Saturday, July 30, 2011

Pent up iPhone 5 demand makes Droid Bionic, X2 bystanders in late 2011

Twitter users are aware of the popular lead-in “that awkward moment” which often surfaces as users share their own. With the pent up demand for the late arriving iPhone 5 at stratospheric levels according to multiple independent surveys, the smartphone equivalent for the second half of 2011 could end up reading “That awkward moment when Verizon brings the Droid Bionic and Droid X2 to market as mere bystanders and no one cares, not even Verizon itself.” The carrier’s CEO is on record as stating that its growth hopes are tied to the iPhone 5 launch, with no mention of its own in-house Droid phones in the same breath. That’s because Verizon appears to already know what has been confirmed independently: the public wants the iPhone 5, before it even knows what the iPhone 5 is.
“But wait,” you say. “How can people know they want the iPhone 5 when they don’t know what it looks like or a single new feature it’ll offer?” Simple: Apple laid down a baseline for what the iPhone is all about back in 2007. It’s a consumer oriented phone, straightforward and universally understandable with very few concessions to the kind of geeks who like things to be complicated. Since then, each new iPhone has taken a step forward from the one before it, offering better hardware in a smaller package with even more ease of use factors built in. The iPhone 5, then, can safely be assumed to follow the same path. Plus Apple has already shown off big chunks of iOS 5, the official operating system of the iPhone 5, without explicitly stating that they’re iPhone 5 features. That’s why, according to one survey from ChangeWave and another from PriceGrabber, anywhere from thirty-four to forty-six percent (respectively) of the general public says they want the iPhone 5 once it hits the market. That level of pent-up demand is nearly unfathomable considering that the majority of the U.S. population doesn’t even yet own a smartphone of any kind. And it explains a lot about sales of Android based phones up to this point.

When combined, sales of all types of Android phones have been collectively phenomenal. But break it down to individual models and you’ll see that it’s the carrier-based Android phones like the Verizon Droid which have been the successful ones, while Android phones like the Nexus, which wasn’t promoted by any specific carrier, have boomed. That suggests that Android sales are more a result of carriers telling their customers what to buy and those customers sheepishly going along with it; combined with the fact that the first four iPhones launched only on AT&T with no presence on Verizon, Sprint, or T-Mobile, and it’s easy to understand how those three carriers were able to steer their customers toward Android and why they were motivated to do so. And if Verizon still gave a damn about the Droid, it could probably help breathe life into the X2 and the Bionic. But instead those phones will now only cater to the kind of geeks who like needlessly complicated interfaces so using their smartphone can feel like a challenge, and value hackability over practical usability. So why is Verizon not even bothering to try on the Droid side anymore?
Combined Android sales are of no consolation to any individual carrier, as Verizon was losing customers to AT&T for the iPhone en masse as the AT&T iPhone 4 was outselling all Verizon Droid phones combined by a more than two to one ratio. It’s no wonder, then, that Verizon begged Apple for an aging iPhone 4 even before the iPhone 5 was ready, and has since lined up the iPhone 5 as its new flagship phone by its own admission.
Word has spread to Verizon customers that the iPhone 4 has come their direction, just as word has spread that there will be an iPhone 5 before the year is over. So while the Verizon iPhone 4 has served as a band aid to help Verizon stop losing customers in the mean time, the bulk of that base has instead eyed the iPhone 5 as the one they’ll move to. Combine that with the hordes of AT&T users who skipped the iPhone 5 and have been clinging to their 3G or 3GS out of fear of the various faux-controversies surrounding the iPhone 4 or the lack of available inventory during its first few months on the market, who are now eyeing the iPhone 5 as their next phone as well, and it’s not that difficult to see where the hordes of iPhone 5 demand are coming from. Apple has spent years building up iPhone mindshare even as it kept the first four iPhones locked away under the glass case known as AT&T. Now that it’s ready to officially play both sides (some are hoping all four sides) of the carrier game, the iPhone 5 is in a position to achieve the kind of dominant marketshare its cousins like the iPad and iPod have always enjoyed, and make late 2011 a stretch in which the world (outside of the geekdom) collectively forgets the word “Android” as it finally embraces the iPhone it wanted all along. Here’s more on the iPhone 5.

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