On paper, Verizon's Droid by Motorola seems like it should destroy the iPhone. Its 3.7-inch 480x854 display is dumbfounding compared to Apple's 3.5-inch 480x320 screen. It manages to include a slide-out QWERTY keyboard, yet at 0.54-inches it's scarcely thicker than the iPhone's 0.48-inches. It has a turn-by-turn GPS right out of the box, while the same feature on the iPhone will knock you back an extra $100. Yet, all this is not enough for the Droid to earn the status of "iPhone killer." For that, it will need to rob the iPhone of its customers, and it won't come even close.
Sure, the Droid's 5MP autofocus camera with a flash bests the iPhone's 3.2MP. Sure, it has an SD card slot, and a removable battery. The iPhone has never been a spec sheet standout. There have always been phones with better cameras, keyboards, and more checkboxes on their feature sheets. The iPhone's success has always defied its limitations, and that's due to its refined interface and intuitive and patented gestures.
While the Android 2.0 OS is closing the usability gap, the iPhone has reached critical mass. It's managed to garner a loyal following, and habit and familiarity are powerful things. Every year Apple refreshes the iPhone platform making it more capable and powerful. Apple knows when its competition is gaining an edge and heads them off at the next revision. Apple customers know this and would rather wait to get a better version of what they already know than hassle with a new platform.
People have grown comfortable with what David Coursey calls the iPhone's "ecosystem". People know how to use iTunes, the App store, and iPod controls. Apple has had years to refine the relationship between these apps, and because it controls all facets, it makes sure that users have a consistent experience.
Let's not forget about the apps themselves. While the Android market place has an impressive 10,000 applications, the App store blows that out of the water with a number approaching 100,000. Every iPhone user has a handful of apps they just can't do without.
Apple products have always been as much about what's on the outside as what is on the inside. While the Droid is attractive in its own right, it's still just another slider with lots of buttons. It fails to threaten the iPhone's designer look. The sad truth is that appearances matter more than people let on.
What the Droid does accomplish is strengthening the Android movement. Android as a platform is showing itself to be a major player in the smartphone arena, with dozens of current and future phones on all major networks. However, Android will edge out Blackberry, Palm and Windows Mobile before it makes a dent in the iPhone market. iPhone customers have proven to be too loyal and resilient to adandon their handset of choice.
Still, while the Droid likely won’t knock down Apple’s mobile empire, it’s rightfully generating a healthy buzz and is sure to leave gadget geeks feeling smug.
Michael Scalisi is an IT manager based in Alameda, California.