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The Droid Phone Gets Marketing — But Is That Enough to Combat the iPhone?

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Verizon Wireless, just days after announcing a far-reaching deal with Google to collaborate on Android smartphones and services (GigaOM Pro, sub. req’d), over the weekend put up a web site touting what it’s positioning as an iPhone slayer: the Droid phone. It was buttressed by a TV ad, which puts the Droid’s launch date in November. Indeed, the trifecta of Google, Verizon and Motorola means this device will have heavy-duty, pointed marketing behind it. But will that be enough to give the iPhone a run for its money?

Specifications for the Droid phone were laid out on the web site. It will have:

  1. Android 2.0, a significant overhaul of the open-source operating system, with user interface improvements including the advanced use of widgets
  2. A 5-megapixel camera
  3. Speech recognition capabilities
  4. Advanced multitasking
  5. A full QWERTY keyboard
  6. Interchangeable batteries

It may also run the TI OMAP3430, according to The Washington Post, the core of both the iPhone and the Palm Pre. Most existing Android phones run the slower Qualcomm 528MHz ARM11.

It’s easy to see from the marketing spin being put on the Droid that it’s very directly aimed at competing with the iPhone. Both the site and the TV ad are peppered with a series of swipes at the Apple device, including “iDon’t have a keyboard,” “iDon’t have interchangeable batteries,” iDon’t run simultaneous apps,” and “iDon’t allow open development.”

Let’s not forget the enormity of the iPhone’s momentum, though.  Apple said this afternoon that it sold 7.4 million iPhones in its most recent fiscal quarter, 7 percent more than the same three-month period a year earlier and 43 percent more on a sequential basis. To win against the iPhone, the Droid phone needs:

  1. Outstanding hardware
  2. Great apps, and a hot app store
  3. A solid network
  4. Brilliant marketing

The Droid phone is already getting an exceptionally rare level of marketing for an open source-based device. As we’ve noted numerous times over on the open source-focused OStatic blog, many open source platforms, including Linux (which Android is based on) suffer from lack of marketing. That’s often the case because open-source platforms become forked and fragmented, and no well-funded single entity puts marketing dollars behind them. As Joe Brockmeier, community manager for Novell’s OpenSUSE Linux and noted open source pundit, noted in a post last year:

“If you took the marketing budgets of all the Linux vendors combined, and then doubled that figure, and then added a zero, you might start approaching what Microsoft spends on marketing Windows. Maybe.”

So all the marketing may give Droid some oomph compared to other open-source launches. Whether it can convince smartphone buyers to forgo an iPhone, however, remains to be seen.

29 Responses to “The Droid Phone Gets Marketing — But Is That Enough to Combat the iPhone?”

  1. Phonefan

    I agree with some of you. The only reason AT&T can even survive and stand against companies like Verizon is due to its exclusive deal with Apple(aka At&t 3rd largest becomes second largest due to i phone). Everyone switches to get the I phone. However the new droid should be able to slow down the company’s loss. Lets face it I phone will always be number 1 but with phone like droid they will be forced to bring their game. Plus thanks to apple raising the bar we the consumer get all companies to try their best. So either way we win because everyone wants to be the provider to bring the next cool thing. So let the companies spend money building and designating and we could sit back and reek all the benefits.

  2. I’m not sure the Droid itself has to be significantly better than the iPhone to beat it when they are paired with Verizon. I know quite a few people who want an iPhone but won’t go with AT&T – Verizon’s coverage and reliability is a significant edge.

  3. Apple needs competition so that they will be pushed to improve an already outstanding product. Though I highly doubt Droid will be the iPhone killer as it is being promoted. Apple at least has a two year lead over the competition in terms of market share, number of apps in the appstore, etc.. And only if Apple stumbles badly with a product release, can another phone make a dent in the iPhone juggernaut.

  4. Mykewl Bitter

    So, the game has begun: Apple has lit the imagination of phone companies everywhere and they want a slice of the pie too. I like this competition. It forces innovation and the consumer wins. I have an Iphone and I’m very happy with it. I have owned numerous Win Mo devices and a BB Curve and the Iphone, whilst it has it’s faults, has been a better experience for me. Will the Android OS topple Apple, who knows, and more importantly, who cares. We as consumers will benefit from choice and improvement.

    May the best OS / Hardware/ network win!!!!! P.S. We in the U.S. should switch to a standard that that is much like Europe where one Data / phone technology exists and instead of tel co companies building redundant cell phone towers, each company would be given and area that would have to be built and maintained by one company and shared by all the others. This way service area would improve and the consumer would yet again benefit. Also, a SIM cvard unit should be standard and compatible with all phones so that your phone that you had purchased should work with what ever carrier you choose.

  5. I have been seeing the droid ads for the last couple of days and they are boring me. The iDon’t’s are all features, not a single benefit. Combine that with half the features are irrelevant to the average consumer.

    The iPhone is the perfect example of consumers don’t care about “open platforms” They want devices that work out of the box and are easy to use.

  6. The marketing is just a lame excuse. If you make a product that is exceptional, people will beat a path to your door. Put out another me-too product, then you are in need of some serious marketing to convince people that they should buy your product.

    For a phone to dethrone the iPhone, it will have to be an exceptional product. At this point, unless a phone is significantly better (not just as good or a little better) then it will have a very difficult time besting the iPhone.

    Why not go with a proven winner that tops satisfaction surveys, has tens of thousands more software choices for less money, that easily syncs with Macs and PCs, that officially is supported by the most popular media store/media player, is one of the lowest priced, best hardware/accessories ecosystem, best supported, etc.

    The Droid will sell lots of units – being well promoted on the nation’s largest carrier pretty much assures us of that.

    To come full circle, the marketing is just an excuse for not winning.

    • “The marketing is just a lame excuse. If you make a product that is exceptional, people will beat a path to your door.”

      I agree–once they find out that the product exists. How do you get them to know that your exceptional product exists? Uh…maybe if you marketed it…

      “At this point, unless a phone is significantly better (not just as good or a little better) then it will have a very difficult time besting the iPhone.”

      True. But if you look at the advertising, you’ll see that they’re concentrating on the areas where the iPhone is perceived as being poor: Lack of multitasking, poor camera, no physical keyboard, etc. When you point these things out to the iPhone-faithful, the responses are usually “Oh, you don’t need that!” So Verizon is trying to convince people that they do need that. Which is what marketing is supposed to do.

    • Justa Notherguy


      > The marketing is just a lame excuse. If you make a product that is exceptional,
      > people will beat a path to your door.

      Gee, that’s the kind of tripe I’d expect from someone who teaches a biz course but has never been successful in selling a product. Or, worse, maybe from an ‘independent consultant’ who cornered me at a party.

      If ‘exceptional’ were enough, then Firefox would have 50% market share, instead of 20-something…and the reverse scenario would apply, for IE.

      > unless a phone is significantly better (not just as good or a little better) then it
      > will have a very difficult time besting the iPhone.

      Perhaps, but – much as (I would argue) was the case for the original iPhone – many of the things that make it ‘better’ can only be marketed through personal experience and word-of-mouth. Way back, before they heard about ‘flicking’ and ‘pinching’, most folks were reasonably happy with their cheesy feature phones. What sold them on iPhone was watching somebody else play with one and, maybe, showing off a bit.

      Face it, most of the iPhone ‘experience’ is just GUI…an area in which Apple held a big, undeniable lead, even before releasing their phone. But, now, with Google supplying the manufacturers with a solid, customizable (and free) OS, how long will it be before one of them produces a winning skin? Don’t scoff; look at what HTC have done with WinMo 6.5, via no more than some CPU horsepower and a cleverly crafted overlay.:

      Who’d believe that a Bronze Age OS lurks beneath that beautiful exterior? And what do you want to bet they do even better with Android? (Surely, you can’t believe there _won’t_ be an Android version?) Or, hey – maybe you think Apple is going to announce a new, relaxed attitude toward widgets and other ‘iPhone experience breakers’, at next year’s WWDC?

      > […] a proven winner that tops satisfaction surveys,

      …if you ignore 2+ years of complaints (no C&P, no MMS, no tethering, the recent ‘coma’ syndrome, etc.)

      > has tens of thousands more software choices

      …with Android sales growing at the current rate, would you like to bet against the entire App Store catalog being ported to Android, by this time, next year? Meanwhile, due to Apple’s capricious and contentious approval process, look for more and more apps to be developed for Android, first & foremost.

      > that easily syncs with Macs and PCs

      …so long as you’ve toted that computer along on the trip, with you. Oh, and don’t forget that adorable, proprietary cable. ;)

      > that officially is supported by the most popular media store/media player

      Fair enough, I suppose – tho, as PC user, I’m not a huge fan of iTunes, particularly with how Apple keep trying to force-feed me Quicktime and/or Safari, at each update. (QT, in particular, is bloatware of the first rank.)

      That said, I can get podcasts on my phone via RSS. And I can buy new music from Amazon…no DRM, lower prices, plus an OTA app that works great. Similarly, tho iPhone/iTunes sync is handy, I don’t see it as offering a compelling argument over my swapping around a handful of 16/32 gig SD cards, each stuffed full of music. Oh, plus a spare card or two for photos and video.

      Meanwhile, of course, lots of folks have identified this as an area that’s ripe for Android (and others) development. Want to bet there won’t be (at least) two serious iTunes competitors, within six months? With a few millions of potential customers on maybe seven carrier networks, around the world? And do you figure Jeff Bezos has been napping for the past few months? :)

    • timjones17

      The Google Android-Verizon Wireless combination spells the end of Apple’s hope to get ahead in the US phone industry. It’s not a challenger to Nokia’s global dominance. Now with Google-Verizon in the US, the iPhone may be continue to be the handset of choice for some American phone fashionistas, but most people’s phone are not and will not be from Apple. Apple is happy to be profitable, relegated to some miniscule share in desktops; it’s also happy to have the same position in the US mobile phone industry. Dethrone the iPhone? With the marketing blitz the Apple baron could muster to sell its featurephone, not even mentioning Blackberry, forget about Nokia, how many billboards did it take to sell 20 million Windows Mobile handsets in 2008?

      • In the end – I think droid will effect the sales of blackberry on VzW’s network the most. I guess there is a small % of folks from VzW who may have moved to ATT won’t move now – but hard to see as that being huge, given VzW has not lost subscribers during the last couple of years. The one who stayed with VzW – stayed because they believed in VzW’s network and just stuck with the boring “smartphones” from RIM. But now with a real choice – I can see a fair number of these folks moving to droid or other similar devices based on android. Especially the new “consumers” who thought blackberries were so cool.