The gloves came off this past weekend. Verizon followed up their Anti-AT&T/Apple "There's a map for that" ads with the first of what promises to be a series of "iDon't" (but DroidDoes) ads touting the virtues of their forthcoming Android phone, thought to be called the Motorola Droid (pictured above). Smear campaigns make for good drama, but I'm not so sure that an Android-based device is quite ready for the weight of "iCan't" ads. Love 'em or hate 'em, it's hard to deny Apple's marketing mastery over the past few years, and the new DroidDoes ad is such a no-holds barred assault on all things iPhone, I can only imagine what's going on in a certain Mr. Jobs' office in Silicon Valley this rainy Monday morning.
As a side note, I am getting a big chuckle out of bloggers who decided that now would be the best time to go public with "LTE iPhone coming to Verizon next year! Confirmed!" posts (Really? Steve Jobs is going to put the 4G iPhone on a carrier running "iCan't" ads? Really?)
Apple, of course, is no stranger to smear ads - you'd be totally justified in saying they deserve a taste of their own medicine in the midst of those never-ending "I'm a Mac, I'm a PC" tv spots which, apparently, are about to be taken up a notch with the impending launch of Windows 7. The thing is, picking a marketing fight with Apple is kind of like starting a price war with WalMart: You might hate them and you might have the support of many a hater who wants nothing more than to see you mop up the floor with them, but history says you're in for a helluva fight.
There are plenty of iPhone haters out there. My friend Don just bought a Palm Pre. Before he did, he gave me his wish list for a new phone and asked me what I thought he should get. Based on his wants and needs, I suggested an iPhone 3GS. "Can't do it, man," he replied. "I will not buy an iPhone. Never." Some people love iPhone and think it's the coolest thing ever. Others hate everything about it, right down to the plucky indie rock and cheerful reminders of how many apps are out there to help you pick the right sushi, right subway line to get to the restaurant, and right Gap outfit to wear when you go out.
Personally, I've always had a love/hate relationship with all things Apple. I made fun of the original iPod to any and everyone who'd listen when it first came out. A few years later I bought a 3G iPod and it quickly became my favorite gadget. I've been called biased against Apple and an iPhone Fanboy by many a reader of our site, and, well, what can I tell you? Like every other phone I've ever tried I think iPhone has its Pros and Cons and could be your dream device or insanely frustrating, depending on what kind of user you are.
That being said, one thing iPhone is is consumer friendly. I've never met anyone who truly found iPhone hard to use. People who hate the closed ecosystem, sealed-in battery, or idea that a grid of icons doth a smartphone make? People who hate the perceived smugness of the lack of a hard QWERTY board, lack of a unified Email Inbox and that silver Apple logo on the back? Sure. But people who found iPhone a lot harder to use than other high-end mobile phones currently available? Nope.
And so I really have to wonder if an Android phone running on Verizon is ready to shoulder the load of an Anti-Apple fight to the death, even if it is the slickest, fastest Android phone to date, and even if it ships with Android 2.0, a giant touchscreen and a slim and comfy hard QWERTY keyboard as this early preview claims it is and will. Android is a very, very cool platform with a huge upside, but it's not altogether consumer-friendly yet. For you, the cell phone/tech enthusiast who reads a cell phone blog? Sure, it's easy to get around Android. But for Sally Consumer who's finally trading in that RAZR on a device that can browse the Web and store photos on the go? iPhone's grid of icons and one app at a time UX is pretty foolproof, but Android could present some challenges as it's not nearly so polished around the edges as iPhone OS (or Palm's WebOS, for that matter).
I'm very interested to see if and how Apple responds to the iDon't ad. A point-for-point response would be pretty easy: