Posted in: apple, Gadgets & Handsets, google, google voice, googleapps, grandcentral, voiceapps

Buying a Google Nexus One Unlocked is a Terrible Experience – Fixing It is Easy

I have had my Google Nexus One for about a day. And I’m getting ready to box it up and send it back to them. It’s not because I don’t like the device – it’s kind of wonky in terms of UI, especially if you’re an iPhone user, but it’s still a very good device as you get used to it. It handles native Google apps well, with the notable (and mind-boggling) exception of Google Voice.

If you’re short on time, here’s the punchline – buying an unlocked Google Nexus One is horrible because neither Google nor T-Mobile can get you up and running quickly unless you know what to ask. If you want this phone, just get a contract and be done with it – the two companies haven’t figured out how to support users who come in with a device in hand. Here’s my saga in a few steps:

1. Ordered Google Nexus One unlocked from the online store.
2. Went into T-Mobile and got offered a FlexPay plan – no monthly contract and plenty of options for unlimited or metered voice, text, and Internet.
3. After a few clicks, I had everything up and running – Gmail, Google Calendar, and all of the other core services tied to my Google account. So far so good.

And then I got to Google Voice. Everything went fine until I went to set up my voicemail. All I wanted to do was to forward my voicemail from the Nexus One to my Google Voice number using conditional forwarding. The helper wizard on the device couldn’t make it work. The directions available on the Google Voice site didn’t work. So I picked up the phone and called T-Mobile. They were very pleasant, kind, and helpful, even though they regularly admitted they didn’t know much about the device.

I read the T-Mobile forums prior to the call and a lot of users suggested that you can’t actually do conditional voicemail forwarding if you’re on a FlexPay plan – they simply don’t allow you to do so. I broght this point up repeatedly during my roughly 1 hour call with their support folks. Finally, after some patient work by a Tier 3 unsupported deice rep, we both figured it out – it’s my plan, not the device. After about 30 minutes with the billing department, who kept trying to get me back to technical support, I finally just gave up and told them I wanted to cancel my account. It turns out there actually isn’t a way to convert from a FlexPay month-to-month plan to a postpaid account. And here’s the kicker – even if you bring your own device, signing up for a postpaid account obligates you to sign up for a contract. I don’t mind signing up for a contract if you’re subsidizing my device. But if I’m bringing my own phone, I find that to be a bit insulting.

So now I have this Nexus One and can’t use it seamlessly with Google Voice. It’s a phone, right? This should be a device that showcases how awesome Google Voice is, right? So what I’ve concluded is that buying an unlocked Nexus One is about the worst decision you could make for three reasons:

1. You pay more – the device costs almost $600
2. If you want to be able to use Google Voice to do everything, including voicemail, you need a contract as well.
3. Nobody seems to be able to support the unlocked version of the device and you’ll pull your hair out trying to get help.

Fixing this would be easy. Either Google or T-Mobile could simply direct people who want the unlocked device toward a plan that will actually allow someone to fully enjoy the device and provide a bit more support for those of us who want to get the device up and running quickly.

Overall, I can see the promise in this device. If you’re a power user of Google Apps, this phone is great. But I think I’ll sit this round out and wait until the support and setup issues get resolved before committing to this device.