Apple's iPhone 4 is coming to more than just AT&T's and Apple's store shelves. According to the latest reports from Apple, the iPhone 4 will be available at Walmart, Best Buy and Radio Shack, as well as other familiar retail outlets, when the device launches on June 24.
To consumers, that's welcome news. When the iPhone first launched, it was only available at AT&T and Apple Store locations. But over the past four generations, the device has come to more and more places. And in the process, it has helped Apple sell more of its smartphones.
But news of more retail availability isn't such good news for Google, Apple's biggest competitor in the mobile market. The search company has been trying desperately over the past couple years to catch up to Apple.
And although Android OS phones outsold the iPhone in the first quarter of 2010, according to NPD, there's really no guarantee that Google's success will continue. The iPhone 4 is a major upgrade over its predecessor, and so having the iPhone available from so many retail outlets could spell serious trouble for Google's Android smartphone strategy. Here are the reasons why the iPhone's retail availability is bad news for the search giant.
1. Quantity means something
When it comes to selling phones, the sheer number of available devices is extremely important to the success or failure of a product. Based on Apple's decision to bring the iPhone to so many retail outlets outside of AT&T and its kiosks, it would seem that Apple will have ample supply of its iPhone 4 when it hits store shelves later this month. That should worry some in Google's camp. The company's hottest Android-based device, the HTC Droid Incredible, is currently on backorder at Verizon until the beginning of July. If Apple has enough supply to match its huge demand and the Droid Incredible isn't available on store shelves, Google and HTC should worry.
2. Retailers reflect customer desire
Unfortunately for Google, it has been unable to deliver the kind of customer attention retailers are looking for. When it comes to the iPhone, retailers don't need to worry so much. The iPhone is the phone on today's market. And consumers want it. Responding to that, retailers want to have Apple's devices on their store shelves. It not only increases store traffic, it bolsters revenue figures. Android-based phones just don't attract that kind of attention.
3. Apple partnerships are always dangerous for Google
Since retailers are seeing so much value in offering the iPhone in their stores, it calls into question just how likely they will be to bring more Android-based devices to their store shelves. As big as Best Buy and Radio Shack are, they're not in the business of selling every single mobile phone on the market. And since Apple's device is so appealing, it wouldn't surprise most customers if Apple would make it very difficult for those retailers to offer, say, the Nexus One in a separate spot than in the kiosks in-store. Remember, the iPhone will sit alone in Best Buy, in its own area. The same can't be said for all the other smartphones the company sells.
4. Its partners don't have the same appeal
A key problem for Google is that the companies that offer Android-based devices simply don't have the kind of market appeal that Apple does. Although HTC is doing a fine job selling its many devices in the smartphone market, it's not Apple. And it never will be. Although Android-based devices can be purchased in stores, there's really no reason why retailers would ink deals with Android partners and give them the kind of treatment they afford Apple. Steve Jobs and his company are in another league. Remember that, HTC.