Ever since Apple unveiled the iPhone in January 2007, its popularity and relevance in our wired world has been on the upswing. It started an App craze that revolutionized the way people use their phones for personal and professional use. From tracking your workouts to delivering lyrics to your favorite songs or driving your car -- "there's an App" for that is old hat.
Given the cultural phenomenon and intense relationships iPhone users have with their phones, could Google's DROID ever topple iPhone sales?
If you ask research giant Gartner, as reported by ComputerWorld, -- yes. The research giant estimated that by 2012 the new smartphone landscape will look something like this:
Symbian: 203 million handsets, 39 percent of the market
Google Android: 76 million handsets, 14.5 percent of the market
Apple iPhone OS: 71.5 million handsets, 13.7 percent of the market
Windows Mobile: 66.8 million handsets, 12.8 percent of the market
RIM BlackBerry OS: 65.25 million handsets, 12.5 percent of the market
Linux variants: 28 million handsets, 5.4 percent of the market
Palm webOS: 11 million handsets, 2.1 percent of the market
The best technology doesn't always win...remember the betemax vs. VHS showdown or today's Blu-ray vs. HD-DVD battles. It isn't just a battle for consumers, it's a battle for cost, allies and coolness.
Round 1: Cost
Google's Android operating system is free and open source making it inexpensive and customizable. There's no customization with the iPhone but that also means they have full control over the user experience. And with Windows Mobile, Microsoft's operating system, manufacturers pay $15 to $25 per phone. Clearly, Google can outpace iPhone's competition putting it one step closer to the coveted iPhone slot. Manufacturers like free. They also like the ability to customize devices and applications, which can help telecom providers better market and package mobile devices. Take Motorola's Moto Blur "Smart gets Social" that integrates social media updates, emails and texts. They have customized their handset device as a social media aggregator with the Android operating system.
Odds: Bet on DROID.
Round 2: Allies
Unlike the iPhone's one-pack alliance with AT&T, Google is casting a wider net. Not only has it partnered with several manufacturer's for the actual handsets (Samsung, LG, Kyocera, Sony Ericsson, HTC,DEll), it has also partnered with numerous telecom providers including Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile. So unlike the iPhone which is only available through AT&T, consumers won't have to switch providers for an Android and they will probably have a few dozen Android devices to choose from in the coming months.
When it comes to application developers, iPhone has cornered the market and developed airtight relationships that have culminated in relevant, popular applications -- that people are willing to pay for. These apps have been developed across all industries and are making major impact. Sarasota Memorial Hospital partnered with a company called Voalte recently for a physician paging system app.
Odds: Bet on iPhone. Though Google offers more choices for customers and carriers, Apple could extend its relationships with other telecom carriers in the future. But, Apple's relationship with application developers spurs great apps as well as commerce that can't be replicated in Android's opens source environment. Given the popularity of apps and the money they generate, iPhone wins this one.
Round 3: Coolness
Apple oozes cool. Its commercials, packaging, interface, sleek design -- everything says smooth. One look at today's mobile devices also tells you its the most imitated and emulated. If any one can take on the Apple cool, Google can. Google is one of the most loved brands in the world. They receive over 100,000 resumes a year and 65 percent of all online searches in the U.S. are done on The Search Engine. Considering news and information searches are the most popular smartphone activities and that Goggle has amassed more data on user search patterns and interaction design than any other company -- the Android is not only cool, its logical.
Odds: Toss up... Google offers a win-win for practical techies and trendsetters but Apple will continue to dazzle its current customer base with its ease of use and culture creep. The iPhone is an extension of its users, deeply personal and applicable to every area of their life.
So it looks like a toss up between the two formidable contenders. Like any tech battle, no one knows for sure how this will play out. We do know that with so much money at stake, smartphone manufacturers, carriers and developers will be vying for consumers' affections consistently and shrewdly. If the DROID ads poking at iPhone's weaker coverage area with AT&T and the mysterious product microsites focused around iDon't are any indication, we've got some phenomenal ad campaigns coming our away.