Google Android Dream Phone Faces Low Expectations from Readers

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2008-09-22

Google Android Dream Phone Faces Low Expectations from Readers

On Sept. 17 I published a piece in which I wondered whether or not the T-Mobile Dream, the first phone based on Google's Android operating system, would sell as many copies as the first iPhone did in the same amount of time.

The Dream, which is being unveiled Sept. 23 at an event in New York, is expected to hit stores Oct. 20. HTC reportedly expects there to have been 600,000 to 700,000 Dream units shipped by 2009, some 70-plus days after the launch.

Apple's overnight-sensation iPhone shipped 1 million units in 74 days. I argued that the Dream could do the same, thanks to sheer hype and word of mouth.

eWEEK readers have made it abundantly clear that I'm out of line, citing factors such as Google's lack of experience in the mobile space and lack of marketing chops, as well as a lack of additional carriers and even T-mobile's "coverage issues." Ouch.

In fact, most readers said, the Dream will be a nonentity for nongeeks. This is perhaps the biggest condemnation, because it means that the consumers Google and T-Mobile are targeting with the Dream won't bat a lash at it, unlike the Apple lovers who go ga-ga for anything iPhone.

See pictures of the Dream here.

Reader Richard wrote Sept. 19: "Honestly, I don't know anyone outside of a few gadget lovers and IT pros who have any idea what Android even is. My 82-year-old mom knows what an iPhone is. It will need a whole lot more hype and real info about how it works before it will sell well. Just not there yet."

Roque Mocan chimed in, noting:

What is "Android" for a non-geek? A non-entity ... It would have to be super-revolutionary and super-easy to use to get above the me-too crowd. Or it would have to carpet bomb with ads in TV, etc. I, for one, don't see any Zune, any Windows Mobile, any Vista ads (at least until now) and see where Microsoft is in its mindshare of the consumer.

The best analysis came from Moschops, who almost makes me want to reverse my position. He said not to be too optimistic, noting that Apple has already saturated the market for new smart phones and that the millions who migrated to AT&T for the iPhone are locked into two-year plans. This is hard to refute.

Moschops also said T-Mobile has a much smaller built-in market to sell to without requiring a carrier switch and that T-Mobile has coverage issues as a carrier so it's going to be a harder sell to get people to switch carriers. I wouldn't know about this, though reader Nick Woodson supports this claim:

I was a T-Mobile user for years. I even waited for the Android phone, but my service contract was up and it was time to get a phone. The delays on this unit took about four months too long so I wound up with a Treo755P ... and Verizon as a carrier. My problem with T-Mobile was weak coverage. My Razr had call drop issues on GSM so I wasn't willing to chance it in my area. I wish them luck. ... T-Mobile's customer service is great ... but I hope they fix the coverage issues.

With this ammunition, Moschops said the Dream will be bought by geeks, Google lovers, users who loathe Apple (if there are any), people who just have to have a keyboard and anyone who has held out against the iPhone for a year now.

Google, T-Mobile Share a Big Dream

Let's check the criteria against my track record. I'm no geek, but I do love Google. I have no opinion one way or another on Apple. I do love keyboards and, yes, I have held out against the iPhone. Having played around with it, I have to believe that there is something better than this famous smart phone.

We just haven't seen it yet. Could it be the Dream, or one of its descendants?

Here's the kicker. In spite of all his arguments against Dream selling to or beyond expectations (remember, those expectations are 500,000 to 750,000 for most, 1 million for me), Moschops said he will actually buy a Dream! He wrote:

I'm going to buy one so that's at least one unit they will sell. Plus probably every Google employee and their family will get one too, so that's maybe another 10,000. I think we can guarantee they'll sell maybe 200,000 for sure.

Wow. If naysayers are going to buy the Dream, Google and T-Mobile will be in good shape.

There are other arguments against why the Dream would do well early on. Reader Mark noted that the first-generation Android phones will be released without Bluetooth and Microsoft Exchange/ActiveSync, which could kill adoption by corporate road warriors.

Then again, the iPhone wasn't seen as an enterprise mobile gadget out of the gate, but over time, several enterprise software vendors have released applications to support the device, making it more business-friendly.

Finally, Mark added:

I'm surprised you would support your rationale for the number of Android phones that will sell in 2009 by referring to the number of iPhones that have sold. You're comparing a company with decades of experience creating hardware and software products with a company that has little experience at either. I will be surprised if Android sales reach 50 percent of what you are predicting.

Fair enough. It is hard to believe that Dream will do as well for Google and T-Mobile as iPhone did for Apple on that basis. The truth is, we just don't know how buyers will react. I reiterate that the hype will help Dream exceed sales expectations.

Finally, I lean on Gartner's Ken Dulaney, who told me HTC's 600,000 to 700,000 unit shipment expectation is probably an accurate estimate because HTC knows what the various operators have ordered or sold in to the channel. He told me:

People who get it at T-Mobile will be choosing this over an iPhone at AT&T, the LG or Samsung at Verizon at Sprint and potentially the rumored BlackBerry touch-screen at one of these other carriers (probably won't be T-Mobile). My bet is that it won't be as good as the iPhone and that you will see some slowdown. But with the big shift to smart phones there is plenty of room for all these devices to succeed.

How far the hype cycle carries Dream could largely depend on how well T-Mobile, Google, et al. present the smart phone tomorrow in New York.

Wall Street is starving for a reprieve from bad market downslides. A positive unveiling event could help fuel sales, pushing the Dream past the 1 million unit mark by 2009.

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