By Joe Levi | February 11, 2013 11:58 AM
“Hey, is that the new Galaxy?” No, it’s a Android-powered Galaxy Nexus. “Yeah? I love Droids!” Those are from Verizon, and they’re primarily made my Motorola, this one’s on T-Mobile and made by Samsung. “Oh! So it is a Galaxy!” – #FACEPALM -
Face it, you’re either on the frustrated side of that conversation, or you’re the one doing the frustrating. But it’s not your fault: Android-powered smartphones and tablets are suffering from an identity crisis.
I love that Android is as successful as it is! We have 53.4% of the market share. I’ve got co-workers that have a Note II, a couple Galaxy S III‘s, and a few name-brand DROIDs. My family and most of my friends use Android-powered smartphones and tablets. That means we’re winning the battle, right? Why doesn’t anyone seem to know what “Android” is?
I’ve mentioned in previous articles that Android’s greatest strength is its flexibility. Virtually anyone can pick up the source code and release a product that runs the Android OS — and those products aren’t just limited to phones and tablets. The Android operating system powers televisions from various manufacturers thanks to Google TV, and even extends our YouTube and Play Videos to our TVs via the ill-fated Nexus Q. Various OEMs are baking Android into HDMI dongles that get power from the TVs that you plug them into, and give you a completely connected Android experience thanks to built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. All that and we haven’t even mentioned smartphones and tablets, upon which Android is the current king.
None of that matters
Despite the fact that Android has over 50% of the market, it’s not really “Android” that can claim that crown. Instead, the statistics would better reflect the percentage of Samsung Galaxy devices, Verizon DROID devices, and then everything else that’s powered by Android. If you were to do that the numbers would be significantly lower than 50%.
Does it matter? Some might say that Android is Android, and it doesn’t matter who makes it. I used to belong to that camp. Not any more. Why? Look at the chart. Apple and Microsoft are brand names, and “RIMM” is now BlackBerry — and is still a strong brand. “Android”, however, is an architecture and ecosystem that powers devices by various manufacturers — each of which has their own brand name. Few leverage the Android brand.
Why are brands important?
People remember brands. They recognize them. Ultimately, people become loyal to a brand as long as that brand treats them well, but quickly shed that brand when it treats them poorly.
Samsung has their Galaxy brand which covers smartphones from high-end to entry level — I’m pretty sure they even have a “Galaxy” branded washer/dryer on the market. If your last phone was a Galaxy and you liked it, chances are you’re going to get another Galaxy when that one needs replacing or upgrading. The same goes with Verizon’s DROID brand.
Notice what’s missing? “Android” isn’t there — even though Android is what’s powering the Galaxies and DROIDs, the name is conspicuously absent not just in marketing, but in brand recognition.
Why will that kill Android?
Brand fragmentation ultimately leads to brand irrelevance. Samsung and Verizon are busy building up their brand names, becoming more popular and more well-known by the people that matter: those who buy their products.
Samsung, for example, could switch gears and go with Windows Phone on their next “Galaxy” device. Their brand would still be in place, and those loyal to the brand would be more likely to try out the “new and improved” Galaxy — some wouldn’t even care that it’s not Android.
And therein likes the problem.
OEMs are so busy building brands for themselves that Android itself is suffering, and will continue to suffer. Sure, you’re thinking let’s just call them something like the “Samsung Android Galaxy”, right? Unfortunately it’s not that easy.
Ideally, everyone who makes an Android product would market it using the Android font in “Android green”, with Andy the Android somewhere prominent in the marketing materials. They’d also use the word “Android” somewhere in the title. That’s not as easy as it sounds. Google’s brand usage guidelines prevent companies from doing all that.
In the meantime…
For the time being, those of us in the Android camp will have to make due with a 50%+ market share, but we’ve also got to be ready for that number to swing wildly out of our favor. People like brands. They like what makes them feel comfortable, and right now “Android” isn’t that brand.
What do you think? Are Google’s guidelines too strict? Should OEMs be emphasizing Android over their own brand? If various OEMs don’t band together, will they ultimately lose their market share and take the Android brand along with it? It’s your turn to sound off! Let us know what you think in the comments below!
Data Source: comScore via Forbes