Mobile Overload is Android's Advantage

Convergence Corner

Mobile Overload is Android's Advantage

By Erik Linask, Group Editorial Director  |  January 01, 2011

Smartphones, tablets, and other mobile connectivity options… they’re everywhere. The explosion started with the original iPhone, grew last spring with the introduction of the HTC EVO, the first 4G phone, and has now hit full swing, with many new devices having been introduced over the past several months. Most notable is the slew of 4G devices announced at this year’s CES in Las Vegas by Verizon and AT&T, their handset partners and, of course, the slew of new tablets looking to compete with the iPad.

The one device we haven’t seen yet – but has generated the most media speculation over the past year – is a Verizon iPhone, though reports yet again suggest it may be on the horizon, as early as February 3, just in time for a Super Bowl weekend marketing blitz. Other reports suggest Verizon will announce its version of the iPhone even earlier, on Tuesday, January 11. (We’ll know whether there is truth to that by the time you read this).

The question, though, is, does it really make a difference?

With the market now inundated with Android and BlackBerry devices, along with Windows Phone 7 products from Samsung, HTC, LG, and even Dell (News - Alert), are the options too great for a Verizon iPhone to have a significant impact?

No question, there are those loyal iPhone users who have decided it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread – or at least since Motorola (News - Alert) introduced its StarTAC back in 1996. And there will be those Verizon customers who have held out for Verizon’s version of the Holy Grail of mobiles (at least that’s what they think).

There is also the one big advantage the iPhone holds (along with the iPad) over other handsets –its integration with iTunes. From its earliest days, the iTunes platform has provided a user-friendly way to not only purchase music, but to manage purchased and previously owned content on iDevices, something no other vendor has yet to match. That, alone, will keep some people on the iBandwagon.

But others, like me, are perfectly content keeping their music on their iPods, maximizing choice when it comes to phones. After all, what’s another device to carry along? You’ve already got a laptop, phone, possibly a tablet, and maybe even a portable gaming system – so an iPod, especially given their minimal form factor, is hardly going to cause much grief. Besides, with battery life an ever-present problem, having your tunes on a separate device will only increase the total usable time of all your devices. In this case, more is, in fact, more.

What’s more, anyone having had the opportunity to try out the latest Android (News - Alert) devices can hardly be anything but impressed. Yes, we all know Apple set the bar originally, but many of these Androids have incorporated many of the best features popularized by the iPhone, including smooth UIs, simple set-up and navigation, and flexible customization, and have created their own pieces of technological art.

The App Store? Yes, another temporary advantage for Apple. But, we already know how quickly the Android Marketplace is growing and, quite frankly, with the number of apps available, you have to know exactly what you’re looking for – browsing for something useful or interesting can be a nightmare. The truth is, most popular applications are or will be available on for multiple operating systems – you can play Angry Birds on just about any touchscreen device today. RIM still faces challenges in this respect – most application developers I’ve spoken to say they make it very difficult to develop for BlackBerry (News - Alert) devices – but Android users will have no trouble filling their phones with productivity and entertainment apps.

When I said more than a year ago at a dinner with a group of clients, that Android would overtake Apple in 12-18 months, nobody seemed particularly pleased with the comment (most of them had already been iBlinded by at least one Apple product). But, according to market research firm comScore, as of November, Android owners (26 percent of the market), for the first time, outnumber iPhone users (25 percent) in the U.S. RIM still holds the market lead with nearly 38 percent, but that lead will shrink every quarter, unless it makes major changes to its O/S and becomes more developer-friendly.

Yes, there will be defections from AT&T to iVerizon, and there will be current Verizon customers who will give up their current handsets because they have been holding out for far too long not to. Still, I hold to my original belief that Android holds the power of the mobile market in its little yellow mascot. The overload of devices from multiple vendors is simply going to be too much for Apple to handle, even with all those Verizon network guys in tow.

Erik Linask (News - Alert) is Group Editorial Director of TMC, which brings news and compelling feature articles, podcasts, and videos to 2,000,000 visitors each month. To see more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi