Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Biggest Threat to Google Android (And What They Should Do About It)

I have been a loyal Verizon customer since 2002.  I have stuck by Verizon all this time for two reasons.  First, everybody in my family also has Verizon which means that I get unlimited mobile-to-mobile minutes when I call them.  Second, their network has the best coverage in my area.  However, my one big complaint about Verizon had been that their selection of phones was terrible.  This was especially true when all of my AT&T acquaintances were flaunting their iPhones in my face.  Verizon did have a couple of smart phones, but most were dumbed down so that you could only get premium services through Verizon at extreme prices.

However, the situation changed with the release of the Motorola Droid.  Verizon finally got wise and realized that the key to smartphones is actually having phones that people want to use without any of the restrictions.  The Droid has turn-by-turn navigation that you didn't have to pay $10/month for.  The Droid has a wide selection of apps and many of the useful ones are free.  The Droid has a slick interface that isn't encumbered by all sorts of Verizon crapware.  It really seemed like Verizon was starting to wise up.

This was a great move for Google, too.  Android went from a fringe phone operating system to a serious competitor to Apple.  Most of the credit goes to Verizon and their network.  For people like me who want to stay with Verizon but want a 21st century phone, Android was the perfect match.  The rapid growth of Android's market share has been well documented.  Some experts predict that it will continue to grow and gain market share over the next few years.  However, there is one thing that should scare the pants off of Google.

A Verizon iPhone

For awhile now there have been rumors that a Verizon version of the iPhone was in the works.  Rumors about a Verizon iPhone remind me of the persistent rumors about a new Star Wars movie that persisted through the late 80's and into the 90's.  Every year there would be a new rumor and most of them never panned out.  However, eventually George Lucas finally got his act together and released his prequel to much fanfare and ridicule.  I'm talking to you, Jar-Jar.

Anyway, my point is that even if the latest rumors don't come true exactly, it seems inevitable that Apple would want to bring their product to the largest wireless network.  That would spell bad news to Android.  One of the reasons why Android has become so popular is that it is the best game in town for Verizon customers.  You could argue that Android is technically superior to the iPhone, but most people buy smartphones based upon styling rather than substance.  In any case, a Verizon iPhone would put a serious dent in Android's market share.

Given the fact that Apple is looking to branch out to Verizon, what should Google do?  My suggestion is simple.  They should offer to give Verizon a boatload of money to lock Apple out of the Verizon network.  Now I am not an anti-trust lawyer (or any type of lawyer for that manner), so I don't know what the implications are from a legal standpoint.  However, if it is legal for AT&T to maintain the exclusive rights to sell the iPhone, I would think that it would be legal for Google to become the exclusive smartphone provider for Verizon. 

If Google doesn't do this, I predict that Apple is going to eat their lunch in the smartphone market if and when they sell the iPhone for Verizon.

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