Why Android Won't Kill the iPhone, Just Everything Else

Bloggers agree that Google's Android 2.0 smart phone operating system is very good, but not iPhone good

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Tech bloggers are constantly on the lookout for rivals to dethrone the iPhone. Few have attracted nearly as much buzz as Google's Android--an operating system that will power a bevy of coveted digital devices this holiday season. A major update, Android 2.0, was released earlier this week to wide praise from bloggers. Many go so far as to say that Android will be a game-changing piece of software that will upend several electronics markets. But they aren't ready to call it an "iPhone Killer."

Android Astounds

  • Smart Phone Slayer  Tech-blogger Boy Genius got his hands on Motorola's Droid, the Android-powered phone officially unveiled on Wednesday. He's delighted to report that it's the best device running Android 2.0, and predicts that it will vanquish all smart phones but one--the iPhone. As he summarizes: "The Droid isn’t an iPhone competitor because nothing at this point in time is an iPhone competitor besides the new iPhone. And things don’t have to be right now. Everyone can eat. So will the Motorola Droid be successful? Absolutely, we think. It will eat in to BlackBerry sales, Windows Mobile sales, and positively murder any lingering Palm Pre sales. It’s that good. Did you notice how Verizon still hasn’t announced the BlackBerry Storm2?" The Business Insider's Dan Frommer offers evidence to support the view that Android is seriously killing the competition, noting that shares of Palm are down 20% this month. Meanwhile Matt Hamblen unpacks a report that predicts Android will become the second most popular smart phone OS globally by 2012.
  • Navigation Sensation  The Android chatter grew louder when Google premiered the Google Maps Navigation (Beta) application on the company blog. The app replicates all the features of GPS navigation devices, with seven new features that take advantage of technologies such as Google's Street View.  Bloggers aren't sure if the app will stay Android-exclusive, but there is widespread consensus that GPS manufacturers should be very worried. "Google outlined how Google Maps Navigation has the most recent data, simple search, voice search and various views (satellite, traffic, street). In other words, Google will effectively take on Garmin and TomTom with its Android phones," writes Larry Dignan at ZDNet.
  • Menacing Mario Perhaps the most novel assessment of Android's potential came from Dezoris at the Stage Select video game blog. Concentrating on the fact that Android offers smart phone users multi-touch interaction, Dezoris explains that this feature puts the OS into direct competition with portable video game systems from Nintendo and Sony. None of Nintendo's DS or Sony's PSP models currently offer multi-touch. He writes: "If Google's Eclair and Android 2.0 are as well received as the industry currently predicts, the mobile gaming industry may very well explode into new and exciting directions. The possibility of standardizing a multitouch game market that is open to ALL developers, regardless of their device, is the exact moment we've been waiting for."

But The iPhone is Still Safe, For Now ...

  • The iPhone Is Still 'Jesus'  TechCrunch's MG Siegler lays out a case explaining why the iPhone has bested its competitors, and seems likely to remain the most popular phone model. Using a clever religious metaphor, Siegler contends that the iPhone is "monotheistic," one device against Android's multitude of "polytheistic" devices, which confound consumers and vex developers. Besides, Google isn't aiming for the iPhone anyway, he writes: "Repeat after me: Android is trying to kill Windows Mobile, not the iPhone…During the Web 2.0 Summit, Google co-founder Sergey Brin admitted that Google works more closely on some hardware for Android than others, but that’s not enough to make an iPhone killer. If Google (or Microsoft, for that matter) decides to put all of its support (and marketing support) behind one phone, let me know, then we can talk."
  • 'Android Doesn't Have to Beat the iPhone'--Just Windows Mobile  The New York Times' Saul Hansell is in agreement that Microsoft is the true target of the Android line-up. He argues that Apple is untouchable, at least for the time being, and that Windows Mobile has some serious limitations ripe for exploitation. (The high cost to manufacturers, for example, and lack of open-source development.) He goes on to agree with an analyst that Google is well-prepared to disrupt the non-iPhone smart phone market: "Indeed, most [manufacturers] were excited that the open source nature of Android will help them cut costs by drawing in a wider range of programming talent. They also appreciate how easy it is to customize Android to make handsets that are different from others in the market using the same software."
  • Users Are App-Happy  Former Microsoft employee and tech guru Robert Scoble focuses on one strength of the iPhone in particular: its phenomenally popular downloadable mobile applications. Acknowledging that Android and other mobile-phone software allow for open-source app development as well, he argues that Apple has a leg up because its app store took off first and now all users are accustomed to their own particular combination of apps: "None of us have the same set of apps. So, to get me off of the iPhone you are going to have to duplicate all my apps (and I’ve gotten several more since doing this list a couple of weeks ago)…If you get me all those, and all the other 85,000 apps, but on a device that is sexier and more fun to use (and more productive) then I’ll definitely be reasonable and switch."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.