Well, it finally happened – after many years of speculation on when AT&T’s exclusivity on the iPhone would end, Verizon announced yesterday that they would be carrying the iPhone 4 starting next month. There are some slight feature differences between the iPhone 4 on the two networks:
- Verizon’s iPhone will offer wifi hotspot functionality, to go with it’s solid wireless network and lower dropped call rate
- AT&T’s iPhone will still allow users to talk and surf simultaneously on a faster (i.e. data transfer) network.
But the big story here is not on feature differences. It is about how the iPhone reach will expand now that it is on the two biggest wireless networks in the U.S. And how Android will be impacted. To date, Android has been Verizon’s answer to the iPhone and they’ve sold a ton of Android devices on their network. But now that Verizon will carry the device they have competed against for the past few years, what will happen to Android’s market share here in the U.S.? I think we’ll see it dip a bit, but the fact that it is still carried on all four U.S. wireless networks (Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile) will keep it big.
I think Verizon’s plan to carry the iPhone will accelerate Android filling in the low-cost smartphone market. The iPhone is a premium product that the carriers pay large subsidies on, eating a lot of up front costs when a customer subscribes to an iPhone and voice/data plan. But Android devices, based on the free OS, cost much less for a carrier to offer and allows them to bring the price down into the sub-$100 range. Whereas as recent as last year the majority of phones sold in the U.S. were inexpensive “feature phones” that lacked many smartphone features such as large touchscreens and app downloading, moving forward we will see the smartphone filling that role, with Android (and perhaps other players such as Windows Phone and Blackberry) capturing much of the sub-$100 market and Apple filling the $100-$300 range. Apple will have competition for sure – Android, Windows Phone, HP (with WebOS) and others will fight for this territory too – but this will be the market that Apple will continue to dominate for the foreseeable future.
As with many consumer electronics products, there are magical psychological divides when someone purchases a phone: $0-$99 is a set range that many people will only spend in, whereas $100+ connotes more of a premium mobile experience. Soon that premium mobile experience will be the norm – a good smartphone can and will be had by all.
The folks over at engadget have posted some spy shots of the HTC Dream running Android. As you might know, the Dream is the device that has been talked about as being the first Android device. The one that is supposed to be out soon, like next month or so. I would say that the device looks more functional than sexy, at least when compared to some of the cool looking devices HTC has developed (like the Diamond and the Touch Pro.) As engadget speculates, we might be seeing the Dream sooner than expected. And with the T-Mo 3G launch currently rolling out across the US, it kinda makes sense…
Meant to point to this before – Wired did a great article a little while ago on Google, Android, the killer apps that have been built so far, etc. A nice piece giving insight into how Android took off, Andy Rubin’s role (co-creator of Danger), etc. Although there are some more recent piece on Android developments in the past few weeks, this article is a good background read. Worth checking out…
You’ve probably heard tidbits here and there that Google is going to release their own phone – informally dubbed the “gphone” or “google phone”. What’s really going on is that Google built an open source operating system called Android. Through an alliance with hardware and carriers, there is an initial device being built by HTC and will run on T-Mobile’s network. HTC is the the Taiwanese company with U.S. headquarters in Bellevue that make some very nice hardware (but often have the not-so-user-friendly Windows Mobile installed on them, like the Dash, Shadow, and Wing.)
Now there are some interesting pieces to the story that have been developing over the last few months. Some is unconfirmed (e.g. analyst speculation, fanboy lust). I highlight some here:
- the new phone is tentatively called the “Dream“. It will be a little smaller than the iPhone, but slightly thicker. FCC filings show that it will have a touch screen with haptic (vibration) feedback AND a slide out qwerty keyboard (sweet.) Also has all the popular radios: wifi, GPS, fast data (i.e. HSDPA). For lots of deets, check out Engadget’s Android post roundup.
- tentative release date Oct-Nov.
- they have their own app store called Android Market - similar to the Apple iPhone app store, but some say better and more extensive. There are already some amazing apps announced (thanks Robert B for the link.) Google sponsored a competition for devs to create killer apps before launch – to the tune of several million dollars. The community responded.
- there is talk that the gphone will be very web and search centric, and will integrate with Google’s suite of online apps. There is also talk that it will support Exchange, but probably not in the initial release.
- and there is also talk that the gphone will be cheap and, perhaps, supported by advertising somehow. Cheap is nice, but with cheap always comes some other tradeoff like being stuck with your carrier for many years. Not clear on the pricing of the device or data service as of yet.
So what does this all mean? For one, I think we will have some true competition for the iPhone – not just in the device, but also in the ecosystem surrounding the device. This is really what helps makes a mobile device take of – great integration with, and extension of, your world. One missing piece (that I’m sure is being thought about as you read this) is media content – will there be an accompanying “gtunes” music store? My bet is yes (even though at this point T-Mobile is the only major carrier in the U.S. without some sort of online music/media store.) Perhaps the gphone will let you simply use whatever service you want, like AmazonMP3. If you’ve heard anything about this, please shout out…
Second, when they get Exchange up and running, it might provide true competition in the corporate space (probably not right away while they figure out all the security/SOX compliance stuff and work on their 1-2 sucker punch on blackberry/windows mobile.) It also might have mass appeal, great usability and low price point that would make it appealing to the masses. As such, it might be a viable option for your own company. Don’t get me wrong, the iPhone is cool and I love that there are more and more of them popping up here at work. However, the gphone may turn out to be another great option (that doesn’t feel like you had to compromise.) Even though the iPhone provides a really great user experience, it is also fairly locked down – the gphone may represent a true open-source mobile device with great developer community support.
I’m excited to see how the synergy continues to develop between Android, device manufacturers, and the growing community of developers…