I remember a couple of years ago when Brandon told me we were hiring somebody to focus on Android, whom we’re lucky to still have with us today and you all know and love – Mr. Joe Levi. Android was so small back then, that I remember acknowledging the need to consider it, but still questioning if it was going to grow enough to justify the expansion. Back then Android was the underdog, and the world was full of Palm Treos, Windows Mobile smartphones, a couple of iPhones here and there, and both Nokia and BlackBerry shared the top of the food chain.
We’ve always questioned Google’s decision to partner with T-Mobile for the launch of the first-ever Android phone, the HTC G1, but hey, who would’ve known that Android would grow to be what it is today, right? I remember that it was a rocky road to the top for Android, and many of us still believe today that the best thing that could ever happen to the platform was competition. At times when the iPhone was growing significantly in market share when compared to everything else, the fact that the device was exclusive to AT&T was Android’s blessing in disguise. Every other carrier was skeptical over how to compete against Apple’s new phone, and with the fumbling around that every smartphone giant did back then as they underestimated the iPhone, Android was the only platform that seemed capable of making a dent.
Verizon saw the potential of Android early on. It was free, it was open (to them at least), and they could make of it whatever they wanted, with whichever partner they wanted. The team that Motorola and Verizon put together to create what we know today as the Droid line-up, which later included HTC even Samsung devices, was destined to succeed. I still find their Droid campaign to be one of the smartest moves in marketing history. Still today, people don’t refer to an Android phone as an Android phone, but as a Droid. It gives you a clear idea of how well the campaign affected our perception of a product.
The Droid line-up was the anti-iPhone. Where the iPhone had simplicity, the Droid had complexity. Where the iPhone was unique in the fact that it only offered one phone, the Droid line-up had no limits in the amount of handsets they could over. At times when transitioning away from a QWERTY keyboard was still a taboo with an iPhone, the Droid line-up didn’t force you to choose and gave you a slide-out QWERTY out of the box. The Droid was about you, and not about forcing you to adapt to anything, and that’s why it was Android’s first break into popularity.
Sadly, as with almost every popular brand in history, styles change and the success and recognition of a product are just temporary things. Seriously, how many friends do you know today that have decided to buy a Droid? I’m not talking about those who still use one of the old Droids, since hey, not everyone can swap their smartphone all the time, but the reality of the Droid line-up today is a clear indicator that its time has passed.
I think it’s time to kill the Droid line-up and move to a new and hotter way of drawing customers, and even though I’m sure that not everyone of you will agree with me, there are my reasons:
The Droid line-up is affecting big red from hotter phones
Tell me something Verizon customers: How’s that HTC One looking for you? Oh right, you can’t get an HTC One right? Instead, your alternative to a hot HTC smartphone is to get the Droid alternative, which arguably is the Droid DNA, but that is clearly no HTC One. The DNA may not be a bad phone, but that deal between HTC and Verizon is delaying your option to get one of the hottest phones of the year, which has been available at every other major US carrier since earlier this year. Your option is to wait, and just wait.
Now that the rumors are all about the Moto X, we do know that this phone is on the leaked Verizon roadmap that we saw recently, but then again, we also see the Motorola Droid Ultra line-up getting ready to debut. Do you really think that the Moto X will be launched in Verizon before that Droid Ultra, or simultaneously? For those of you that know a little about big red, you’ll know that’s not going to happen.
It’s time to find a new brand or embrace the current ones
Surely in recent years Verizon has been smarter about what to do. After the company partnered with Apple for the launch of the iPhone 4, it’s clear that they understood that the Verizon branding is not necessary for the success of certain devices. As a result, even if we know that the Galaxy S II was a Verizon-branded device, they let Samsung do their thing with the Galaxy S III and S 4.
I guess the question is if it would be smarter to revamp the Droid concept with another name and marketing style, or to continue saying “me too” with the OEM strategy that have made Apple and Samsung more popular lately? New products, new line-ups and fresh marketing tactics are always an awesome way to attract new customers, but then again, competing against the power of other carriers, and even other OEMs is not always the smart thing to do. It’s always smarter to partner with an OEM and share the marketing effort, than to go against it.
The bottom line
It’s hard to keep a brand relevant for so long. We’ve seen how Samsung moved away from the Omnia line-up, how Palm had to evolve the Treo into the Pre, and how the Motorola RAZR line-up is not as hot as the original V3 was back in the day. I guess I wouldn’t mind if Verizon kept their Droids, if these wouldn’t affect customers in getting their selection of what they want, with cases like the HTC One. It’s when roadblocks are set for you to enjoy what’s on the market that things become tricky, and that we wish carriers were smarter about delighting their customers.
What about you? Do you wish the Droid line-up remained, or are you ready for something new, or simply something to go away and stop blocking what you want? Leave us a comment.