The Year of Droid: A Phonecan Perspective

I’m not Droid marketing campaign is the only thing responsible for Android’s insane growth this past year.  Other carrier’s have released amazing devices, and the platform itself matured a lot, becoming more attractive to users and developers alike.  But the Droid campaign did help kick start the trend.

The Droid was the first device to have a massive marketing push behind it, not just a few ads.  Verizon spent millions advertising the Droid, pulling Android OS out of the “geeks only” niche market and into the mainstream.

Recent numbers show that Google is tracking over 200,000 new Android activations daily.  This number only includes devices that ship with Android applications, so products like the Archos tablets are not in those features.  That’s not a huge number here in the states, but in the Grey market of China, that can be tens of thousands of devices a day.

When the Droid launched the market had 15,000 applications.  At last official count, the market now hosts over 100,000 applications, with unofficial sources saying that number is closer to 150,000.

But did this help Verizon?  They invested millions in this campaign, and people now think of Android devices as “Droid’s” but how does that translate into sales?

Verizon’s smartphone subscriber base has more than doubled since the Droid launched.  The original Droid also did a lot to dispel the rumors that Verizon was the carrier that locked down anything free on their devices.  They’re known as having some of the “coolest” devices now.  So was the campaign successful for them?  I’d say so.

What’s Coming Next? -Menno’s Perspective

I think that we’ll see a 4G Droid device in January, and I also think we’ll start seeing the Droid brand jumping over to tablets.  The Tab didn’t get it, but you can get Verizon’s working on a LTE Tablet with Gingerbread/Honeycomb and when they do, I think we’ll see it earn the Droid tag.

I think it was a smart move on their part not to give the Droid name to any phone that had the Bing Preloaded fiasco (I think the Bing locking was a bad move in general, but that’s something for another day).  Droid is their flagship brand, and I only see that continuing as time goes on.

For Verizon, I think they’ll continue releasing their high end devices as “Droid’s” and that they’ll work with Google, Motorola, Samsung, and HTC to try and be the “first” company to bring a lot of advancements to the US market.  Android is on every carrier, and innovations made by one company don’t stay exclusive to it for long.  In that kind of market, you’re either first or you’re the “also ran.”

I bought the Droid at launch (and paid full price for it) I haven’t regretted that decision at all.  It was an amazing phone for me, and when I finally replace it (either this Christmas or with a 4G device) it will have a place of honor on my shelf. As a Verizon customer, I’m excited to see what the next year will hold.

Android will release Gingerbread (2.3) soon, bringing a host of new features and maybe a few bug fixes.  Once Gingerbread is launched, expect a ton of news (and commentary) here.  I won’t speculate what it will bring, but if it follows the current trend it will make Android more user friendly, which is always a good thing.

I think in the next year we’ll see a tablet optimized version of Android, if not in Gingerbread then it will be the focus of Honeycomb.  I also think Google’s going to start cracking down on devices using it’s name to sell the products.  Android is everywhere now, and I don’t think they want someone advertising a “Google Coffee Pot” when someone figures out how to install the OS on one.  Personally, I’d like them to start holding handset makers responsible to a certain upgrade timetable in order to get market access, but that might be a pipe dream.

What’s Coming Next? -Epik’s Perspective

Most anyone would agree that the advent of the iPhone was a fundamental shift in wireless technology, device function, and carrier pricing.  Look at what we had before and in the early years of the iPhone - clunkly, slow, unattractive, disfunctional, and archaic technology.   I could spend an entire post on where the smartphone market was before Apple’s opus (and maybe I will).

To say that the iPhone changed the market would be insufficient.  But in the least, the innovation that followed iPhone has been as big a change from what we used to use in that category.  If you remember your first colored screen, or your first camera phone, and compared to to the large “cordless phone” sized models we had around 2000, you’d get a sense of the differtence between iPhone and PDA phones in 2007.

But after that vanguard phone launched, many people weren’t sure that anything could compare.  In fact, everything WAS compared, even if such a comparison were entirely illogical (say, a Samsung a950 flip phone compared to an iPhone, simply because it played music).  Even the best of phones didn’t stack up against an iPhone.  In fact, the only close competition came from what most people referred to as the “Google phone.”

In the time between the G1 and the Droid, not much had changed for Android.  But just as jarring as that first Droid commerical was to many of us, the Droid would refresh and reinvent the smartphone category.  So much has changed in one year, and so much more is on the way.

I believe that in the next year, we’ll see a larger number of Android phones hit the market.  Currently, T-Mobile and Verizon stock or maintain about 11 Android handsets, with AT&T and Sprint stocking just a few less models.  By this time next year, Android phones will dominate each carrier’s smartphone lines, at least in volume.  There will be some phones you may not even realize are Android (probably on the lower-end).

I also strong believe that Android will change the market enough to not only make Internet plans more commonplace, but more affordable as well.  As people find they can purchase a basic Droid or Android phone for $50, they will find more value in Internet plans.  As people find more value in data rather than voice, the carriers will begin to adjust their pricing structure accordingly.  Will it be drastically different in a year?  Probably not.  But it will be out there, in conversation, being considered by consumer and carrier alike.

And 4G will make huge changes.  I think you’ll find 4G Droids dominating the headlines and sales figures.  4G Android will be hot, while 3G Android will still have a great market as the value variety of Droid phones.

Aside from phones, you’ll start to see Android hitting more and various devices.  You’ll probably find a selection of different LCD TVs on the market sporting Android in some form.  Other appliances may not be far behind.  But most of all, I honestly believe that next year will be the year of the tablet.

By this time next year, the hottest Christmas gift will be basic to mid-range tablets with Android on them.  I think a lot of manufacturers are going to wait for Honeycomb (Android 3.0) before they hit the market full-speed.  But that could happen by middle of next year, if not sooner.  In a year, we’ll have a larger selection of Android-powered tablets.  We’ll even have a DROIDPAD, or some other clever name, I’m sure.

Most of all, I’m excited to see what Android does to the phone market in general, over the next year.  I hope to see Android causing more innovation in the more basic phone lines, as well as bringing good competition to the smartphone arena.  Android has influenced Apple, Microsoft, and Research in Motion - what else will Google’s little toy robot inspire in it’s competition?  A lot, I’m thinking.

In it’s own way, Android is going to change the phone world, and the next year will be a prime example of it.

Conclusion:

The Droid came out just over a year ago and changed how we thought about Android, and how Verizon’s smartphone lineup was perceived.  The original Droid is long retired replaced by the Droid 2 and the Droid 2 Global Edition, and the Droid name is now shared among several devices

Thanks in part to the Droid campaign (and smart campaigns from Sprint, HTC, and Google) Android is now a serious option for a lot of consumers.  In fact, for the past three quarters, it’s been the best selling mobile operating system in the United States.  Verizon will have a 4G network by years end, and 4G handsets and tablets in early 2011.  You can bet that more than a few of these will be Droids.

What will the mobile landscape look like next year?  I gave some of my predictions, but honestly I don’t really know.  13 months ago, All I knew was Verizon was getting an Android device, and that they were kinda excited about it.  I don’t think anyone could’ve predicted how far both Verizon and Android came in just one year.

This is an exciting time for mobile technology, and it is only going to get better. LTE will allow mobile content producers to create applications and media that isn’t restricted by latency or sub-optimal speeds.  If you’re a mobile tech junkie like we are, it’s a great time to be living in.

Happy first birthday, Droid.  The cake is not a lie.

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