Saturday, January 15, 2011

Verizon iPhone: too late to kill Android, but it will hurt it

The fanboys have erupted on both sides of an argument that may not be settled for a year, or more, if then. The Verizon iPhone: will it kill Android, or at least, seriously hurt it, or not?

Some are saying this is the first time we will see a real battle between Android and the iPhone. In reality, if it is a battle for subscribers, it should be remembered: Verizon is one carrier, in one country. Since, depending on what market research firm you listen to, Android has already surpassed iPhone globally, it's unclear that Android will lose, at least globally.

In fact, in September of 2010, Gartner forecast that Android would challenge Symbian, for the top spot globally, by the end of 2014. This, of course, is on the global scale. What about the U.S.?

Android

Looking at it from a fanboy perspective, Dan Lyons, Newsweek writer and Android fanboy (he switched to Android in May of 2010). His view is that the Verizon iPhone is too late.

As he notes, a year ago Apple could have crushed Android, which was still pretty new, with a Verizon iPhone. The only big player at that time was, really, the Motorola Droid. Since then, a number of extremely good devices have launched (e.g Droid X, Droid 2, Samsung Galaxy S, Droid Incredible), and with newer Android versions, the software's capability has expanded.

In addition, those who use Google services (Gmail, Maps, Calendar, Voice, more) will never see the same level of support on iPhone as they do on Android. It's obvious why: it's Google in both the cloud and your device. If you don't care about Google integration, that's not as important. If you do, it is.

Lyons also brought up the one iPhone vs. multiple form factors argument. It's true that with iPhone you will have at most two designs a year. You will also, most likely, never have a hardware keyboard. In America, that may not be as much a negative, as many see the iPhone as a status symbol. Clearly, not all think that way, and want something that fits there, and many countries are far more individualistic in terms of devices than the U.S. is.

Lyons also calls Apple a "control freak." His reference here is to the closed model that Apple has: only App Store purchases allowed on the device, again the one form factor, and an approval process for the App Store once called draconian.

Michael Arrington, editor of TechCrunch is another such strong Android supporter, as Lyons notes.

iPhone

John Gruber at Daring Fireball is a well-known iPhone support. He rebuts each of Lyons' assertions. For example, although Lyons compares the iPhone to the Model T because of its limited form factors, Gruber notes that the Model T was a massive hit.

Lyons says he switched to Android to get to Verizon and its superior network. He said that since then he has grown to love Android, and it's too late for him. As Gruber points out, that doesn't mean its too late for others.

While Lyons called Apple a "control freak," Gruber called that attention to detail design, rather than over-control.

Our Take
  • Android is great and has a number of different form factors.
  • iPhone is great, but comes in one new form factor a year and is very closed.
  • AT&T's new Motorola Atrix 4G Android device is powerful, and is bound to attract buyers.
  • Verizon is estimated to sell somewhere between 9 and 13 million iPhones this year.
Can't we all just get along? They're both great platforms, and they both have hundreds of thousands of apps. Lyons is definitely right in one thing: the Verizon iPhone won't kill Android. It's too late for that.

One country, one carrier, that's what the Verizon iPhone means. It will definitely impact Android. But this is not a fight that will end quickly.

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