Since it’s unveiling 3 years ago, Apple’s iPhone has set the bar for aspiring rival smartphone developers with carrier-specific endorsements (AT&T), advertising strategies (“There’s an app for that”), and direct consumer purchasing point-of-sale techniques (the Apple Store and App Store). Until this point, no individual or combinatorial effort by any carrier, developer, or hardware manufacturer has even come close to challenging the iPhone as the reigning consumer-wide smartphone king. Until now that is: enter Google and their Android mobile operating system.
Everyone knows by now either someone who owns an Android-powered mobile phone or, at the very least, is aware of their existence and subsequent emergence onto the mobile scene. From rampant television/magazine advertising campaigns (“Droid Does”) to widespread carrier exposure (every major carrier now offers an Android-powered device) Google has careened into the headlines without apology, humility, or lack of bombast. As if that weren’t enough, the fact that these new devices are authored and owned by 3rd party Google, Inc. introduces instant brand recognition, mass online exposure, and buying power to the package – all of which are intended to eschrew control and dominion from the existing (and antiquated) marriage of device + carrier. In the true spirit of open-source principles and in direct contrast to Apple’s model Google has made their source code (as they have done with most of their projects) publically available to any and all would-be developers. Apple on the other hand rigorously controls access to their development channels, imposes monetary obstacles to realized access, and strictly moderates submitted applications by what can only be described as “whim.” But what does this mean to the average consumer? It means that the Android Marketplace (Google’s version of the App Store) will operate on a truly open-market system wherein the users will have relatively unfiltered access to a wide range of applications and aspiring developers will have equal opportunities to make a splash in the mobile application market. This will result in more variety, competition, and access within the ever-growing Android Marketplace which as of this writing currently hosts more than 30,000 unique apps.
On a larger scale, it also means that there is now a legitimate challenger to Apple’s game-changing iPhone in Google. Furthermore, Google has taken the necessary actions to insure that it’s model is supported from the ground up and could, should it choose to, directly challenge even the service carriers themselves. These developments will surely result in lowered costs all around as Google, Apple, RIM, and others vie to compete with one another on an ever-evolving scale of technological prowess and awe. It’s impossible to predict who will emerge victorious, but one thing is for certain: it’s a great time to be a mobile consumer.