Google's Nexus One takes on Droid as Apple's iPhone App Store grows

Posted:
in iPhone edited January 2014
Expectations that Google would jump into the smartphone business itself and directly challenge the iPhone are being squelched by reports that indicate that the company is really only putting its name on a new HTC device to be sold by T-Mobile, which will compete against the Verizon Motorola Droid instead.



At the same time, Apple's month over month App Store download growth over the holidays greatly outpaced the growth of Google's Android Market by a factor of 2.5 this year, refuting the idea that Google's last flagship phone, the Verizon/Motorola Droid, had any real impact on the iPhone during the key holiday season, or that it even helped Google to catch up to Apple.



Apple's phenomenal growth sets up limited prospects for Google's next attempt to deliver the new Nexus One as an iPhone alternative in partnership with HTC and T-Mobile during the post-holiday season, given that the Droid has already consumed most of Android's potential market opportunity.



G-Phone 2: This time it's personal



Rumors of a Google Phone first circulated in late 2007 before the company formally announced that its new Android would be a broadly-licensed platform like Windows Mobile rather than a tightly integrated product like the iPhone.



Two years later, the concept of a new Android phone built "specifically for Google" to market under its own name was again promoted by Michael Arrington of TechCrunch, who described the rumored new Nexus One model as a "pure Google-branded phone."



Unlike existing offerings from HTC (like the G1, MyTouch, and Verizon Droid Eris) or Motorola (the Verizon Droid), Arrington said "every last piece" of the device would be dictated by Google, similar to how Apple exerts total control over all the details and user experience of the iPhone, iPod touch, and iTunes.



An Android phone without the Android problems



"[There will be] no splintering of the Android OS that makes some applications unusable," Arrington wrote. "Like the iPhone for Apple, this phone will be Google?s pure vision of what a phone should be."



As of a month and a half ago, Arrington said that he doubted reports that the new phone would be built by HTC, the company that historically has made nearly all Windows Mobile phones and most of the devices running Android.



Instead, Arrington claimed "fairly good information that suggests" that Google was building the new phone itself using LG or Samsung, an indication that the new device was really a unique iPhone-like product rather than just rebadged model.



Another Android developer phone



However, the latest information shows that the new device is really just an extension and broadening of Google's development phone program, which allows users to buy an unlocked Android device and use it on T-Mobile.



Rather than just being limited to developers, Google now plans to market the phone under its own name, selling it over the web directly with or without a subsidizing contract, just like it has always sold its Android developer model.



However, there is no indication the phone's hardware is at all dictated or managed by Google. Instead, it's just another new phone from HTC, which has always churned out several new models every year.



Like HTC's previous Windows Mobile and Android phones, the Nexus One is still limited to a relatively small amount of system RAM and internal storage RAM, killing any prospects for the new model to take over the iPhone/iPod touch in terms of sophisticated apps, and in particular games.



Rather than mounting any real competition to the iPhone 3GS, the Nexus One will immediately make HTC's existing Android phones look long in the tooth, including the HTC Droid Eris Verizon is currently marketing alongside the Motorola Droid.



The Droid Killer



The Nexus One is essentially HTC's answer to the Motorola Droid. Both sport a high resolution screen and similar specifications that lead the pack of Android offerings. Both also reveal Google's intent to play its licensees off of each other.



For the first two generations of Android phones, Google worked with HTC, the vendor most interested in and most capable of bringing an Android phone to market. HTC was well positioned because it already had completed Windows Mobile phone designs that could be quickly adapted to run Android.



This fall however, Google appeared to abandon HTC entirely as it devoted exclusive efforts to release Android 2.0 in tandem with Motorola and Verizon on the Droid. The Droid was Motorola's internal attempt to revitalize its lagging phone handset business, and was originally designed to run Windows Mobile before being conscripted to run Android.



Google did not immediately officially release the Droid's Android 2.0 for other Android models, and instead left other licensees in the dark to the point where HTC and Sony Ericsson have announced plans to continue to ship future phones running earlier versions of the Android operations system.



Now, Google is returning to HTC to release Android 2.1 on the Nexus One, leaving the Droid to catch up in the background and Sony Ericsson still on track to debut its new phone later in 2010 running Android 1.6. Verizon Droid or Droid Eris users can't just switch to the slim new Nexus One because it only works on T-Mobile's GSM/UMTS network. Verizon also charges a steep $350 termination fee on its Android smartphones to prevent any desertion.



Snowballing vs cannibalization



This ensures that Android fans and early adopters simply can't regularly upgrade as iPhone users could, either in hardware with annual device releases or in software with annual new reference releases and the regular free updates in between. What Android updates are available to end users are a combination of what the vendor and mobile carrier choose to support and deliver, much as was the case with Windows Mobile.



While Apple snowballed interest in its iPhone platform and grew rapidly by word of mouth, Android appears to be cannibalizing itself with competition between vendors not just for potentially incompatible hardware innovations (such as different screen resolutions) but also in a confusing mix of Android operating system versions.



This is splintering the development community and preventing the snowballing growth seen in the cohesive iPhone platform. Android's fractionalization as a platform prevents it from attaining the interest of key developers, and therefore impedes the critical mass needed to attract users and other commercial developers, resulting in a hobbyist community.



iPhone App Store growing 2.5 times as fast as Android Market



The result of this is that Apple can claim, not just a much larger share in unit sales and software downloads, but also much greater growth in App Store interest in December over the previous month than Google's Android Market can.



According to mobile analytics firm Flurry, Apple's App Store download growth increased by more than 50% this month over November, while Google's much smaller Android Market grew by just 20% over the same period, despite the massive advertising blitz Verizon contributed during the holidays.







With a much smaller unit installed base and a library size of around 15,000 apps compared to Apple's 100,000, Google should find it easier to increase its percentage of growth faster than Apple, but that simply isn't happening. Google was left behind in the busiest holiday season of the year.



Google will now have to struggle through 2010 as Apple launches its slate product and the expected 4G iPhone and iPhone 4.0 software this summer.



Rather than rolling out its own incremental upgrades to Android, Google will be juggling the interests of HTC, Motorola, and new offerings planned by Sony Ericsson, LG, and Samsung, while attempting to play the role of both the independent platform licensing agent and a direct competitor, an impossibly difficult task that tripped up Microsoft as it attempted to run PlaysForSure and directly sell the Zune at the same time.



Rather than gaining any ground against the iPod, Microsoft only killed its existing broadly licensed platform and turned the Zune into a tiny property of little consequence.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 128
    I should say, Android Developer Phones were never marketed towards consumers, only developers. And even the task of requiring that a person be a developer in order to purchase the phone (simple and free), is enough to turn 99% of people off from a developer phone.



    No, the real difference in a "Google phone" is if Google decides to put its own marketing muscle behind the phone, unlike other Android phones which have always been pushed by carriers. It's different from the Motorola Droid in that people think of the following companies before Google: Verizon and Motorola. Heck, for some people, they think that the carrier actually MAKES the hardware (yes, people are that unaware of things), since the Google logo is only on the back in a faint font compared to the white on the front of the Droid.



    However, with no other branding besides Google itself, it gives them full ownership of it's success and/or failure with no one else to blame. And for those that argue that Google isn't making the phone, HTC is, I want to remind you that Apple doesn't manufacture the iPhone either, it's produced by Foxconn. People don't remember hardware manufacturers, they remember the brands they are attached to!
  • Reply 2 of 128
    c4rlobc4rlob Posts: 277member
    I think the Google phone will be more competition for Droid and other Android platform phones than the Apple iPhone and App store. So no matter what people say about the "openness" of the Android platform and the multitude of devices that will run it, the more the merrier as far as Apple is concerned. It just helps divide the market more easily for Apple to keep conquering.



    Apple sorta gets to relive the argument for "those who care about software also do the hardware" versus only doing software. The difference being now Apple doesn't have any execs screwing up Steve Jobs' vision or stopping Apple from beingApple.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by dagamer34 View Post


    ... People don't remember hardware manufacturers, they remember the brands they are attached to!



    I agree strongly with this move by Google to brand the phone alone - however I would modify your thought by saying "they remember the brands that keep their promise they are attached to!" Apple's products are not just an Apple logo, but the look and feel and everything about the products match Apple's DNA. From what I've seen of the Nexus One, it doesn't LOOK like something that represents Google in any special way. From a brand perspective I think of Google as playful, geeky, colorful building blocks on top of a clean-simple-white platform. The Nexus One LOOKS nothing like any of that.
  • Reply 3 of 128
    quinneyquinney Posts: 2,528member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    Apple's phenomenal growth sets up limited prospects for Google's next attempt to deliver the new Nexus One as an iPhone alternative in partnership with HTC and T-Mobile during the post-holiday season, given that the Droid has already consumed most of Android's potential market opportunity.



    I think this conclusion is an overstatement. The potential market opportunity for Android, as well as other smartphone/application phone makers, still includes dumb-phone owners who will upgrade.
  • Reply 4 of 128
    I'll be buying a Nexus One if I can buy it unlocked and use it on T-mo. Sorry, Steve. You need to end exclusivity... and fast.
  • Reply 5 of 128
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post


    I'll be buying a Nexus One if I can buy it unlocked and use it on T-mo. Sorry, Steve. You need to end exclusivity... and fast.



    If you thought Att's 3G coverage sucked, wait until you use T-Mobile.



    That being said, I'd still use T-Mobile.
  • Reply 6 of 128
    ...With a much smaller unit installed base and a library size of around 15,000 apps compared to Apple's 100,000, Google should find it easier to increase its percentage of growth faster than Apple, but that simply isn't happening...



    This article certainly offers some good points, but this statement is just plain false. According to the caption on the graphic, this shows the percent increase of actual tracked downloads, not apps available for download in each app store. If you look at the percent increase of apps available, the Android Market went from 10,000 to over 20,000 since the Droid's release.



    Just sayin'.
  • Reply 7 of 128
    Once the next iPhone hits it's back to the drawing-board for everyone else.
  • Reply 8 of 128
    quinneyquinney Posts: 2,528member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Quadra 610 View Post


    Once the next iPhone hits it's back to the drawing-board for everyone else.



    Yes, but when will that be? Can Apple afford to just update annually, now that more and more competitors are entering the fray?
  • Reply 9 of 128
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    Just an FYI: the article’s ‘4G iPhone’ is referencing the 4th generation phone from Apple, not LTE the 4th generation radio communication standard.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Trapper31 View Post


    If you look at the percent increase of apps available, the Android Market went from 10,000 to over 20,000 since the Droid's release.



    Also, I’m pretty sure the number of iPhone OS apps is closer to 150k than 100k.
  • Reply 10 of 128
    MacProMacPro Posts: 19,523member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Quadra 610 View Post


    Once the next iPhone hits it's back to the drawing-board for everyone else.



    Yep agreed. In fact I bet everyone else stays at their drawing boards (or is it copy machines) round the clock waiting for the next Apple product whatever it is! No one else seems to have an R&D department anymore!
  • Reply 11 of 128
    al_bundyal_bundy Posts: 1,525member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by quinney View Post


    Yes, but when will that be? Can Apple afford to just update annually, now that more and more competitors are entering the fray?





    but will the current set of android makers keep on making phones now that google is competing with them?



    everyone else is on an annual upgrade cycle as well. they just release at different times of the year
  • Reply 12 of 128
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by al_bundy View Post


    but will the current set of android makers keep on making phones now that google is competing with them?



    I don?t see why not. They need to use a mobile OS and Android offers a lot of advantages over paid-for mobile OSes. Not just price, but the app store ecosystem and rate of change.
  • Reply 13 of 128
    ifailifail Posts: 463member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by sprockkets View Post


    If you thought Att's 3G coverage sucked, wait until you use T-Mobile.



    That being said, I'd still use T-Mobile.



    T-Mobile is still expanding...AT&T has been standing still nearly upgrading its network in "trouble spots" If i could use my Bold 9000 with 3G id most likely switch to T-Mo, cause then id actually pay for what id get lol.



    As for the Nexus it could see very good success since T-Mo has pushed Android very hard, if its even better than the Droid, which is a good device, it will easily push well over a million units.



    Also this whole Nexus swallowing the iPhone thing is just absurd. This phone wont singlehandedly blot out Apple because it wont be pushed with the force Apple does the iPhone (it is the ONLY model they have). Android is taking the Windows approach, and at the rate the OS is gaining marketshare id say its doing a damn good job.
  • Reply 14 of 128
    Watching Android rollout to date, I am left with two conflicting data points. One, is that everyone I talk to within Google is supremely confident that the data (that they are looking at) suggests that they are poised to win in the market. Two, I am confused relative to the battles and war analogy, what is the battle they are fighting and what is the war that they expect to win.



    By that, I mean at this stage they are not in the same league to win the potential iPhone buyer, as Android lacks on hardware design, developer tools, apps momentum and marketplace. Yet, based upon RIM's last quarter, it's not like they are taking share from the Blackberry. Hence, best guess is that they are REALLY going after Nokia and Symbian ecosystem, which is fine and logical, as comparable structure in terms of variety of device form-factors, multi-carrier approach and Nokia/Symbian is a dispirited developer base.



    The only paradox is that to win that audience, you can't be effectively competing with the handset guys (i.e., Motorola, HTC, Samsung, LG) in either soft or hard form (by anointing a preferred device/partner or formally branding, marketing a Google device). Yet, to not do so is to guarantee that the distance between iPhone and Android only grows.



    Personally, I think that they have misread the market, and face a choice between a fragmented market or abandoning their open credo and trying to go toe-to-toe with Apple in areas that Google hasn't proven to be strong at; namely, hardware design, user experience, developer tools, etc.
  • Reply 15 of 128
    ifailifail Posts: 463member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by solipsism View Post


    I don?t see why not. They need to use a mobile OS and Android offers a lot of advantages over paid-for mobile OSes. Not just price, but the app store ecosystem and rate of change.



    Not only that but many companies simply dont have the resources to create a robust OS of their own. Both Motorola and Sony Ericsson come to mind. HTC just seems interested in hardware sales and not have to worry about the OS...let Google and Microsoft deal with that.



    I really wish that Palm would let their WebOS go multi-platform cause it has a lot of potential, just little support
  • Reply 16 of 128
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by solipsism View Post


    Just an FYI: the article?s ?4G iPhone? is referencing the 4th generation phone from Apple, not LTE the 4th generation radio communication standard.





    Also, I?m pretty sure the number of iPhone OS apps is closer to 150k than 100k.



    Oh yes I agree, in fact I thought I read that it was going to top 200,000 soon. I was just pointing out that the information in the chart did not agree with his statement; it is easier to increase the percentage of the apps available, not the percentage of apps downloaded (as is shown in the chart).



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by digitalclips View Post


    Yep agreed. In fact I bet everyone else stays at their drawing boards (or is it copy machines) round the clock waiting for the next Apple product whatever it is! No one else seems to have an R&D department anymore!



    I don't know that it's fair to say every developer is copying from Apple wihout adding any innovation of their own. They are certainly trying to compete with Apple and gain market share (which is proving to be extremely difficult), and to do this they need something to distinguish themselves. Motorola for example took what they saw as shortcomings of the Iphone and included them in the Droid. They obviously didn't "kill" the Iphone, as the media loves to speculate, but the features offered in the Droid and other competing smart phones only raise the bar for the Iphone 4G (or whichever device is coming next). It's all good for the consumers!
  • Reply 17 of 128
    While I do appreciate that this is an Apple biased site... The statement that the Nexus one has "small amount of system RAM" is... well.. completely wrong.



    It has 512mb RAM <-- that is DOUBLE whats in the iphone 3GS (256mb). It is a very capable phone, there is no reason to dog it before its even out.
  • Reply 18 of 128
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by sherifone View Post


    While I do appreciate that this is an Apple biased site... The statement that the Nexus one has "small amount of system RAM" is... well.. completely wrong.



    It has 512mb RAM <-- that is DOUBLE whats in the iphone 3GS (256mb). It is a very capable phone, there is no reason to dog it before its even out.



    I?m pretty sure it should be interpreted to mean 512MB of built-in flash memory for system files without using a MicroSD card to offload data files for larger apps and personal media. I think that is a valid complaint and issue compared to phones with 8GB+ built-in flash storage that don?t require developer work arounds for large apps or a deliberate limiting app capabilities and refinement to reduce file sizes.
  • Reply 19 of 128
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by sprockkets View Post


    If you thought Att's 3G coverage sucked, wait until you use T-Mobile.



    That being said, I'd still use T-Mobile.



    I'm already using T-Mo, so I have nothing to lose. Also, I'm not particularly interested in 3G, just a marginally better phone than the one I'm using now.
  • Reply 20 of 128
    bigpicsbigpics Posts: 1,397member
    I'm beginning to see why some folk react negatively to Prince McClean's articles. They are, as tech posts go, well-written, sometimes exhaustive, pull together lots of disparate info both past and present, but have a slant that always seems to make Apple look a fairly omniscient, all-wise, etc. and this POV brings him to conclusions that go beyond those a less cheerleading observer might reach.



    There are lotsa smart people not working in Cupertino and lots of capital being invested in non-Apple efforts. And if there's a giant corporation people have as much positive attachment to as Apple, it's Google.



    I'd be guilty of the reverse bias if I compared what happened last time Apple had market share, mind share and unified platform/software advantage, i.e., the time just before the Apple II got crushed by a motley bunch of manufacturers with inconsistent implementations running multiple versions of an buggy, immature operating system from Microsoft. Guilty because Apple's not a tiny-start up with a garage feel and has spent 30 years building the best image and the most buzz in the entire tech world, so concluding they will inevitably be dethroned again by the sheer breadth of the competition would be an unjustifiable stretch.



    Still, they're not invulnerable and Msr. Jobs will retire someday - and his personal charisma, however tightly he's still able to hold the reins and how much mojo he personally brings to the office these days, is Apple's greatest public asset.



    And the iWhatever could yet turn into a solution looking for a problem and be the next Newton - really, really cool but not a mass success, or the 4G iPhone could just be a warmover (that's happened with Apple refreshes before as well) and the public is fickle.



    Or not. I'm just sayin' I'll still read Prince's articles, but more for the facts he pulls together than for his often over-extrapolated conjectures on same.
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