Does a Verizon iPhone spell doom for Android?

Android is exploding. It's a great mobile OS, has Research in Motion in its sights, and is being sold on more new US smartphones than any other operating system.

Android is exploding. It's a great mobile OS, has Research in Motion in its sights, and is being sold on more new US smartphones than any other operating system. Hooray for Android, right?

Not so fast. Those same Nielsen rankings that show off-the-chart Android growth also show that everyone still really wants an iPhone. iPhone completely changed the smartphone landscape with a single, largely unpopular carrier in this country, essentially a single phone offering, and remains the one to beat in terms of brand loyalty and market share.  Plenty of Android users love their Android phones, but a full 21% of them want an iPhone for their next smartphone. Only 6% of iPhone owners want an Android phone.

And all of this market penetration has required more than 50 phones spread across all major US carriers just to catch up to the iPhone. On At&T.

The Verizon iPhone rumors continue to persist and even Bloomberg, not known for Apple rumor-mongering (or rumor-mongering of any sort, for that matter), is reporting that a Verizon iPhone is imminent. So what happens if the iPhone is suddenly available on a carrier that people generally like instead of one they tolerate to get iPhones?

What happens is that Android is going to get clobbered if it can't break out of the geek chic in the same way that Apple has. Apple has managed to snag geeks, soccer moms, grandfathers, and everyone in between (some of whom don't even realize that they're using a smartphone) with its iOS. Android is an outstanding OS and even as I give some thought to buying a couple of MacBook Pros, I have no intention of defecting to the iPhone. I'm certainly not alone in that, especially as Android 2.2 adds serious speed and some very cool new features to my Droid Incredible when the update comes down tomorrow.

However, given that Google has hung its future hat on mobile, largely via Android, it has its work cut out for it if iPhone comes to Verizon. So do all the handset manufacturers that have flocked to Verizon and T-Mobile with great devices running Android. Android, simply put, will not only need to be better than iOS in every way, but be at least as compelling as the Apple marketing machine. Good luck, Google!

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