Feb 14 AT 3:03 PM Nick Sarafolean 24 Comments

The flagships that drive Android

HTC phone next to Samsung phone

Every now and then, it’s refreshing to take a step back and look at the big picture. Let the panorama of things wash over us. That what this editorial is hoping to do. To look at the broad spectrum of Android and what brought it to where it is today. How Android achieved the title of “Most popular operating system on the planet.” So sit back, make yourself comfortable, and read on.

Let’s hearken back to a simpler time when Android was nought but a young beta operating system. The first phone to launch with it was the HTC Dream, or depending on your location in the world, the T-Mobile G1. Now, if you’re like us, you’re probably something of an Android nerd. We all know about the G1 and remember it with a kind of nostalgic fondness. For the mainstream consumer, however, the G1 isn’t something memorable in the least.

The first phone that really put Android on the mainstream map was the Motorola DROID. The DROID was intended as an alternative to the iPhone, and the ad campaigns were quite heavy-handed in emphasizing that fact with the infamous, “iDon’t _________” slogan. That was followed up with the motto that cemented Android as “Droid” in many people’s minds, “DROID Does.”

The DROID brand continued on with success ranging all the way from dismal flops to hits such as the DROID X. But a new Android family had moved in on the block, the Galaxy family.

Samsung started out gradually with the Galaxy S phones and their release on all four major carriers in the US. At the time, that was a new feat that hadn’t been seen with smartphones. While having some flaws, the Galaxy S phones made some waves in the consumer Android market. Unfortunately, the branding wasn’t complete–every Galaxy S phone had a different name, depending on their carrier. There were also some hardware and software differences between each version. There was no unity within the Galaxy S family.

The next year, if anything, made the unity within the Galaxy S family even more dysfunctional. The phones failed to launch on every carrier, yet still had different names on the carriers that did supply them. To make matters worse, they spawned a veritable swarm of knock-off phones made by Samsung that also carried the Galaxy name. It wasn’t until the next year that consumers really began to understand the true family behind the Galaxy moniker.

galaxy-s-iii-tilt-630

The Galaxy S III was where Samsung struck gold with the family. The phone launched on every major carrier, as well as a slew of smaller carriers, within just months of its release. Better yet, every version of the phone shared the same name, and aside from the difference between LTE and HSPA+ models, the same hardware. Consumers throughout the market actually knew that they were buying from a family of phones. The Galaxy family became just as popular as Apple’s iPhone. And with it, Android became more popular.

The same trend has carried over to Samsung’s Galaxy Note family, as well as further Galaxy S phones. But Samsung wasn’t the only carrier to release flagships that brought Android into the mainstream. We’ve already mentioned Motorola and their DROID family, but what about HTC?

HTC also did their part, but they’ve oft struggled to secure a strong, unified family of mainstream phones. In the lower end spectrum, however, HTC has established their Desire line-up which has helped to spread Android further in markets outside the flagship devices. They also had a good run with their Sprint family of EVO phones. If you were on Sprint, the phones to get were HTC’s EVO phones. Just ask Richard Yarrell. (We love you, buddy).

We hoped that HTC would have begun a new family with the One name that’s been found in their past couple of flagships. They certainly worked hard to make sure that the HTC One got consumer attention by releasing it on every carrier with the same name and hardware, just like Samsung did with their Galaxy series. But with the release of HTC’s latest flagship on the horizon, we’re not sure if they’ll be sticking to the One family.

The HTC M8. That’s the oft-rumored name for HTC’s flagship phone of 2014. If the phone sticks to that name, then HTC will have a time on their hands to get consumers fully aware of the fact that it’s the successor to last year’s HTC One. But, what are the going to call it? The HTC One II? Nonetheless, if the M8 is released on every carrier with the same hardware, it will still be bought, and most likely in large amounts. It will be HTC’s flagship that will continue to drive Android forward.

The same goes for Samsung’s upcoming Galaxy S5. The phone will sell in droves to consumers and continue to bring Android to the masses.

The entire point of this lengthy look back in time is to show that, while it’s great how many options there are for Android, the entire operating system is steered in the market by the flagships. Without these flagships, many consumers either wouldn’t know or wouldn’t care about Android. While we can fault them for their flaws, they serve an important role in the market as they push Android further into the market. With this next generation coming due any day now, we’re excited to see how they continue to bring Android forward.

What’s your opinion? Do you agree that Android is steered by the flagships? Are you excited to see what they bring to the table with this latest generation?

A nerd at heart, Nick is an average person who has a passion for all things electronic. When not spending his time writing about the latest gadgets, Nick enjoys reading, dabbling in photography, and experimenting with anything and everything coffee. Should you wish to know more about him, you can follow him on Twitter @Zricon15.

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