Can a Droid take on the Death Star?

Oct 21, 2009
6

Since it's introduction, the AT&T logo has reminded many users of the Death Star. Sure, that's not what it's supposed to look like but no matter how many times they tweak it, I just see the Death Star. So it was amusing to me when over the weekend the first leaks (or release depending on your point of view) came about Verizon’s latest campaign about a phone called the Droid that's poised to take on the iPhone.

The teaser campaign is somewhat an extension of Verizon's ads over the last few weeks, in which it's been touting the strength of its network coverage to the refrain of "there's a map for that". This new campaign isn't nearly as subtle and takes aim at Apple with a whole series of "iDont's" all pointing at perceived weakness of the iPhone. Well, one thing’s for certain, it doesn't appear that there's going to be a Verizon iPhone anytime soon unless you take an iPod touch and pair it with a Verizon MiFi.

I haven't seen the Droid but I'm little skeptical. Rumor has it as a MOTO based Android device, and even running on Verizon's network there's a lot that it's going to need to do. I also don't love the campaign. Going head to head with Apple over issues like removable batteries and other features has failed for every vendor in the iPod space (SanDisk and Creative both tried similar approaches). Consumers are clearly OK with Apple's feature set so it's going to take a lot more than going negative to gain some ground. Here are the big issues that the Droid needs to be able to showcase.

Network vs. Network. It's a perceived issue but perception is reality that AT&T’s network is the iPhone’s weak link in the US. Granted, I've had issues (over the summer at Kennedy airport in NY I needed to make an urgent call and no matter how many bars the phone told me I had, the call would not go through. I finally had to hop on airport WiFi and make the call over Skype). Over the last few months though AT&T has beefed up their network and I find in the NY area it works about as well as anyone else's, which means I still drop calls and have some connection issues, the same issues I have with every network

Media centricity and sync. This is critical. Palm gets it. Microsoft gets it, RIM gets it. Only Google doesn't seem to understand the importance of syncing content to a device from a PC and not just dragging and dropping. Right now the iPhone is the only device where media functionality drives purchases. Without a better Android solution for getting content on a device, it's not a contender.

Cool factor. iPhones are as much about style and cachet and, like the iPod before it, transcend gender, age and other demographic tenures. Younger folks don't mind using an iPhone even though older folks might use them too. Sort of the same way they feel about things like BMWs. This better be one hip Droid.

App catalog. It's a different world. Apps matter and the depth and breadth of a platform’s catalog is going to help decide in a big way who wins and who loses. Largest selection and most exclusives win. The Droid better have some apps and functions I can't get anywhere else and those had better be ones that matter.

At the end of the day, no one is going to out iPhone the iPhone. Handset vendors and carriers must change the game, much like Palm did by introducing Synergy and changing the way apps are approved and sold, or HTC by providing new degrees of features in a UI not available on other platforms. Attacking the iPhone head on is a little like trying to fly directly at the Death Star in an X-Wing.

This Droid had better find a better weakness or it's going to end just another used phone for sale in a Jawa flea market.


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