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.
Google Faces New Battle for Retail Shelf Space
5. It’s more than a phone
When Apple inked its deal with other retail outlets, the company also formed relationships that could have a significant impact on the availability of the iPad, iPod and any other products that the company plans to offer in the future. At the same time, Google is planning to break into other markets too. By being second to the game, it might not get the kind of attention or special treatment that Apple has.
6. Google is behind due to other efforts
Apple’s decision to bring the iPhone to many more retail outlets is a smart one. Google’s decision to offer the Nexus One exclusively online was a bad idea. And that’s precisely why the company said that it would bring the device to carrier stores going forward. But as it toiled away online, Google missed the opportunity it needed to bring the device to many more retail locations. Meanwhile, Apple capitalized on Google’s absence from retail outlets. Now, Google is far behind. It needs to find a way to start giving consumers more options that actually make sense to them. If it can, it won’t need to worry so much about iPhone ubiquity. If it fails, trouble will ensue.
7. Apple is changing the game
The last thing any company wants to see is their top competitor make the move that changes everything. And once again, Google has allowed it to happen. By offering the iPhone in so many different locations, Apple has ensured that going forward, the key success factor in smartphone retail is availability. Google tried to revolutionize that space with its Nexus One store, but it failed miserably. And now, it needs to play by Apple’s rules. That’s never a good thing.
8. Phone choice only goes so far
One of the key reasons why Google’s Android platform has been so successful is its availability on so many different devices. Whereas the iPhone is the only smartphone running Apple’s iOS, Android OS runs on several different smartphones. That’s a good thing. But those choices only go so far when they’re locked into carrier retail locations. With the iPhone available in so many more places, Apple is working toward evening the playing field. Yes, iOS might only be available on one device, but it’s on sale in several locations. That should help the company’s ability to attract customers that would have otherwise missed it.
9. Other retailers are watching
Make no mistake that other major retailers are waiting to see how well the iPhone sells in the competition’s stores over the coming months. If they like what they see, they might go to Apple and see how they can get in on the action. If Apple is smart (and it is), the company will gladly add them to the growing list of retail partners. Meanwhile, Google will be left wondering what it needs to do to get its Android-based devices into more retail outlets. Admittedly, it won’t be easy. The best the company can hope for is that Apple says no to different retailers and they opt for the next-best alternative.
10. It changes consumer perception
Whether Google likes it or not, having the iPhone available in so many different retail locations changes consumer perception of the many devices on store shelves. To most, seeing the iPhone sitting on a shelf in Radio Shack or Best Buy puts it on another level beyond any other device competing for space in a mobile carrier’s store or kiosk. It takes on special meaning and importance that other devices don’t share. That’s an extremely important consideration in all this. Consumer opinion is all that really matters. And by seeing the iPhone in so many different places, some folks might think that Apple’s smartphone is so worthwhile, it transcends traditional smartphone retail strategies. It’s something for Google to keep in mind.