News Analysis: If there is a smartphone capable of trumping the overall experience of the Apple iPhone, from hardware to native software to the 100,000 applications created for it, the world hasn’t seen it yet.
That’s the conclusion we can safely draw after early reviews of the Google Android operating system-based Motorola Droid, which Verizon Wireless will begin shipping Nov. 6 for $199 with a two-year contract after a $100 rebate.
Often, advertising and prelaunch buzz can be a good thing, and Verizon certainly did a fantastic job leading up to the Droid’s unveiling Oct. 28. The iDon’t ad is a classic; it’s confident and makes the Droid sexy in a way only science fiction geeks will appreciate. When it starts up, a red light recalls a Cylon from Battlestar Galactica. Or something like that.
““I’m not sure how you guys will feel about the Droid in a few days, but I can safely say that like so many so-called iPhone killers in the past, this isn’t one. That’s not a judgment as to the robustness or usability of the device-I need more time for that-it’s just that Verizon seriously overhyped it.”“
Gartner analyst Ken Dulaney put a bulls-eye on his back when he proclaimed Android phones would scoot past the iPhone in 2012, grabbing 14 percent market share.
Though he had yet to test the device when contacted by eWEEK Oct. 29, the early reviews he had seen and heard clearly underwhelmed him; he said the Droid will not make the iPhone cough up its mantle as King Smartphone. Dulaney said:
““I don’t think it’s an iPhone killer because it’s only on Verizon, and that means it’s competing in the U.S. iPhone users are not going to leave AT&T for this phone. I think it keeps people potentially at Verizon, but it’s a different design than the iPhone.”“
Golvin on Why iPhone Trumps All Comers
Forrester Research Charles Golvin did get a Droid to test this week and has been playing with it. When eWEEK asked him in a phone interview to compare Droid to the iPhone, Golvin paused a few seconds, mulled his words and then gushed:
““Characterizing anything today as an iPhone killer these days … you might as well stick a fork in it and say it’s done because it’s not going to happen. The Droid is a good device. It’s got some nice features in it. For folks who feel like they need a keyboard it’s a good alternative to an iPhone. For people who want the perceived quality of the Verizon network, it gives them a nice device to use. But the iPhone is more than just a pretty face. It’s a combination of beautiful hardware design, some really outstanding software-so far better than anything anyone else has done. And the whole app marketplace, plus the integration with iTunes, which I think is undersold. Here is a device that makes it really simple that, when you walk out of the house, you’ve got all the media you want. That’s something that isn’t there for any Android device.”“
Putting all the different features-Droid has a 5-megapixel camera and a 3.7-inch screen-and services-Droid has the Google Maps Navigation GPS feature-aside, Golvin said there’s no beating the iPhone in the thing that matters most: It just works.
“I haven’t ever had the experience on my iPhone of it doing something other than what I intended,” Golvin said, noting that he couldn’t say the same for Android or Windows Mobile devices he’s used. For example, he said that when users scroll too long on other touch-screen smartphones, they will accidentally launch apps they don’t want to launch.
However, Golvin said Droid’s provenance is impressive, coming out of the struggling Motorola and Verizon, which has not traditionally embraced the open approach to open-source mobile operating systems or applications that typifies Android.
Kudos for Droid aside, the fact that a leading industry analyst couldn’t find any concrete way to favor Droid, or any other device, over his iPhone is a sign that Apple has not only scored a major hit, but potentially a lockdown on the smartphone market, barring any missteps.
Increasingly, there is the iPhone-and every other smartphone, whether it’s an Android device or a BlackBerry, a Nokia Symbian device or even Windows Mobile.
Is it too early to stick a fork in smartphones that aren’t the iPhone? Maybe, maybe not. But until there is compelling evidence of a superior device, there will always be the iPhone, and everything else.
Interestingly, some are saying that Droid launching on Verizon Wireless will force Apple to distribute the iPhone on other networks, likely Verizon, the leading wireless network. If that happens, it could be game over for everyone else.
Apple wouldn’t want it any other way. But will consumers? Check back in January, after Droid and other smartphones experience the holiday device binge. We should know more then.
In the meantime, CNET has the most detailed review of Droid here, as well as cost comparisons from BillShrink here. It’s a must-read if you are considering buying the device, which you can preorder from Best Buy now without waiting for the mail-in rebate.