus 4s made might be higher.

[Update] Some readers have pointed out that due to gaps in the numbering system, LG may have manufactured only 850,000-900,000 Nexus 4 units. Still, I think my points regarding the general trend are still valid.

At this point, some of you might say…

Please, Samsung sells that much in a minute

So we know that LG fabricated at least 1 million Nexus 4 units. Given the popular demand for the device (the Nexus 4 8GB just sold out again in the US, by the way), let’s assume that translates to roughly 1 million Nexus 4s sold.

Is this an achievement for Google and LG?

If you compare it with superstar devices like the Galaxy S3 or the iPhone, the market performance of the Nexus 4 is puny. Samsung and Apple routinely sell the first million of their hero devices within hours of the launch.

But that doesn’t mean we should dismiss the Nexus 4 as a failure. There are three reasons why:

Limited supply

The first reason to feel good about the Nexus 4’s sales numbers is the fact that many people couldn’t even buy one. There’s no telling how many devices might Google and LG have sold, if they didn’t botch the launch, but I’m sure it would be a lot more than one million.

Limited availability

The Nexus 4 wasn’t just constrained by limited supplies, but also by the relatively low number of markets where the device sold. Sure, Google sells the Nexus 4 in the US, Germany, and other big markets, but people in China, or India, or Brazil had to wait for retailers to make it available in their countries, usually at inflated prices. Moreover, in many countries the device hasn’t even become available yet.

Limited clout

Let’s face it. The Nexus is a shining star in the world of Android, but many people just barely got accustomed to Samsung’s “Galaxy” brand. Not to mention those who think that all smartphones are “iphones”. If the Nexus brand had a quarter of Samsung’s or Apple’s clout, it would’ve rocked the market to its core.

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The future is bright

Court documents revealed that the Galaxy Nexus, the predecessor of the Nexus 4, sold about 500,000 units between November 2011 and August 2012. That’s about nine months. The Nexus 4 sold twice as much in about three months, while constrained by misjudged supply and limited availability.

The Nexus 4 sold about six times better than the Galaxy Nexus. This is the real reason to celebrate, for Google, and frankly, for all Android fans. If the trend holds, next year we may be talking about the Nexus as a true competitor to the Galaxy S and the iPhone.

Bring out the champagne, guys.

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