But watch out for the cult of Android
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Google finally launched its own Android phone this week, surrounded by buzz you’d expect of phones with an ‘i’ in front of their names. Yes, the term ‘iPhone killer’ was bandied about – like it is every time something in a tablet sort of style is launched – but Google hasn’t quite kicked the metaphorical sand all over Apple.
While the specs stand up to inspection – 3.7-inch OLED touch-screen, the latest, greatest version of Android yet, and of course, that hyperspeed 1Ghz processor – the demo at Tuesday’s US webcast showed a rather familiar user interface, jazzed up with 3D flourishes and stylish tweaks. And don’t forget the ‘ooh, shiny!’ factor – the first-gen iPhone won a Wallpaper design award; the Nexus One is coated in Teflon. Various geeks around the interweb seem fairly divided over whether it’s going to be a hit or a miss too.
I love Android, my tech hack friends love it, you probably love it since you’re on our site. But outside the bubble, it’s not a household name yet. Not surprising – Android is available on several phones, whereas the iPhone is just the iPhone. It’s hard to market operating systems, which are geeky; it’s easy to market shiny gadgets, which are sexy. Of course the thing that makes the iPhone great is its OS. But what you buy into is the hardware, which does everything you’d expect it to, when you’d expect it to.
So maybe now that Google finally has an own-brand phone to market the hell out of, the idea is for Android to match numbers with the iPhone. Well, according to John Lettice at The Register, Google hopes to sell at least 150,000 Nexus Ones. Apple moved five million iPhones six months after the launch back in 2007.
Richard Heap, head of telecoms at BDO LLP has another, bigger theory – Google wants you to use its services and lend exposure to its advertisers. ‘[This will allow Google to] gain direct access to valuable consumer data in the expanding smartphone market,’ he said. ‘This can be used to sell advertising at a premium price.’ And we all know the sprawl of Google’s cloud services – Gmail, Maps, and Earth are just the popular ones.
There’s also the fact that the Nexus One will be sold exclusively by Google online, whether you buy it on operator contract or not. That makes it the first phone ever sold directly to consumers this way.
Does Google want to own the entire mobile stack from the hardware to the airwaves? In the States, the Nexus One even comes with Google Voice, which allows unlimited free local calls and very cheap international calls using VOIP, potentially reducing operators to little more than a pipe to funnel phones through.
Whatever Google wants to be – retailer, manufacturer, omnipresent phone-thing – iPhone killer isn’t one of them. I wonder if it’ll spawn an Android ecosystem the way Apple has grown one for Mac though.