Google cuts Nexus One fees, adds phone support

Google has finally cleaned up the last of the problems with its Nexus One smartphone, adding customer support phone lines and chopping $200 off an outrageously high early termination fee.

Previously, Google charged $350 to anyone who bought a Nexus One subsidized through T-Mobile and then cancelled their contract within four months. That’s the highest early termination fee in the industry, matching a $350 fee charged by Verizon Wireless, but that alone wasn’t the problem. T-Mobile also charges an early termination fee of $200 to customers who cancel within six months of signing a contract.

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In other words, those who cancelled T-Mobile service within four months of buying the Nexus One would’ve been hit with $550 in fees, in addition to the $180 cost of the phone. Google will still charge a $150 early termination fee, but when combined with T-Mobile’s fee, it at least falls in line with the (still high) amount that Verizon Wireless charges.

As for customer service, Google says it will now take support calls at (888) 48-NEXUS between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. However, Google will only answer calls on order status and shipping. Customers must call HTC, the Nexus One’s manufacturer, for technical support, repairs or returns. T-Mobile will field calls related to phone service for subsidized phones.

These two issues were the last of several Nexus One gripes. In addition to customer service complaints and excessive fees, users complained of problems with T-Mobile’s 3G coverage. The phone also lacked multi-touch gestures, though this wasn’t an advertised feature. In any case, Google added multi-touch and fixed the Nexus One’s 3G problems with a single update last week.

This should be a valuable lesson for Google: Expensive hardware isn’t the same as free Web applications. People are going to get angry if the product they paid for doesn’t work properly, comes with hidden fees and doesn’t have a clear customer support plan. A smartphone shouldn’t be treated like an experiment in Google Labs, where it’s okay if there are problems out of the gate. Hopefully the next Google phone will get a smoother launch.