Google Phone Not a Threat to iPhone


figure 1: Gene Munster. Gene, I didn't mean to treat you bad.

The Google mobile phone operating system known as Android has been getting a lot of press lately, and one of the more interesting angles I've seen in the past few days is that Android isn't meant to compete with the Apple iPhone. Gene Munster, an oft-quoted analyst at Piper Jaffray with plenty to say about the iPhone, thinks that the iPhone is aimed at a much higher market than any phones built with Google's Android.

"We believe Google is working with, not against, Apple in the mobile world."
They do share a key executive, Eric Schmidt, who sits on the board at Apple and is chief executive at Google. It's unlikely that the two companies would allow a massive conflict of interest like that. I (unfairly?) made fun of Gene Munster in the past for posting wildly optimistic sales estimates of the iPhone, but he's probably right about this one. Google's use of webkit as the browser on Android reinforces Apple, and by the time Android phones are actually released, iPhones will be even farther ahead in terms of features -- Android doesn't even support wi-fi or bluetooth yet. It could easily be that Apple is trying to grab the high-end customers and Android is aiming for everyone else.

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p> It can tough to position a software product with the masses when it doesn't cost anything. In a lot of people's minds, this is true: no cost = worthless. But it's that same quality makes it attractive to handset makers, it allows them to push prices down. Multiple handset makers shipping multiple phones with one operating system (like Windows Mobile) tend to push prices down, since those handset makers compete with each other. If those same handset makers can shop a Google phone to carriers at less cost than they could make a Windows Mobile phone, it becomes attractive to them. It becomes attractive to carriers, since they don't have to do as much work to brand all of those featurephones with weird RTOS operating systems, they just have to brand Android once, and they don't have to share their intellectual property with anyone.

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Reader comments

Google Phone Not a Threat to iPhone

8 Comments

How is offering the iPhone web experience on a different platform not going to hurt the iPhone? Especially if its on a free touchscreen phone?
Surur

Apple doesn't want customers that would buy a free phone. $0 phones is where I think Android is headed. Apple wants customers that would pay $600^H^H^H^H$400 -- the high-end customers. And web apps that work with Android will work with the iPhone, creating a complementary ecosystem. It further drives web developers to target webkit as a necessary platform. I think it reinforces Apple.
Apple gets a partner to reinforce the web aspect of their platform while not having to pander to the low end of smartphone customers, which they historically don't want to do.
Do you think that android will hurt the iPhone?

There's another angle of Android that I think is fascinating, that traditionally vocal open source advocates aren't all that fond of it, because it's not GPL and companies are allowed to add or remove functionality as they see fit with little to no recourse for the users.
I think this is designed to sell featurephone users on proto-smartphones that will put eyeballs on google ads and have google be the default search and have google be the default map and gmail be the default mail client. That and the whole "expanding the pie" talk that Palm is so fond of.

That and the whole "expanding the pie" talk that Palm is so fond of.
How's that working out for Palm again?
The fact is that the web browser, not the Ipod, is the iPhone's killer app. Providing a similar experience for cheaper will take away a lot of the wow factor from the iPhone, especially if branded by a trusted and hip brand like Google.
Surur

The fact is that the web browser, not the Ipod, is the iPhone's killer app. Providing a similar experience for cheaper will take away a lot of the wow factor from the iPhone, especially if branded by a trusted and hip brand like Google.
Different folks, different killer apps I'd guess.
Anecdote. During my brief time as an iPhone owner I gave the phone to my 18-year-old daughter. First thing she did was start listening to songs (ones that fall into the very the limited overlap between our musical tastes). She then spent spent the next hour on Facebook. I'd say for her both iPod and Safari were the killer apps. Me too really.
Incidentally, she seriously wanted an iPhone, a debate that ended with "HOW MUCH?" :)

How's that working out for Palm again?
The fact is that the web browser, not the Ipod, is the iPhone's killer app. Providing a similar experience for cheaper will take away a lot of the wow factor from the iPhone, especially if branded by a trusted and hip brand like Google.
Surur
I won't say that Safari is unimportant by any means, it's probably my favorite thing about the iPhone along with the screen real estate and form factor. But I think putting Safari in front of the iPod is putting the cart before the horse.
There's much less purpose to an iPhone that isn't also firing on all cylinders as an iPod -- what else would the 8GB of storage be used for? You can't (yet?) use it in USB disk mode, and you can't (yet?) download files with safari... all I can think of that would use up that space is mail attachments.
It's a converged device. Apple wants people to look at their old ipod nano or zune or creative mp3 player and their featurephone and/or smartphone and think "I could replace both of these with an iPhone."
And then they're using iTunes and installing Safari on their PC and buying a mac and etc. etc... It's their whole "digital hub" strategy.
If you wanted to pin me down to the one killer app, I think I'd say it was the iPhone's usability. I think that's what brings the wow factor.
Different folks, different killer apps I'd guess.
Anecdote. During my brief time as an iPhone owner I gave the phone to my 18-year-old daughter. First thing she did was start listening to songs (ones that fall into the very the limited overlap between our musical tastes). She then spent spent the next hour on Facebook. I'd say for her both iPod and Safari were the killer apps. Me too really.
Incidentally, she seriously wanted an iPhone, a debate that ended with "HOW MUCH?" :)
Sorry to read that your trial didn't work out, btw. I've had suspicions about the iPhone's reception, but the smartphone round robin has taught me that AT&T's coverage at my house just simply blows no matter which phone I use; it could be that you got a bad unit.
I've been thinking about unlocking mine and heading back to T-Mobile. Visual voicemail doesn't do me any good when EDGE coverage isn't enough for me to download voicemails at home. Maybe I'd be happier with simulscribe anyway.

Sorry to read that your trial didn't work out, btw. I've had suspicions about the iPhone's reception, but the smartphone round robin has taught me that AT&T's coverage at my house just simply blows no matter which phone I use; it could be that you got a bad unit.
I've been thinking about unlocking mine and heading back to T-Mobile. Visual voicemail doesn't do me any good when EDGE coverage isn't enough for me to download voicemails at home. Maybe I'd be happier with simulscribe anyway.
Cheers. It would have to have been two bad units as I did try a replacement.
I thought about unlocking and might see how the Orange FR thing pans out (I expect you'll need a French iTunes account). Probably just wait for the 3G version though.

jeez, I find myself actually agreeing with surur. Any phone that provides comparable web browsing capabilities is a threat to the iPhone.
Google's plans are pretty damned vague though. Are they planning to be a handheld platform provider, a handheld manufacturer, a wireless carrier, or all of the above? If they go the wireless carrier route, I just don't see other carriers offering Google phones. End of threat.