Verizon iPhone Arrives: Is Android In Trouble?

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Verizon iPhone Arrives: Is Android In Trouble?
Ladies and gentlemen, the day has finally arrived: The Verizon iPhone is officially a reality.

No joke: Unlike the past 7.2 billion times the iPhone's Verizon launch was absolutely, definitely confirmed to be imminent, Apple's prized product is actually making its way to Big Red this go-round. The iPhone 4 will become available to current Verizon Wireless subscribers on February 3, with orders opening up to everyone else a week later.

Naturally, the Internet is brimming with reactions and predictions, many of which include the inevitable cries of "Sayonara, Android!" -- a suggestion that the iPhone's expansion will mark the end of Android's impressive growth streak in the U.S. mobile market. Now, I know the tech world loves nothing more than finding a new reason to toss the hyperbolic "killer" label around (I'm still waiting for Facebook's messaging service to deliver that final deathblow to Gmail, by the way), but let's take a moment to put things in perspective.

Verizon iPhone and the Mobile Market

First and foremost, as a device, the new Verizon iPhone really isn't new at all. It's a six-month-old handset that, in all likelihood, will be replaced with a newer, shinier, even more magical model this summer. Will that stop hoards of Apple-loving masses from rushing out to buy one nonetheless? Of course not. But it will significantly dull the device's "Android-killing" blade.

Think about it: You buy a Verizon iPhone now, and -- provided that Apple follows its typical once-a-year product release cycle -- the new iPhone 5 comes along in June, precisely four months after you signed the dotted line. Whether or not Verizon ends up getting the latest model right away, you're suddenly going to feel like a second-class citizen and first-rate chump.

And yes, I know: Practically any mobile device you buy nowadays is surpassed by something bigger and better within a matter of months. But in most cases, it's a new and different model that dances into the world -- not a direct replacement of the same device by the same manufacturer. That's gonna sting.

That factor aside, the iPhone just isn't the shining star of the mobile galaxy anymore. Some incredibly innovative devices debuted at the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas last week, and many of them are set to show up in stores within the next few months. Anyone who can look at a phone like the Motorola Atrix and instantly write it off as inferior has probably been drinking a bit too much of the Cupertino Kool-Aid. Countless other phones are popping up with 4G functionality and other hardware and software capabilities the iPhone 4 simply can't match. In the end, it all comes down to personal preference -- but there's no denying that, Verizon iPhone or not, the competition is still a fierce force for Apple to overcome.

Verizon iPhone and the Android Question

In the big picture, Android -- Apple's chief competitor within the U.S. mobile platform market -- is by no means perfect. Some Android manufacturers are falling behind and taking far too long to deliver software upgrades, even on high-end devices (here's lookin' at you, Samsung). But the foundation is solid, and for those who want a choice in hardware or software -- or heck, just the ability to customize their home screens beyond simple rows of static icons -- there's no shortage of options available.

Verizon's iPhone will undoubtedly attract plenty of new users, likely combining refugees from AT&T along with new customers and existing subscribers looking for a change. But Android's momentum is strong -- after posting nonstop meaty gains in market share for months now, the platform just surpassed Apple in total number of U.S. subscribers, according to recent data by ComScore -- and the punches are still flying fast across every U.S. carrier. While Apple will almost certainly make some immediate subscriber gains thanks to its Verizon expansion, outpacing Android's growth over the long haul would be one hell of a feat to accomplish.

However things pan out, we can rest easy knowing that we as consumers will inevitably benefit from the battle, regardless of which platform we prefer. As the competition continues to heat up, the phone-makers will be forced to fight even harder for our buying dollar -- and that means more innovation, better pricing, and better service for us all. Ultimately, in the race for mobile dominance, the users always win.

JR Raphael is a PCWorld contributing editor and the author of the Android Power blog. He has his own theories as to how the Verizon iPhone will change the world.

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