Smartphone Wars: Droid Has Arrived

Dutch HollisThe title of this article reflects what the banner ads proclaim. In the sense that "arrived" means the Droid is available, yes, definitely, they are available. In the sense that "arrived" means the Droid is coming into its own? Perhaps … if you can tell a Droid from an Android from a Chrome.
The interesting thing about Droid is that it is the first smartphone to wear the "iPhone Killer" moniker, and it might have a shot. The Blackberry Storm has done well, but iPhone and Apple remain unvanquished. The Palm Pre was a fizzle and tried to glom onto the iPhone’s charm by syncing with iTunes. That battle rages back and forth on the field of software updates between Apple and Palm, but the iPhone has already won.

Droid, as you are probably aware, is simply one piece of hardware put out by Verizon that is running Google’s Android OS, an open-source mobile operating system. So, Droid runs Android just like other phones out there, but it also has competitive features. It even has some features that are better than the iPhone, like turn-by-turn voice directions and a camera flash. These are important, since parity, in this game, does not a winner make.

Mike Elgan makes a very well-reasoned analysis, however, that shows Android phones are behind on brand appeal and purchase-decision simplicity – two of the three factors that he believes decide success in the smartphone business.

But wait there’s more! Google is also working on the “gPhone,” a Google-branded phone that may share similarities to Android but will be its own Google-branded experience. Phones running Android will compete with the gPhone. Now how is your brand appeal? And purchase-decision simplicity? Out the window, clearly.

If that wrinkle is not enough, Google co-founder Sergey Brin is now saying that Chrome OS (a cloud-based thin computer OS) and Android OS will eventually merge into one, according to Brit tech site Electricpig.co.uk.

Confused yet? Me too. It’s a shame Google didn’t just use its exceedingly-recognizable brand for everything. If the platform (whatever it’s called) is solid, and the features are available, Google’s mobile tech will play a huge role in the future of smart phones.

Here are the current global standings, by market share, as of Q3 2009 (according to a Gartner study):

  1. Symbian: 44.6%
  2. RIM (BlackBerry): 20.8%
  3. Apple iPhone: 17.1%
  4. Windows Mobile: 7.9%
  5. Android: 3.5%

My prediction? In one year’s time the iPhone and Android will be engaged in a battle for third globally, and second fiddle to Blackberry in the United States.

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