Whether you are aware of it or not, and completely regardless of whether or not you believe it, the Motorola Droid on Verizon Wireless saved Android. More accurately, it saved Andy Rubin, or at least his job, after the G1 underwhelmed and failed to impress many. It’s release, coupled with the release of Android 2.0, launched Android into the foreground of the tech community, encouraging manufacturers, developers, and eventually users to flock to the OS. I can’t help, despite how important a contribution the Droid moniker and device was to “the cause” if it’s still necessary. Android has seen explosive growth since the Droid, and not just on Verizon. Carriers all over the world can lay claim to a sizeable Android army on their networks, yet easily 45% of the time I explain to a new user that I have an Android phone, the response is similar. “Oh, so that’s a Droid phone?”
Don’t get me wrong, it was brilliant on behalf of Verizon’s then brand new marketing company to come up with the idea. The “Anti-iPhone” vibe that really took root after that was really something to watch grow. Plus, like it or not, the “Droid Does” campaign carried a fanatical wave of loyalty to all devices. During a recent interview, actor David Della Rocco was heard talking about his “Fender Phone”, a MyTouch Fender edition, lead him into the quote “Fender DOES” during the interview. There’s no arguing it’s effectiveness not just for Verizon, but for the entire Android ecosystem. I am starting to think, however, that it might be time to hang that particular bit of culture up for the betterment of the platform.
Over the last couple of months I have seen an incredible increase in Android marketing that includes the little green guy. Sprint, who has consistently used a 3D Andy in their commercials, has been routinely using him as the focal point to their commercials. Sony, during the SuperBowl, stitched thumbs onto him in the basement of some third world city for the Xperia Play. Kyocera and Motorola both have put employees in Android costumes for their device launches, and let’s not forget the Motorola Xoom. The initial activation of a Xoom is simply covered in wireframe Andy iconography. When you hear a Droid commercial, Android is listed as a feature, as though at some point there would be a Droid that isn’t running an Android OS. When you look at the marketing, it’s difficult for consumers to tell that these devices are supposed to be similar.
It’s obvious that Verizon has no plans to retire the Droid franchise. In fact, there is quite the wave of Android phones with the Droid brand headed to Big Red, including a first ever Samsung phone. While it’s not entirely a bad thing, especially considering Verizon’s plan to not include Bing on their Droid branded phones, there’s no doubt that there are plenty of consumers who see Android phones and Droid phones as being completely different. Is Verizon the only guilty party here? Of course not. In many ways the same could be said of T-Mobile’s MyTouch line, and at least Verizon doesn’t go as far as to include a special button on their phones. There’s little comparison in terms of popularity between the two brands, as obviously the Droid line has seen a much larger number of activations. It may be that Verizon is simply the biggest kid on the playground when it comes to branding Android, but no matter how fair you think it may be the biggest kid in this case is also getting the most attention.
So, is the attention good for Android? In terms of activations, it’s terrific. I am more than sure that Verizon contributes quite a bit to the 350,000 handsets that are activated each day across the world. However, as things start to even out, as the Smartphone market begins to cool down, and it will eventually cool down, it’s lines in the sand like Droid that will blur the landscape for users considering leaving another platform.