Verizon iPhone Arrives: Is Android in Trouble?

By  |  Tuesday, January 11, 2011 at 4:31 pm

[Note: This article republished courtesy of our pals at PCWorld.]

Ladies and gentlemen, the day has finally arrived: The Verizon iPhone is officially a reality.

No joke: Unlike the past 7.2 billion times the iPhone’s Verizon launch was absolutely, definitely confirmed to be imminent, Apple’s prized product is actually making its way to Big Red this go-round. The iPhone 4 will become available to current Verizon Wireless subscribers on February 3, with orders opening up to everyone else a week later.

Naturally, the Internet is brimming with reactions and predictions, many of which include the inevitable cries of “Sayonara, Android!” — a suggestion that the iPhone’s expansion will mark the end of Android’s impressive growth streak in the U.S. mobile market. Now, I know the tech world loves nothing more than finding a new reason to toss the hyperbolic “killer” label around (I’m still waiting for Facebook’s messaging service to deliver that final deathblow to Gmail, by the way), but let’s take a moment to put things in perspective.

First and foremost, as a device, the new Verizon iPhone really isn’t new at all. It’s a six-month-old handset that, in all likelihood, will be replaced with a newer, shinier, even more magical model this summer. Will that stop hoards of Apple-loving masses from rushing out to buy one nonetheless? Of course not. But it will significantly dull the device’s “Android-killing” blade.

Think about it: You buy a Verizon iPhone now, and — provided that Apple follows its typical once-a-year product release cycle — the new iPhone 5 comes along in June, precisely four months after you signed the dotted line. Whether or not Verizon ends up getting the latest model right away, you’re suddenly going to feel like a second-class citizen and first-rate chump.

And yes, I know: Practically any mobile device you buy nowadays is surpassed by something bigger and better within a matter of months. But in most cases, it’s a new and different model that dances into the world — not a direct replacement of the same device by the same manufacturer. That’s gonna sting.

That factor aside, the iPhone just isn’t the shining star of the mobile galaxy anymore. Some incredibly innovative devices debuted at the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas last week, and many of them are set to show up in stores within the next few months. Anyone who can look at a phone like the Motorola Atrix and instantly write it off as inferior has probably been drinking a bit too much of the Cupertino Kool-Aid. Countless other phones are popping up with 4G functionality and other hardware and software capabilities the iPhone 4 simply can’t match. In the end, it all comes down to personal preference — but there’s no denying that, Verizon iPhone or not, the competition is still a fierce force for Apple to overcome.

All of that said, brand recognition is a powerful thing. An Apple product is an Apple product, and plenty of people will be attracted to it because of that familiar logo and what it’s come to represent.

In the big picture, Android — Apple’s chief competitor within the U.S. mobile platform market — is by no means perfect. Some Android manufacturers are falling behind and taking far too long to deliver software upgrades, even on high-end devices (here’s lookin’ at you, Samsung). But the foundation is solid, and for those who want a choice in hardware or software — or heck, just the ability to customize their home screens beyond simple rows of static icons — there’s no shortage of options available.

Verizon’s iPhone will undoubtedly attract plenty of new users, likely combining refugees from AT&T along with new customers and existing subscribers looking for a change. But Android’s momentum is strong — after posting nonstop meaty gains in market share for months now, the platform just surpassed Apple in total number of U.S. subscribers, according to recent data by ComScore — and the punches are still flying fast across every U.S. carrier. While Apple will almost certainly make some immediate subscriber gains thanks to its Verizon expansion, outpacing Android’s growth over the long haul would be one hell of a feat to accomplish.

However things pan out, we can rest easy knowing that we as consumers will inevitably benefit from the battle, regardless of which platform we prefer. As the competition continues to heat up, the phone-makers will be forced to fight even harder for our buying dollar — and that means more innovation, better pricing, and better service for us all. Ultimately, in the race for mobile dominance, the users always win.

JR Raphael is a PCWorld contributing editor and the author of the Android Power blog. He has his own theories as to how the Verizon iPhone will change the world.


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14 Comments For This Post

  1. Jim Says:

    Android still has many benefits over iPhone including less problems and a better selection of phones to buy. With iPhone, you have one choice, Android gives you many brands.

  2. gianpo Says:

    It's the software not the hardware that makes the iPhone so attractive. Plus every single person that I know only owns an android phone because they couldn't get a iPhone. I know that's anecdotal evidence but I would be willing to put money down that that's why alot of people bought there android phones.

  3. Mike Cerm Says:

    If this had happened a year ago, around the time the original Droid had launched, Android would have never happened. Now, it's too late to really stop Android's momentum. Most Verizon customers who were waiting for the iPhone gave up a while ago and bought Android phones. They've never owned a iPhone, so they don't know the difference, they were told at the Verizon store that Android is better anyway, and they're now locked into 2-year contracts. After 2 years in the Android ecosystem, most will probably just buy another, newer Android phone, rather than jump to iPhone.

    Apple will get some boost from what pent-up demand there is, but it will level off pretty quickly. Verizon has put too much effort into the DROID brand to just drop it entirely. Also, now that the iPhone is not exclusive, neither Verizon nor AT&T will have any incentive to advertise it. It will be there for the customers who want it, but they'll also each be saying "look at these other phones we have that aren't available anywhere else".

  4. Drew Says:

    Yup, me. I got a Verizon Driod Pro about three weeks ago and love. I have the touch screen and the built in keyboard. Would I have bought an iPhone if it was available? I would have strongly considered it. My wife will soon be ready for a refresh, and I would say there is a good chance that she may go to the iPhone. But I think the Droids are here to stay, and given the (I think this is still true) most cell phone users are not yet using smart phones, there is room enough for everyone.

  5. Bouke Timbermont Says:

    Now is my question: will Motorola finally release it's Droid-series on non-CDMA networks? I immediately loved the Droid X when it was announced, but Europe doesn't do CDMA 🙁

    I figure since Motorola (and other Android-manufacturers) will most definitely feel the impact of the Verizon iPhone, they would be wiling to expand their market, no?

  6. Mike Cerm Says:

    There's no such thing as a Motorola Droid series. Droid is Verizon's brand, and Motorola just makes most of the phones that end up with that name. The Droid Incredible was made HTC. The original Droid was released as the Milestone for GSM, but none of the other carriers picked it up in the States.

    I do expect to see more Android phones on AT&T in the future. They've been so focused on the iPhone to this point that they haven't really had a reason to push other handsets. Now that it's no longer exclusive, they'll probably put a little more effort on other things which are exclusive.

  7. Daniel Says:

    Yes the iPhone will be popular on Varizon, initially, but that won't stop Android. Android would be just as popular even if the iPhone was always on Verizon, because it offers more choice of devices and a better OS.

    Also the Apple vs. Google battle is far greater than just the US carriers. Worldwide Android is winning and is more easily available. Also, Android phones are cheaper and aren't tied to the App Store, which is only available in a handful of countries vs the Market which is widely available (some counties only have the free apps, but still better than no apps).

  8. dholyer Says:

    Will the iPhone and it's apps kill Android and it's apps, The answer is no way. But I also use to think that the President would always think America was number one at every thing. Now that events have proven that to be possible. It does give the right to Android lovers to grow a third eye to watch over their sholders with. The battle will have many ups and downs in the war. The biggest fear I have is not with who will win the war, but it is what will happen if the Government becomes the only supplier and the only manufacturer of Cell phones.

    I can see it now if you have a cell phone you will be carting around and old black model 103 Bell desk phone with a rotary dial and no buttons. That just goes to show you how advanced the government is they will drag you back to a technology time of the Happy Days TV show.

  9. Dave Says:

    The other problem with buying the Verizon iPhone now is that you will be cut off from getting an LTE phone for 16 months. Of course a Verizon LTE iPhone probably won't be out for 16 months so if you want an iPhone and don't care about LTE, it should not matter.

  10. In this corner... Says:

    Hey look – personally I wouldn't buy an iPhone (or any apple/mac product) for reasons too many to list here. But mostly do to their proprietary nature. Vs. Android who opened it up and said "here is the OS, wow me with what you can do with it…."
    But I will give credit to apple for this- as long as they can keep the competition on their toes, I win!!
    Hands down, the last thing I want to see is either platform (okay including BB) go away completely. Competition is what drives better stuff for us the consumer. Go ahead release it on Verizon, get better at it, so Android will give me something better, I am very interested to see what Linux can do on a phone platform!! Beat the crap out of each other and may the consumer always win!!!!!

  11. earlyhike Says:

    I value Apple, Microsoft, and Google products all around. I love my Droid and plan to get another in a year and yet I often have an iTouch within reach to do what the Droid Apps can't (Like Music, Videos, and Words with Friends). Despite loving the Droid there are many people out there i end up recommending the iPhone to instead. I hand a droid to someone and they continually ask how to use it. I hand the same person an iPhone and they have no questions … they just use it. Even my computer literate friends would prefer to avoid the android learning curve. In the PC battles Macs are more user friendly but PCs were always cheaper and therefore more common. In the phone market there is little or no price advantage between apple and android. Tech geeks aside, it really comes down to software preference for the average joe. When the market is fully flooded with smartphones I think the most intuitive and user friendly software device will rule. This is a personal phone war not a pc war. Students and employees aren't being molded to any phone OS standard. Android will win the tech-hungry but in the end how many of us are really out there anyway.

  12. Tom B Says:

    There will always be a market for free, junk phones, so Android won't go away completely. But Verizon people who wanted a smartphone now have an option, with the arrival of the iPhone.

  13. barry Says:

    Well when you can get an android phone for free when you puchase one then it's easy to 'grow' your market share. What would the iphone do market share wise if you got one free with the one you purchased?

  14. dholyer Says:

    What to know what having an iPhone says to me. It states that I'm all ready brainwashed by Apple so do not talk to me, you are going to break my virgin ears with things or topics that are not Apple. Why do you want to try to make me thing that Jobs & Apple are not GODs. So go back and live in your imperfect World.

    And my reply would be, at least I do not have to pay as much.