Nothing’s perfect – even the iPhone – and the Droid wants you to know it. In fact, in the last two months, you may have seen and heard taglines like “iDon’t have a real keyboard,” “iDon’t take 5-megapixel pictures,” or “iDon’t run widgets” that call into question the iPhone’s capabilities when compared to the Droid. The tactic was brilliant in that it got us talking. Who wouldn’t want to check out a smartphone that bills itself as the anti-iPhone? Even the most devout Apple fans were curious.
But one can’t help but wonder…Are the ads true? Is all the hype worth it? Can Android (and in turn, the Droid) really be the David to the iPhone Goliath and deliver that final blow? Simply put, yes, but regrettably, it’s not that simple.
Now, granted, I am sure that I will take some heat for what I just said – not to mention what I am about to say…. Android poses the first viable threat to the iPhone since its ubiquitous smartphone first appeared in 2007.
Think about it. From an economics perspective, it’s the Apple vs. the PC debate all over again. The PC was successful in large part due to the low costs of the components – a result of the licensing model employed by IBM and Microsoft. This model allowed many companies to compete to build the components and drive down the end price. Apple, on the other hand, did no licensing and invented everything themselves – and ultimately could not keep up with the innovation of the open model.
But the question remains: what will it take for the Droid to deliver that final blow to the iPhone?
First and foremost, Google needs to spend more money on the Android development tools, especially a slick interface-builder, to reduce the learning curve. As it stands, despite its relatively obscure language, the iPhone development environment is more polished and easier to pick up.
What’s more is that Verizon — the exclusive carrier of the Droid — needs to spend smarter money on its ad campaigns. The campaign’s snarky tone seems to be heavily targeting male video-game players (the apparent target of the Droid), but targeting this narrow segment won’t put a dent in iPhone’s adoption. The iPhone appeals across demographics, thanks to its neutral sleek style and careful attention to detail.
Lastly, Motorola has got to double down. Its hardware has only recently become competitive to the iPhone, which is pretty weak for the company that brought us the Razr.
All three factors add up to the real point: Android backers Google, Verizon and Motorola will need to invest heavily in research and development (R&D) and marketing in the year or two ahead (likely while taking a loss) to really win this war. Even if Google and Verizon continue their heavy investments, I place my bet on the likelihood that Android smartphone sales will soon approach the iPhone.
Now, yes, that does mean that at this current point in time, I am admitting that the Droid is not quite ready for the final showdown. After all, a couple additional factors have to come into play, otherwise the Android will lose momentum altogether.
For example, iPhone / AT&T exclusivity will not always be a factor. The iPhone could become available on the Verizon network in a non-handicapped form and a competitive price (soon). Depending on when it becomes available, at what price, and a few other factors, consumers may be inclined to just buy what works, and that will lean heavily in favour of an iPhone/Verizon combination … if the price is reasonable.
Similarly, Google could release a phone based on Android. Obviously, if Google were to do this, they would essentially gut all interest from their “partners” in using their operating system to build devices.
Clearly, that’s a lot of ifs and coulds. But the Android does have a lot of hurdles to jump through and obstacles to dodge in order to unseat the iPhone. However, as it stands, the business interests of the many are currently aligned against the one: Apple. One does have to wonder if Apple has learned from their prior experience of going it alone…
Tim McLaughlin is founder and president of Siteworx, a Web design and development firm based in Reston, Virginia.
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