Brand power -- or was iPhone's competition Android or no-iPhone?
The Verizon iPhone is coming February 10 and some of the big questions are: who will leave the AT&T iPhone for the Verizon iPhone, who will leave the Verizon Droid for the Verizon iPhone, and most importantly, what will the next huge wave of Verizon feature phone upgraders choose?
AT&T's reception -- or the lack thereof in some areas -- will certainly propel some current iPhone users to switch networks (our poll shows about 19% of TiPb readers are considering doing just that). Some wanted the iPhone badly enough that they tolerated a poor network experience for years but now that they have the choice they'll switch to a network that better suits their needs as soon as contract and/or cash allow.
On the flip side some wanted the iPhone but just couldn't or wouldn't live with AT&T service in their area so stuck with Verizon and got BlackBerry Storms or, especially lately, Verizon Droids. I'm deliberately using Droid and not Android because, like it or not, Android is not a mainstream brand. And no matter how much market metric companies like to graph it, it's not a phone any consumer can buy. Droid is, in several models, and thanks to Verizon's massive advertising campaign coupled with Google's powerful software, it's a phone that gained some mainstream mindshare.
(Samsung's Galaxy S, while popular, has a fragmented brand with different names on every carrier so despite incredible sales it collectively doesn't enjoy the same level of mainstream mindshare.)
No doubt many people bought Droids because they love Android. They're probably the same people who know what Android is and specifically why it's great at what it does. They also know Galaxy S and the other models. Many others just wanted a smartphone and Droid did -- original, Pro, 2, Incredible, Bionic, etc. They went into the store and it was a brand they recognized thanks to Verizon's advertising and, with the only other recognizable brand being BlackBerry, they probably picked one or the other (increasingly Droid based on the share numbers).
Now those same customers will walk in and see iPhone. Money Verizon used to spend on marketing Droid is now also being used to market iPhone on Verizon. Apple is also marketing iPhone on Verizon. AT&T will continue to market iPhone (Verizon and AT&T will be competing not just for users but for iPhone users and that benefits the iPhone brand). No one else is marketing Droid.
Some who previously bought BlackBerry Storm or Droid will switch to iPhone, also when cash and/or contract allows. Some will stay with both (productivity mavens and power users), but those who wanted the iPhone and couldn't get it will switch when they can.
Existing smartphone users are also only the tip of the iceberg. The giant, ship-crushing base of the iceberg is feature phone users who either waited for the iPhone or see the iPhone as just another phone they'll enjoy using (as opposed to other, more complicated even if more powerful smartphones). The partial migration of AT&T iPhone users and Verizon BlackBerry and Droid users is one thing. The inevitable migration of mainstream feature phone to mainstream smartphone users is another. Because right now iPhone is almost synonymous with mainstream smartphone.
Right now Verizon customers going into a Verizon store to get a new phone might recognize BlackBerry or Droid. Next month they absolutely will recognize iPhone. Just look at how Verizon is positioning it:
- iPhone is front and center on the Verizon home page
- Click on Verizon's Phone menu and what choices do you get? iPhone, smartphone, feature phone.
Not only is iPhone listed first, Droid and BlackBerry aren't listed at all. You have to dig for them. [Daring Fireball]
The number of Droid users -- of all Android users -- on Verizon today is small compared to the number of iPhone users on AT&T. Collectively, across all US networks, Android phones have numbers that equal or beat iPhone just on AT&T. [New York Times]
Next month iPhone will be on Verizon as well. How many will switch to iPhone from Droid? How many will switch to the Verizon iPhone as their first smartphone? No one knows for sure but the number will pass 1 million very quickly, probably in the first week, and several million, probably the first quarter.
Up until now the choice may have been iPhone on AT&T or Droid on Verizon. It also may have been iPhone on AT&T or no-iPhone on Verizon. We'll find out which next month. My suspicion is Apple's investment in brand will pay huge dividends and will be something other OS makers and manufacturers will have to start taking much more seriously.