By Darrell Etherington
Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) devices benefit from a huge, rich accessory ecosystem that means whether owners of its products are at a Best Buy (NYSE:BBY), an airport or even a corner store, they’ve got plenty of options for cases, speakers, headsets, skins, charging cables and more. A similar ecosystem is beginning to build up around the top devices from Android OEMs, but it still has nowhere near the reach and depth of Apple’s, and the market for Windows Phone 8 accessories is just getting started. And neither Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) nor Nokia (NYSE:NOK) are helping things much.
Consider: Both Google’s Nexus 4 (manufactured by LG) and Nokia’s Lumia 920 ship with built-in induction charging. That’s awesome. It’s great to see this tech come to smartphones without requiring bulky external cases. But Google’s induction charging device, the Wireless Charging Orb, still doesn’t have a street date or price. And Nokia’s charging dock is ostensibly available in some markets like the U.S., but try tracking one down – AT&T’s (NYSE:T) site currently puts shipping times at one week for the Nokia Wireless Charging plate, though that may be because it's given away a bunch for free.
Nokia is an interesting case because it’s also partnering with JBL to deliver a sound dock (which showed up on AT&T’s website today, with no ship date information) that not only incorporates wireless charging, but also uses a combination of NFC and Bluetooth to deliver wireless audio streaming. I’ve seen/heard this thing in action, and it’s awesome, but getting your hands on one isn’t yet possible in markets where the Lumia 920 has launched. If I’m a new device owner, one of the first things I’m doing to do is look around for accessories, and the Qi tech built-in to both Google’s and Nokia’s latest devices are arguably their flashiest hardware trick, and the one likely to make the most impression on users new to the platforms.
Google already hasn’t delivered the Nexus Q media streamer, despite a lot of hype around its announcement and a few devices going out before they were fully baked. Now, to launch a phone with a “coming soon” accessory that’s needed to show off one of its core selling features seems equally frustrating.
I’m not saying these things because I’ve got a bone to pick with Nokia or Google; quite the opposite, in fact, since I think both the Lumia 920 and the Nexus 4 are exciting, innovative products from companies doing more than their fair share to keep the mobile market interesting. What I am saying is that these manufacturers need to be more aggressive about building and shipping unique and interesting accessories to help jump-start the hardware ecosystem around their own products, not sometime later amid delays when the luster of what they’ve launched has already faded.