How Long Until Droid Overtakes The iPhone?

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The release of exciting new Android handsets, led tomorrow by Motorola's Droid, and the anticipation of 30 more devices next year are making some users wonder: When do we switch from iPhone to Android?

At least, when do we start thinking about switching? My guess is next June, when we would normally expect the next iPhone to be released. If Apple makes the move to 4G wireless, multitasking apps, and deals with all the shortcomings Verizon raises in its "iDon't" Droid commercial, the iPhone will remain in the running.

By that time, we could have as many 50 Android devices to choose from. They will not all be high-end and there will be losers among them, but there will be enough to pose a competitive threat to Apple.

When the next iPhone comes out, Apple customers will begin making, in large numbers I think, decisions about their next mobile platform. Apple will not win all those decisions.

Gartner, remember, has already predicted that by 2012 Android will be the #2 smartphone OS, selling more devices each year than Apple will sell iPhones.

BusinessWeek was today speculating on how long it will be until there are as many Android apps available as iPhone apps--their guess is "in the next year or two." That is based on Flurry's noticing a huge increase in the number of Android apps in the development pipeline.

The prediction seems reasonable enough and even before that applications availability will become much less of a reason for selecting iPhone and not selecting Android.

Google still needs to understand how to match the might of Apple's iTunes Music Store and Apps Store. It is not a given that will happen, allowing the Apple ecosystem to continue to playing a huge role in iPhone success, perhaps well into 2012.

There is also the possibility that Google will come up with a game-changing Android application that will take the wind out of all three of its primary competitors' sails: iPhone, BlackBerry and, especially, the Palm Pre.

Bottom line: Android, with the introduction of the Verizon/Motorola Droid handset and the 2.0 version of the OS, is clearly on its way to becoming a serious iPhone challenger (says the former Android skeptic). Google's OS is catching the eyes of iPhone customers and in the not-to-distant future will be a direct, and major, competitor to Apple.

The iPhone's success has been built on a lack of meaningful competition, plus Apple's lead in music and applications sales. The iPhone also happens to be an excellent device.

However, it appears there will also be just-as-excellent Android devices, and when the applications support is there in numbers, Apple could find itself in the world of hurt.

David Coursey tweets as @techinciter and can be contacted via his Web site.

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