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Will Verizon’s iPhone Stop Runaway Android Growth?



2010 was a banner year for the Android OS for mobile devices. There is no denying that. We have already taken a look at one firm’s analysis of Q4 sales to establish that the Android platform is on a roll.

Today, Gartner released more data that shows just how big 2010 was for the Android OS. The report is for sale here (MP does not benefit from sale of Gartner reports).

The obvious question that many are considering is: Will the full roll out of the iPhone on Verizon set for tomorrow (February 10) signal the beginning of the end of Android’s rapid ascent? Will Verizon be enough to put a dent into this growth or will Apple need to have the iPhone available to all users at all wireless providers like Android devices currently are in order to compete?

One interesting move by an online software as a service (SaaS) leader, 37signals, could make the platform issue, well, less of an issue. Rather than go the route of putting their immensely popular Basecamp service in an app for a particular platform the company instead created an HTML5 version of Basecamp that is platform agnostic and simply runs on your device when you access via the mobile web (for those using a WebKit browser). Problem solved for the most part and no platform providers were harmed in the process. Here is the announcement from the 37signals blog on February 1.

Today we launch Basecamp Mobile for phones and devices with WebKit browsers. This includes the iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPad, Motorola Droid X, Motorola Droid 2, Samsung Galaxy S, HTC Incredible, HTC Evo, Palm Pre 2, BlackBerry Torch, or any other device running iOS 4+, Android 2.1+, webOS 2, or BlackBerry 6.

Basecamp Mobile is not an native app, it’s a web app. All you have to do is visit http://basecamphq.com on your mobile phone. No apps and nothing to install – it just works.

Later in the post is something that would warm the little Android heart of Google when it is stated

Back in July we put up a job ad for an iOS developer. We had decided to dive into native apps for the iPhone. We contracted out the back-end development of our iPhone app for Highrise. The project went well, but we felt like we had to have someone in-house to continue the development of the Highrise app and future apps we wanted to build.

And then Android really began to make a run. Android market share increased and more and more customers were asking for Android apps for our web apps. So we stopped and thought about it for a bit. Do we want to have to hire an iOS developer and an Android developer? That’s a lot of specialization, and we’re usually anti-specialization when it comes to development.

Hmmmmm. Will this kind of mobile development be more the norm moving forward? If so then who is really in the driver’s seat for the mobile space? If the device becomes less important to whether apps are available then what will drive consumer mobile decisions? Likely it becomes based on the wireless provider’s network and pricing. Not saying that’s a good thing but it is a distinct possibility. Of course, this is just a bit of speculation because what 37signals did is not the current norm but why couldn’t it be if it works?

Of course, not everyone likes this approach but thats what makes it fun, right?

Maybe the focus on which mobile OS will be the dominant player is not the real issue at hand? Maybe it’s whether more companies will follow 37signals’ lead and create mobile OS agnostic versions of their applications etc so they can make something one way, one time for all platforms. Then what does the mobile space look like?

Your thoughts?

  • Joe M.

    You can bet this is exactly the kind of future that Google hopes for (and is building into), because it works entirely in their in favor…and decidedly against Apple.

    It dawned on me when Google issued their recent call for in-house developers. Sure, they are always looking to improve Android’s native apps and/or create new ones. Mobile ecosystem buildout is at a critical juncture, right now. And even iPhone users know Google apps work more seamlessly on Android phones than on any others. But maybe Google wants even more to start tailoring new -web- apps for the benefit of their mobile customers, thus leading the way for outside enterprises to follow suit…just like 37signals has done, here.

    The very thought of such an eventuality should be worrying Apple to death. Not only does a web-centric approach simplify coding for all concerned and help to eliminate operational distinctions (UI/UX) claimed by iPhone fans, but also it does a very neat end-run around the vaunted hegemony of iTunes. If there’s no need for unique iPhone apps, then there’s no opportunity for iTunes – or iAds – to impose themselves during transactions. That means less control for Cupertino, followed inexorably by reduced cash-flow.

    Of course, assuming Google sis still ruling the web-based ad game, this scenario leaves them untouched. Best of all, we users get to enjoy more and more varied phone-accessible apps, sooner, with fewer platform-related issues popping up. And, with just a little luck, web-centric apps should reduce to insignificance the media-fueled (elusive but not illusive) question of Android ‘fragmentation’. Combined with Google’s recent push to separate native apps from the OS, delayed updates should be all but extinct. Brilliant!

  • http://www.youtrade.ie/ Mark

    No dough this has been a big year for Android. Hopefully better apps across all operating systems will be of a better standard..

  • John Bastone

    Frank,

    Nice post. Another interesting angle to this will be how the wireless carriers moving away from their “all you can eat” data plans will impact things. Will an app strategy allow for far less in the way of data being transfered than html5, and therefore be more appealing due to a lower monthly operating cost for consumers? We’ll see.

    Personal opinion is that Android will be market share leader for the os on smartphones for some time, as there will be far more options for consumers in terms of devices and carriers. But I also believe Apple is best positioned to take over the enterprise market from Blackberry. Android will get more eyeballs, ios more bottom line.

    – John

    • http://www.frankthinking.com Frank Reed

      Thanks for stopping by John. I actually had not considered the whole bandwidth angle on this so thanks for pointing that out because it is a very important part of this emerging equation.

      I guess like most answers these days there are many angles to consider and we’ll have to wait to see what the future holds. Maybe the folks at SAS can help us look into a crystal ball :-)