The upshot of all of the Apple news/hype/chatter last week was that I heard from a lot of Android fans. A LOT of you. Some of you wanted to know if I thought iPad was any good. Others of you wanted me to know how much you hate Apple - the company, the products, and the users. Most of you fell somewhere in between.
You all got me thinking about Android. Not about whether it's "better" or "worse" than iPhone or any other mobile OS, but about its future.
According to the most recent comScore reports, BlackBerry still leads the US smartphone market with 42.1% of the subscribers. Apple is second with 25.4%, and Google is fourth (behind Microsoft) with 9.0%. The thing about Google's share, though, is that it more than doubled over the past three months while BlackBerry and Apple more or less held steady (and Microsoft lost 4%). Google rose from a 3.8% share in November 2009 to 9% as of February 2010, thanks in large part to the success of Verizon's Motorola Droid and HTC Droid Eris.
So what does Google do now to close the gap on BlackBerry and Apple (Microsoft is going to lose more ground at least until Windows Phone 7 ships this Fall)?
Google got a healthy boost this past Fall and Winter when the first Android devices came to Verizon. But with Droid's marketing campaign (thankfully) fading out and Droid Eris officially marked End of Life, Google needs another high-profile Android phone on US retail shelves. And, frankly, they need it on AT&T and/or Verizon shelves - T-Mobile and Sprint just don't have the subscriber base right now to really push the needle when it comes to Android's market share.
Nexus One ain't gonna do it, at least not so long as Google remains hell-bent on self-sabotaging the device by marketing, selling and supporting it themselves. Between mounting hardware and service complaints and the sheer fact that you never, ever see an N1 when you walk into a cell phone, this thing just isn't selling like a "superphone" should. And Motorola's Backflip won't do it either, at least not so long as AT&T remains hell-bent on removing every trace of Google from the thing before putting it in the same room as their iPhone lineup.
Enter the HTC Incredible, all but certain to launch on Verizon by the end of this month. Incredible will be a super-er version of Nexus One, complete with a user interface that will actually catch shoppers' eyes in stores (HTC Sense is flashier than stock Android), a new optical trackball, and bumped up camera specs. Assuming it works as it should and is priced decently, Incredible should have the looks, specs, and flair to add some new subscribers to Verizon and Google's head count.
One phone can't do it all by itself (apologies to Apple/AT&T, of course), but it's incredibly important for Google's momentum to have at least one new(ish), eye-catching, high-profile device on retail shelves at all times. Droid's been out long enough - and Sprint and T-Mo are small enough - that Google needs Verizon to get a sexy new Android phone to market now. Incredible is it, and it can't come soon enough.