Track the companies that matter to you. It's FREE! Click one of these fan favorites to get started: Apple; Google; Ford.

Did Google Pick the Wrong Nexus Partner?

Google's (NASDAQ: GOOGL  ) Nexus program is a boon for OEMs looking to collaborate on high-profile Android devices. Since consumers have already expressed interest in unmodified versions of the operating system, devices carrying the Nexus brand are virtually guaranteed strong demand and envious unit volumes.

The search giant's most recent Nexus 4 flagship is already a runaway success. It's too bad that OEM partner LG continues to struggle with demand and can't produce enough of the device. The Nexus 4 has been out of stock more often than it's been in stock on Google Play. That's a good indication of healthy demand, but also potentially limiting if Google and LG simply can't keep up.

What problem?
What's worse is that LG isn't even acknowledging that there's a problem. After all, the first step is always to admit you have a problem. An LG exec told Korean outlet Chosun Ilbo that there were no supply problems and that production was proceeding swimmingly at its manufacturing facility in Pyeongtaek, South Korea.

The millions of Android loyalists anxious to get their hands on the device would beg to differ. Some enthusiasts have even gone as far as to decipher IMEI numbers and serial numbers with the hopes of estimating Nexus 4 volumes. If their methodology is correct, LG only shipped 370,000 units in the fourth quarter. For a device meant to rival Apple's iPhone, that's a far cry from the roughly 50 million iPhones that Apple is expected to have shipped in the fourth quarter.

Google itself also begs to differ, apologizing for the shortages. A Big G exec recently called out LG specifically, "Supplies from the manufacturer are scarce and erratic, and our communication has been flawed."

My own worst enemy
On the other hand, maybe LG isn't too keen on undercutting itself, so it isn't too anxious to ramp up production. Part of playing along with Google's grand plan involves targeting lower price points to the extent that LG's higher-end devices could get cannibalized. LG's own current flagship is the Optimus G, which the Nexus 4 is based on.

The Optimus G retails for $550, much higher than the high-end $350 Nexus 4. The biggest difference between the two devices is that the Nexus 4 lacks official 4G LTE support due to Google's strategic goals of reaching a large number of markets without carrier support, subsidies, or hardware margins.

This is quite possible when you consider that LG is already trying to sell the device to carriers and retailers for much more than Google is. A Spanish phone retailer suspended Nexus 4 sales when it found out LG wanted to sell it for upwards of twice as much. Stateside, T-Mobile lists the Nexus 4's unsubsidized "suggested retail" price as $550, a whole $200 more for the exact same model offered on Google Play. All the better to make T-Mobile's subsidy sound more generous, my dear.

LG probably saw what played out for Asus in the tablet market and didn't want to suffer the same fate. Asus builds the Nexus 7 on behalf of the search giant, a tablet that retails for $199. Cooperating with Google on its first flagship Android tablet at such a low price point has effectively locked Asus out of the $199 tablet market, along with other leading hardware OEMs. While Asus appears content with volume over margins, LG may not be.

Sorry, Sammy
The previous two generations of Nexus smartphones, the Nexus S and Galaxy Nexus, were built by Samsung, who has much broader scale than LG. If there's one thing Sammy's good at, it's churning out plenty of smartphones of various shapes and sizes. Perhaps Google should have stuck with Sammy on this one.

Google has been a longtime pick of Motley Fool superinvestor David Gardner, and has soared nearly 65% since he recommended it in July 2009. David specializes in identifying game-changing companies like Google long before others are keen to their disruptive potential, and he helps like-minded investors profit while Wall Street catches up. I invite you to learn more about how he picks his winners with a free, personal tour of his flagship service, Supernova. Inside, you'll discover the science behind his market-trouncing returns. Just click here now for instant access.

Read/Post Comments (0) | Recommend This Article (1)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

Be the first one to comment on this article.

Sponsored Links

Leaked: Apple's Next Smart Device
(Warning, it may shock you)
The secret is out... experts are predicting 458 million of these types of devices will be sold per year. 1 hyper-growth company stands to rake in maximum profit - and it's NOT Apple. Show me Apple's new smart gizmo!

DocumentId: 2197191, ~/Articles/ArticleHandler.aspx, 3/31/2015 7:25:36 AM

Report This Comment

Use this area to report a comment that you believe is in violation of the community guidelines. Our team will review the entry and take any appropriate action.

Sending report...

Apple's next smart device (warning, it may shock you

Apple recently recruited a secret-development "dream team" to guarantee its newest smart device was kept hidden from the public for as long as possible. But the secret is out. In fact, ABI Research predicts 485 million of this type of device will be sold per year. But one small company makes Apple's gadget possible. And its stock price has nearly unlimited room to run for early-in-the-know investors. To be one of them, and see Apple's newest smart gizmo, just click here!