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Google's Android Branding Dilemma

Posted by Matthew Moore on October 21, 2011 11:01 AM

Google has a problem, and it's not Apple — despite the just revealed tidbit that Steve Jobs threatened "thermonuclear war" on Android for what he saw as "grand theft."

Despite the iPhone's popularity — Apple sold 4 million units the first weekend the iPhone 4S was available — the Android platform now dominates the smartphone market Blackberry and Apple pioneered. According to a recent comScore report, the Android platform accounted for 43.7% of the smartphone market compared to 27.3% for Apple's iOS platform.

Growing market share is good, right? So what's Google's problem? The problem is the lack of a coherent brand image. Because iOS is only available on the iPhone, consumers know what they are going to get with an iPhone. If you walk into a Verizon store, a salesperson may have to explain to you the nuances between an iPhone 4 and 4S, but it's all pretty simple.

In fact, there are a total of six combinations available at Verizon. You basically decide whether or not you want the 4 or 4S and which size hard drive you would like. Include the choice between white and black and you get 12 possible choices. As a matter of fact, walk into an Apple store looking for a computer, and it's much the same. Simplicity in a complicated world. Such was Steve Jobs' genius.

Google's Android operating system, on the other hand, is used by numerous manufacturers. While this strategy has resulted in astonishing sales growth for Android handsets, it also creates competition between devices on the same platform, and ultimately, confusion for consumers. Walk into a Verizon store looking for an Android handset and you'll have 23 different phones to choose from. We're not talking about 23 different combinations of the same phone. We're talking about 23 different phones produced by seven different manufacturers. In case you were wondering, only one of those is available in more than one color.

Over the past month, we experienced the launch of the iPhone 4S amidst a flurry of announcements from the Android pack. Motorola announced the new Droid Razr to the chagrin of many a Droid Bionic owner, and Samsung announced its new Galaxy Nexus phone. The new phones both run on Verizon's 4G LTE, but the Droid Razr uses Android Gingerbread while the Nexus runs Android's newest platform, Ice Cream Sandwich. If you don't like those phones, you can also choose from such brilliantly named devices as the Charge, Stratosphere, Thunderbolt, and Enlighten. Confused yet?

Consumers certainly are confused. Now that Google has propelled its platform to the top of the smartphone industry, it should begin to take more control over its own brand so it isn't tarnished by its own success.


nw United States says:

blah blah blah what was the point of the article it has a lot of words and says...nothing.  The consumer wants options and that is what they got.

October 21, 2011 12:01 PM #

Brand Developmet United States says:

I agree that there is confusion within Android and competing manufacturers. What this will do in the long run is deteriorate the Android brand while Apple's brand continues to strengthen. When Android makes the decision to go for more market share, it will be based on price and not preference. This will make them into a Suzuki or Bridgestone where Android is making everything from tires to golf balls.

October 21, 2011 12:22 PM #

Ytram United States says:

So you're saying that providing options to consumers is a bad thing?  It's one of the reasons that Apple has such a small market share in the dying PC market, and the reason it doesn't have the plurality market share in the mobile phone market.  They lock it into their own hardware.  There's no denying that they're successful and make a ton of money with their approach, but it's not the way to get market share.

It was only recently that they provided some more mid-range options on pricing as well.  And $100 for 16GB more memory for each step in their models is ridiculous.  Memory doesn't cost that much.

October 21, 2011 12:52 PM #

Matthew Ryan Moore United States says:

I never said that multiple options for consumers was a bad thing. What the article was intended to show is that Google's lack of control over its product has led to customer confusion in the marketplace. Re your market share point, market share is useless if you can't produce profit. There is a reason that Apple is now one of the largest companies in the world by market capitalization. They produce premium products and make a lot of profit in doing so. That’s what investors value. If they can sell an extra 16GB for $100, what’s wrong with that? That’s the beauty of a free market – if consumers don’t want to pay the extra $100 they won’t, and the company will suffer through lost sales. Fortunately for Apple, its customers have been more than willing to shell out their cash.

This article was never intended to address which platform is more open. Frankly I don’t think the average users cares, but, without a doubt, Android is a more open platform. I'm a happy user of the Android platform, and I'm not looking to switch to iOS anytime soon. That said, it's fairly obvious how Google's offering is more complicated and thus confusing to the average soccer mom who goes into a Verizon or AT&T store looking to buy a phone, especially when you have two or three phones and a new operating system all dropping within the same week. It's more or less an alphabet soup of cell phone names, operating systems and cell phone networks. Apple’s success, to the contrary, has been built on its ability to create buzz around a few hot products, all sold with simplicity in mind. Every new product announcement is followed with long lines around the block at Best Buys and cell phone stores. When was the last time you saw that with an Android phone? If you miss the launch of the next new phone, just wait two weeks and there will be a new "must-have" Android phone by a different manufacturer.

October 21, 2011 02:26 PM #

Dan T. United States says:

I think you can draw comparisons to the IBM compatible PC's of years ago.  You create a market among Android devices that is so competitive it is hard to make a profit and hard to distinguish between the products.  We are already seeing a reliance on specifications to set each successive model apart from the other, whereas Apple has minimized the importance of the hardware and focused more effort on a unique user experience.

October 21, 2011 05:12 PM #

Kevin T United States says:

When the iPhone was first introduced the BlackBerry faithful called it a toy. Fast forward a few years and BlackBerry is non-existent. Google's prostitution of the Android OS has made it the cheap date with a lack of personality so the pimps, er, manufacturers, give their versions cutesie names like their marketing toys to children. Let Google sell more Android-based OS than Apple sells iPhones. Apple has been down this road before when Microsoft out-sold Apple with PC operating systems. Instead of fighting off the competition, Apple offered us the future. Besides, Google Android is merely an Apple iOS forgery.

October 24, 2011 08:17 AM #

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