Now that Andy Rubin himself has officially snubbed what were apparently rather strong rumors of Google opening its own retail stores in the US, there's a lot of humdrum floating around about whether or not a Google Store would actually make sense.

On the one hand, with its increasing arsenal of hardware products on the Play Store, Google definitely has a wide enough selection of toys to at least give a standalone brick and mortar location (or two) a shot. Nexus phones, tablets, Chromebooks (along with accessories for all those devices), Play Store gift cards, and opportunities to sign up for premium Google services (eg, more Google Drive space) could really open up a lot more people to the idea that Google isn't just about search, email, and maps. And to reiterate the point literally every other tech journalist in existence has made, it would give consumers a chance to "feel" the hardware.

However, there are a lot of other considerations to take into account here. If Google were to sell Nexus phones at its own stores, for example, how would people go about acquiring service? Would Google give them an option to sign up for service in store, or would they have to go to a second location (eg, AT&T or T-Mobile)? The latter could be very off-putting to prospective buyers.

What about customer support? I can guarantee that consumers would expect Google to accept warranty claims and troubleshoot problems in-store, and that would require a whole new support infrastructure. It's also been suggested by some that these stores could be little more than "offline showrooms" (products would be shipped to customers, not physically stocked), and while that may sound futuristic to us, the tech-inclined, average brick-and-mortar 'folk would almost certainly shun such a system.

Microsoft's been giving its first retail locations a go in the last year, and I've visited one in Los Angeles on a couple of occasions. While it's never been empty, the foot traffic is far from that which Apple's retail stores enjoy, and the number of purchases actually happening seems to be a lot lighter, as well. It's mostly a novelty to gawk at, frankly.

But Google needs regular people to gawk at its products - because so few of those people know that they exist. The question is, would building stores make a real difference in that regard? Or would a step into the retail space set up Google for expectations (read: Apple's retail model) that it almost certainly will never meet, dooming it to failure?

I admit, the idea of a Google Store gets the nerd in me really excited. But at the same time, I remember that we're talking about the company that just released an expensive touchscreen laptop with a browser-based OS, and that basically everyone fully expects it to be an utter commercial flop. Maybe Google's not ready for this kind of leap just yet.

Anyway, vote in the poll, and sound off in the comments.

Should Google build its own retail stores?

View Results

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David Ruddock
David's phone is whatever is currently sitting on his desk. He is an avid writer, and enjoys playing devil's advocate in editorials, and reviewing the latest phones and gadgets. He also doesn't usually write such boring sentences.

  • http://www.nerdshowandtell.com nerdshowandtell.com

    They need this to have hands on education for their products and after the sale service. Not to mention demos of all their software (and now hardware) products. You know how many people still ask me if a hangout is like facetime? :S

  • arber

    I personally think google should have just a couple flag ship stores to show off their latest shit

  • gr227

    It would take them 12 store openings just to get out of Beta

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

      Yesterday, a 38 year-old woman was severely injured at a Google Store [BETA] when an elaborate Gmail-shaped lighting fixture fell from the ceiling, striking her in the face. When asked to comment on the incident, a Google spokesperson said 'Thankfully, this person agreed to our Google Store [BETA] data collection agreement, so the crash was immediately reported to the Google Store developer team. We're hoping to have this bug resolved in the next release.'

      • gr227

        That made my day ... thank you

      • Dan

        LMAO - and THAT is why I start my day at androidpolice.com

  • Logan B.

    A few flagship stores could be nice, but we all know how well they handle online releases. So it worries me how this would actually work...

    • rap

      I agree Flagship stores in key locations: New York, Chicago's miracle mile, Mall of America, San Francisco, LA maybe. High foot traffic locations. They might have to view them more as education centers though than as profit centers that would drive overall Google use up. They could even promote Google apps on iOS or Blackberry. We all know Google makes money off of the data mining and ads not the actual devices themselves. But if they are going to do it, do it right not halfway.

      • ScooterG

        Just saw your comment. Great idea I can promoting cross platform software.

  • http://profiles.google.com/pbooker117 Phillip Booker

    Just get "Google Kiosks" inside of places like Best Buy or a few malls. No need for a full retail experience just yet. Especially considering most people buy online anyway.

    • http://gamingblather.com/ Drak

      I was thinking the same thing. They could partner with Best Buy, Walmart, Sam's Club, etc. They already sell Google products, Nexus 7 & 10, Chromebooks, etc. They also sell cellphones for different carriers, so it doesn't seem like it would be too hard to send them the Nexus 4, Nexus X, or whatever.

    • cy_n_ic

      I do like this idea. Wouldnt be so much initial overhead and easy to add or move locations. At this point google doesnt need four walls and a roof of their own. Use someone elses thats already packed with customers

    • Alex Luckett

      I can speak for the rest of the world, but they do this already in the UK. There's a big retailer called PC World, Google have kiosks inside their stores.

      • Ivan Myring

        I've never noticed these stalls. Do you live near a really big one.
        I live in Liverpool and haven't seen some of these stalls. I will look out in future

        • Alex Luckett

          Ah, I forgot to mention: I've only seen them inside the PC World/Currys megastores.

      • master94

        While on a trip in the UK, the PC World people told me it was a chrome booth only, no actual other Google products. Has it changed since, might have to pay a visit to the UK

    • http://twitter.com/Gnabergasher Gabernasher

      They already have their Chromebook displays in certain Best Buy stores.

      • Kenny O

        There placement is sad through, I just went to BB specifically to look at a Chromebook. I went through the computer section 3 times, finally I had to ask a staffer. He pointed and said over there, on an end cap.......they were three full aisles over from the tablets and lap top section on the fringe of the computer section.

    • Kenny O

      The caveat to this is that they staff these "kiosks" with their own trained staff. If I were Google the last thing I would want would be to rely on store staff (especially Best Buy) to sell the merchandise and properly answer questions.

      • Paul

        I think the real problem is it'd require Google employees to interact with the public which is a real no no for Google. Ever try to get support from them or customer service or an answer from them in the bug trackers or forums?

    • xjakeyy

      Am I the only person thinking of Chuck from this instantly?

  • Doan

    I would like to see retail Google stores containing Google-brand products. I'm not talking about Nexus devices like the Nexus 4 or the Galaxy Nexus, which are just Nexus versions of existing devices (Optimus G, Galaxy S II). I would like to see Google's retail store consisting of products like the Nexus 7/10, Chromebook Pixel, and the X Phone (assuming it will be truly designed by Google). I want to see products designed from the ground up by Google engineers.

    Disclaimer: I'm assuming about the Nexus 7/10. As far as I know they weren't based off of existing devices.

  • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

    I don't see why not? What would be the downside of Google stores for us, consumers? If they're not profitable for Google itself, that's their problem.

    But if the question is, should there be places for us to go check out Google products, like Nexus and ChromeOS devices, in person, then why the hell not?

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

      The question is whether or not they should build stores - is it a good idea? I don't think that's a "duh obvious" thing to ask at all. The amount of public image harm that could be caused by a lackluster launch or inevitably negative comparisons to Apple's retail model could definitely bite Google in the ass - just like pricing the Nexus One at full MSRP off contract did.

      The question is not "if everything went perfectly and Google did it exactly how it needed to be done, would this be good?" - because that assumption is about as far from a given as you can possibly get. Google has shown a magnificent capacity to screw up businesses and products that it doesn't have a history with.

      • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

        But your question is not "How should Google roll out their stores?" - it's "Should it do it at all?" without touching on whether they'd be perfect or shitty. The scope of the question is: "Should it?" with "yes" and "no" being the only options.

        • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

          That's why there are about 400 words of prefacing material before the question, weighing the issues. There are a variety of opinions and viewpoints being expressed on this issue.

          • http://royblumenthal.com/portfolio royblumenthal

            I don't know about the rest of the world, but in South Africa, the Sony stores are filled with bored staff. I occasionally stroll into one of the stores just to see how bad service can get. One clerk had a magazine open over one of their expensive video cameras. Both elbows on the glass top counter. Immersed in reading. I walked right up to the counter, and made a great show of trying to see the camera below his magazine. I even tapped the glass with my fingernails. He didn't budge. I can't imagine a Google store being much different to a Sony store. A few niche products. Low foot traffic. Bored staff. They'd have to offer something you can't get anywhere else for it to succeed.

          • Matt L

            It's not just you, I had a similar experience in a Sony store in Pennsylvania USA.^_^

          • http://royblumenthal.com/portfolio royblumenthal

            Bizarre. And they wonder why they're in trouble?

            Google would have to learn from Sony, and do things VERY differently.

  • Matthew Brown

    I would like to see Google store, however the cost of Nexus and Chromebooks would go up wouldn't they? That's why the Nexus 4 sold so cheaply, because they DIDN'T have retail stores.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

      That's certainly another consideration. Do the costs outweigh the benefits?

    • Joey Joestan Joer

      haha I'm pretty sure Google can afford retail stores without upping the price of their device line...

      • http://twitter.com/ThePhillipBee Phillip Bee

        Im sure oil companies can afford consumers paying gas at $2/gallon but they raise and lower prices just because and give BS reasons why.

        They could raise the price of devices just based on "convenience" alone.

  • Bill Collier

    Brick and mortor is just the show you room for the Internet

  • Nick Schiwy

    I have enough confidence in Google's product line to not have to hold it before I buy it but in the case that I did want to do that there are already places to do it. Best Buy is starting to carry Chromebooks, Staples has the Nexus 7 and Nexus 10 and T-Mobile has the Nexus 4. That's just the US but I'm sure there are equivalents in other countries. The only thing that will result from brick and mortar stores will be an increase in device prices. I highly doubt that even though they could, that Google would feel the need to absorb the cost of building these stores. The already very minimal profit margins on their devices would then be non-existent and they would have to find a new business model, namely, raising the prices of their devices.

  • chris2kari

    It would be a mistake. They have shown again & again that don't have the executive team needed to go into business as a hardware retailer. They need to stick to their knitting & not go off on flights of fantasy. Seems like clearing house of all the side projects was a recognition of the fact that the company was becoming lost & unfocused. Don't expect the founder to agree to this. Not gonna happen.

  • Seth

    Yes, Google needs their own retail stores. But they also need to make their products readily available at existing retail stores. There is no place that I can go today to buy a Nexus 10. I can order it from Staples and WalMart and get it in 5 days, but can't walk in and buy it. I can get the Nexus 7 at GameStop, but not the Nexus 10. AND, you can't use the Google Play giftcards that are popping up at retail locations to buy equipment, which is ridiculous. They need to improve and streamline their retail options if they're going to compete with iPads in the tablet realm, and make it so that normal people can try and buy their products.

    • Stephen McGann

      I'm not sure if you can actually buy it, but I was playing around with a nexus 10 at a staples yesterday

  • http://twitter.com/nastybutler77 JJ

    Seems to me they should work out the issues with their online store before tackling B&M ones.

  • toshistation

    Working at a wireless retailer, I can tell you that if google had brick-and-mortar locations, it would make my life a lot easier; customers who come in having forgotten their gmail account info (and who aren't smart enough to try an account recovery) could just head over to the Google Store.

  • coversnails

    The problem Google would have would be keeping all the Android manufacturers happy and showing no preference.

  • elgordo

    Just because Apple does something doesn't mean everyone else should. Look at Microsoft's stores...copycat wastelands. Google is all about distributing its services as openly as possible rather than building closed networks. Seems like it would run counter to that philosophy if they started opening stores. That all being said I would enjoy visiting a Google store if they ever opened one or two.

    • Joe_HTH

      Spoken like the clueless idiot you are. There's nothing copycat about Microsoft stores, and I've never been in one that was a wasteland. You want a wasteland, look at Google+.

  • David Loring

    I think that this would be extremely instrumental in selling Glass effectively. When you're bringing something this unprecedented to market, it's extremely important to have a way for people to try it on and test it out so they can understand it. I don't trust your average Best Buy or other physical retailer to provide a good experience for this. I think Google should at least have a retail partner and specially train staff to work "Google corners" in these stores selling their branded hardware along with Glass. I think that would be a good balance between no locations and trying to run their own stores.

    • http://royblumenthal.com/portfolio royblumenthal

      I suspect a Google store would pretty much exist BECAUSE of Project Glass. It would probably run as a marketing exercise to get the populace used to Glass.

      Might find that they'll have very high bandwidth free wifi in the stores, and that they'll start blanketing target cities with a wifi grid.

  • Sergii Pylypenko

    Google should hire drug-dealers, who lost their jobs because of pot legalization, to distribute their Nexus and Chromebook devices.

  • http://www.geekmi.com Rob Neil Hendrix

    I think it can have a store in it but really they should build Google CENTERS. Basically store located centers in malls or large shopping areas for people to learn about Google Services and to get more of their stuff out there for others to join. As a business major I was talking to say, "Would be great marketing to get more people into using the Google ecosystem including Android and to raise the numbers in their ever so loyal cult"

  • nawa

    Since most part of the world won't get these stores (I mean, it would be US-only for a looong time), I'd rather choose 'no'. They better put these money into development and all that stuff.

  • Stephen McGann

    I could see Google teaming up with Samsung the other Android handset makers as a show of good will. That would be a cool store

  • Mike

    i just wanna see what this Google/Motorola "X Phone" is gonna be like. I just hope Google finds a way to bring it to Sprint if its as great as im hoping it'll be

  • Codexx

    I think it's a terrible idea.

    Google should revolutionize web storefronts, not go backwards to making people visit a store.

    When doing IT, I hate people with Apple products, because Apple support just asks you to visit an Apple store.

  • http://royblumenthal.com/portfolio royblumenthal

    Absurd! How would one search for a physical Google store? By walking down the street? Shouting at the top of your voice... 'GOOGLE NOW... WHERE'S THE GOOGLE STORE?!?' With friendly commuters nudging you in the right direction... 'Warm... Warmer... Nope, cold. Turn around... Warm! Hot! Hot! YES!!!'

  • itsgonnalast

    On paper this sounds like a good idea...that is until the first clueless customer brings in a Kindle Fire and asks for help connecting to Wi-Fi.

    • http://royblumenthal.com/portfolio royblumenthal

      Not to mention iPhone users coming in for Maps upgrades.

  • HellG

    I have to say, as the availability of this shops for a long time will only be in america, items with demand on them like the N4 will be sold more swiftly in america affecting the shares of everyone else, if google can have the stores in all major cities in the world at the same time maybe, other than that its a big fat NO from me

  • http://kennected.blogspot.com/ KENNECTED

    I would like to see a physical store. I think they could do this with the motorola brand. They had a physical store inside the samsung store here in NYC.

    It gave people an opportunity to speak with google employees to not only learn about the hardware products, but how to properly use the software.

    One of Google/Androids biggest problems is that regular/non teck consumers THINK the android system is too difficult to use or learn vs. the ios "it just works" method. So having a store and google employees explaining things may.

    In addition Google could partner with tech sites and developers for ongoing demonstrations themes and customization.

    There are so many possibilities.

  • whargharbl

    As a European... I don't really give a damn. It'd be a US only thing anyways. They could build theme parks for all I care.

    • nwd1911

      Google theme parks...what a great idea! New Poll, should Google build theme parks?
      This isn't meant to be sarcastic, I would be nerdy excited if Google had a theme park.

  • Ryuuie

    How about we fix the Google Play Store before we start adding Google Brick and Mortar Store?

    There were people buying the Nexus 4 in the middle of December and receiving it in no less than two days but people who ordered in November were still waiting for their phones.

    There's also the problem with items being REMOVED from your cart on the site.

    Also, calling in to ask about your order usually got you someone who had no idea what you were talking about.

    So, we need them to fix their internet store before they even think about a physical one. They're simply not ready.

  • Alain Lafond

    For me a Google kiosk is inrelevant, as I'm canadian and Google is soooooooooo U.S. centric...

  • robert

    They should open stores and call the stores google play, then inside should be a accessories section, CUSTOMER SERVICE section, and device showcase with nexus devices being headliners followed by other brands and their flagship devices, followed by an on/off contract bargain phone section, prices should reflect typical prices sold everywhere else but nexus devices must stay true to the online play store prices and add some android controlled robots as the center of store main attraction and say good bye to apple and Microsoft stores

  • ScooterG

    Great idea considering they may have a self driving car soon. Phones, tablets, laptop/tablet hybrids, Google TV, car showroom and Google Glass interactive areas all in one spot would make a great playground, especially in high profile areas like LA, NYC, Chi and San Francisco.

  • Nevatur

    Might just be me, but shouldn't they focus on expanding their on-line store for selling Google endorsed devices to more countries than just handful?
    Considering the price differences in countries for such devices even after taxes and such has been taken into the equation are ridiculous I'd say that's a higher priority than brick&mortar stores.
    And even then, dedicated stores might be overkill, maybe just a dedicated Google helpdesk in every larger electronics store selling Android devices or Chrome OS devices (and soon Google, glasses)

  • Michael Lee

    YES, they should. I honestly think it's what makes or breaks their future.

    Think about it; a store for everything Android! Google could partner with OEMs to sell their products in the store, and when a consumer goes to make a purchase, give them carrier options, etc. Similar to what the Apple stores do, but it could be so much more than that!

  • Austin Ferguson

    I think if they want to drive home there Motorola, nexus, and glasses line there own personal store front and support will be the fore front for consumers to truly experience what google's vision is about and getting the needed support to back there products.

  • Bruce Gavin Ward

    my 'no' vote was for practicallity; i don't want to see the cost of a store added on to my next purchase; hgowever i would go there just to handle a 'Pixle'.

  • J Carlos

    Google could use the space not only to expose the public to Google products, but they could create exciting events, where you can get free stuff (apps, products, services, etc.) You can be educated on how to do things. Most of the people at Apple stores are repairing their iproducts.

  • master94

    Google should open at least one store in every city. They can sell the Nexus line, Google branded clothing, Google Fiber and wireless, chrome books and Google TV, they have plenty to sell. Dont know why the dont.

    • aiden9

      Opening up shop where they have Google Fiber rolled out would be reasonable. Make Google Fiber the main purpose for the building and have the gadgets a secondary thing. Then you could at least not care when the retail side of things flop. The problem is that it is a battle for Google to roll their fiber network out. Other ISP's are constantly trying to block out new comers so the roll out would be extremely slow and the buildings relatively few.

  • Aaron Quevedo

    It would be awesome and I can picture it in the Charlotte area with Southpark Mall, Carolina Place Mall, Northlake Mall, and Concord Mills

  • Ray

    I'd love to walk into a Google Store and purchase a Nexus or any number of Google products. Knowing that if something ever went wrong with said device I could simply return it to the local store and have it fixed/replaced on the spot would be fantastic. If I had to pay slightly more for a device to have that luxury, and access to lots of other Google stuff, I'm all for it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Captain.Eric.Gagnon.the.III Eric Gagnon

    There is a reason why "Best Buy"s and "Future shop"s are closing numerous locations, department stores are out and online is in, especially for such an online guru like google, would be total nonsense for them to waste money on stores, they've already gone this far without them

  • http://twitter.com/bat0nas Tomas Misevičius

    What Google would sell in their retails stores? One tablet and one mobile phone which would be out of stock most of the time anyway? :) LOL

  • primalxconvoy

    Until Google understands and instigates the same level of personal customer service (via email, etc) that Apple already does, I don't think that Google should engage in retail shops.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Lawrence-Ellul/825284796 Lawrence Ellul

    Google should open up the playstore to more countries... the fact that hardware, books etc are only available to certain countries is limiting Google's expansion... why should i get a nexus device from a local reseller with a mark up between 100 and 200 euros more than what google is selling...

  • http://visionaforethought.wordpress.com/ Oflife

    Only if the staff are educated and able to answer fairly technical questions. Whilst on the whole the support from people in Apple Stores is superb (and the staff amiable), here in the UK, I have yet to find one person who can tell me what the output resolution is of AirPlay when you beam content from an iDevice (such as an iPad mini) to an Apple TV. Important because one needs to know if movies will be seen in their highest resolution and also if sharing an app, such as a technical drawing on a monitor, that the drawing will be detailed. These sorts of things are important for power users, and so Google staff will need to be smart because many who use Google products are geeks and have higher expectations of TECHNICAL versatility than Apple users who are more interested in aesthetic and usability.

    • John O’Connor

      They could do a mandatory staff rotation (4 week stint?) as part of a corporate goodwill/teambuilding initiative. They already have mandatory downtime wherein their employees are required (?) to work on whatever they fancy. Clearly this could be rolled into existing company policies.

      Think of it as a quasi-military duty where all staff have "to do a few tours in the trenches." It would also be good for staff to get firsthand feedback from real customers as well.

  • saltyzip

    One in London, one in New York, one in Shanghai, one in Tokyo.. be good for Google to get a presence on the high street.

  • SoWhy

    Yes, in select locations. Apple shows how it can be done, few stores that nonetheless attract a huge number of people.

  • mldi

    I don't know about full stores, but pop-ups inside existing retails stores should be done.

  • http://twitter.com/zachvossdesign zach voss

    Have the stores set up like this: http://androidheadlines.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/android-booth-mwc-2012.jpg everyone would love it, Google.

  • Mario

    No. Save the overhead and offer free 2-day shipping on the play store.

  • John O’Connor

    They could brand it "Play Now"

    • Michael Lee

      And they could have slides for kids!

  • PezLee

    Given that all manufacturers and most carriers mod Android and the selection of Google branded hardware being so small, I think this would not be worth it for Google.

    If they could real in mods so they could actually have their product reach the market unadulterated, increase the number of google branded products (via Motorola), and hire people that really understand Android (unlike the carriers tech support staff) then perhaps.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Nata-Greer/100000669676144 Nata Greer

    A Google store would just be a step in the direction of what we all have come to hate about Apple; that irrational fanboyism that focuses entirely on brand loyalty and overlooks any sort of objective analysis or comparison of what is purchased. Apple preys on the ill-informed, co-dependent, and simple minded people who need purchase validation from their peers to drive (a very successful) business. (There's no shortage of these type of people in the world). The last thing I want to see Google do is chase a similar business model that dumbs down its consumer base to blindly run full speed for the next product (whether good or bad) that comes out with fancy logo on it. Would it make Google more successful? Maybe, but Google is putting a sever strain on Apple as it is without sacrificing its business integrity by simply making a more affordable (and better IMO) phone with a much larger scope of innovative features. The only thing keeping Apple in the game at this point is its brand recognition due to its entry into the market many years before anyone else.

    • Jon Garrett

      maybe a Google store will be a place that's NOT focused on sales but service only. a place where users can go to learn about their various devices, learn about Android and other Google products and services.

    • chris2kari

      Anybody that purchases Apple products or services are mentally deficient? Is that what all that long fanbois rant amounts to? What a load of drivel.