Verizon-Google changes mobile landscape; Customers have real options again

Verizon-Google changes mobile landscape; Customers have real options again

Summary: I had to take a moment to pause and think about this new Google-Verizon chumminess and their common, yet unspoken, quest to go after the Apple-AT&T relationship with the iPhone that includes today's partnership news and a new ad campaign.For those who don't know, I am a Verizon Wireless customer who is currently using a loaner Blackberry Tour.

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I had to take a moment to pause and think about this new Google-Verizon chumminess and their common, yet unspoken, quest to go after the Apple-AT&T relationship with the iPhone that includes today's partnership news and a new ad campaign.

For those who don't know, I am a Verizon Wireless customer who is currently using a loaner Blackberry Tour. I am also one of the Apple faithful who would rather be using an iPhone but refuses to pay more than $100 a month for the hit-or-miss AT&T service. (But that's a rant you can read in a previous post.)

What really clouds the issue for me is that I also like Google's Android mobile OS. I have been carrying around an HTC MyTouch device running pre-paid T-Mobile service for a couple of months now. The service is OK, at best, but the user experience with the software - and the deep integration of Google's services such as mail, maps and search - is second only to the iPhone (Blackberry has a long way to go, in my opinion).

Yes, I'm a bit torn now - but here's the good news. I'm torn because I suddenly feel like I have options. Real options.

As my colleague Larry Dignan pointed out in his own post this morning, there has been a trade-off between cutting-edge devices and reliability as a Verizon Wireless customer. (Sorry, the Blackberry Storm didn't make the cut as a cutting-edge device for me.) Like him, I also stuck by Verizon Wireless and its reliable service over the flashiest new devices. And, in all honesty, I've just been holding my breath, waiting for Verizon and Apple to bust out with an iPhone announcement the second that the AT&T-Apple exclusivity deal ends, rumored to be sometime next year.

So much for that game plan. It could still happen, seeing how this is all non-exclusive (the way it should be),  but this Google deal certainly clouds the issue.

The good news for Verizon is that customers like me, who have been on the fence but stuck with the reliability of Verizon, are more likely to stick around now to see what sort of cutting-edge technology Google can offer. The good news for Google is that the partnership is with the largest of the U.S. carriers, giving them a better chance of tapping into the largest market of existing customers.

What's really interesting, though, is that Verizon seems to be giving away some of its control of the software side of the business. Verizon had a reputation of being a bit Steve Jobs-like (my way or the highway) when it came to negotiating deals about software, or apps, on their network. The long-time buzz is that Apple approached Verizon first with the iPhone but the two sides butted heads over control over the apps. But, since the launch of the first iPhone, the mobile phone landscape has changed dramatically. Consider the following:

  • Apps rock! Apple has proven that consumers love apps, which allow them to customize their mobile devices to meet their needs. Now, all of the others - Android, Palm, Blackberry and so on - are getting into the app game, allowing developers access to their networks to build customer-luring apps.
  • The negative publicity about AT&T's iPhone service - as well as the ties of exclusivity - have given other players, notably Palm and Google, the time they needed to develop operating systems of their own and still make a name for themselves before Apple becomes a world dominator.
  • Manufacturers are feeling the heat, too. Motorola was pretty much sucking eggs for a while there - but now has new life pumping into it after revealing that it was pretty much betting the farm on Android. The company got some nice reviews after announcing its first Android device - called Cliq - and a unique software interface called Motoblur.

It's almost as if there's been a bit of a compromise between Verizon and Google over app control, likely one of the hardest points to overcome in 18 months of negotiations. Clearly, there's a community of developers who are rushing into every platform they can to tap into this new mobile gold rush. In most cases, it's the OS that they're writing for - Android, Palm, Blackberry, Apple and so on. You rarely hear about anyone who's developing an app for the carriers.

In a news release this morning, Verizon re-affirmed its commitment to developing its own app environment, noting that its attracted more than 1,000 developers to write for V Cast Apps, the company's mobile app storefront slated to launch later this year. Clearly, not every device that runs on the Verizon network will be running V Cast Apps. Blackberry devices on Verizon can access the Blackberry App World marketplace for device-specific apps but LG or Samsung devices, for example, might benefit from Verizon's own apps.

The world of mobile phones is getting more and more complex. I'm just grateful that, as a consumer, I'm finally starting to feel like the carriers, the manufacturers and even the builders of the operating systems are working hard to earn my business.

And now that CNET and Root Wireless are also teaming up to truth-squad the carriers on actual service quality, the tables are finally turning in favor of the customer. I can only say: It's about time.

Topics: Google, Apple, Hardware, iPhone, Mobility, BlackBerry, Smartphones, Verizon

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12 comments
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  • Over $100/mo for iPhone?

    Huh? It's the same prices and plans as any other smartphone. And for many, AT&T's service is better than Verizon's Notwork.
    itguy08
  • RE: Verizon-Google changes mobile landscape; Customers have real options again

    Actually... I only pay 70/month with Sprint.
    NetworkBankAdmin
    • I'm paying about $50/m

      for my iPhone service with AT&T... We have a family plan and 2 non-iPhone users and the difference between what they were paying by themselves (I was with Sprint at the time) and now is about $50/m... Sam where are you gettin the $100/m figure from?
      athynz
  • RE: Verizon-Google changes mobile landscape; Customers have real options ag

    This is the best news and best decision that VZ and Google
    could have made. I am really really excited about getting a
    HTC Hero or Moto Droid soon.
    davidlw1
  • Another "landscape changer"?

    Let us wait and see what the devices are, and what they are capable of before coining this "a landscape changer".

    They can put any operating system on any phone you want, but it will matter little if the phone can not take real advantage of that operating system, and hence does not sell.
    GuidingLight
    • Well from the pictures...

      I saw HTC on one of the phones being held by the CEO's at the Verizon/Google shindig today. HTC has basically run away with Android. Theres publications already calling the HTC Hero the tech gadget of the year. Looking closely at the HTC phone in the pic it actually could be a Verizon version of the Hero. Then you have the Motorola Sholes which looks to pleas the market of folk that want a slim phone with a real QWERTY.

      I don't think theres much room for competitors to wait and see. We already see that a relatively ugly device with a slow and buggy version of Android sold well when it wasn't supposed to even be a big seller. Now what do you think is going to happen with the improved Android with more improvements to come and on much nicer and faster hardware?

      To be honest...with this announcement and the number of major handset makers onboard I think its safe to say that Android has been chosen as the platform of choice for IPhone/AT&T competitors.
      storm14k
      • HTC Hero is the gadget of 2009

        It blows away iPhone in usability and performance.
        I can never get back to the iPhone again.
        atishparikh
        • HTC HD2 trumps the Hero

          And the HTC HD2 is a powerhouse that I wish would come to the USA soon.

          HTC has made strong statements in both the WM and Android worlds.
          kevindarling
  • RE: Verizon-Google changes mobile landscape; Customers have real options again

    C'mon itguy. Are you kidding me? For many? Look at the statistics and talk to customers... AT&T's network is not good. Maybe it works for you but it just doesn't work for most.
    rob_cluett
  • RE: Verizon-Google changes mobile landscape; Customers have real options ag

    Verizon and T-Mobile don't offer adequate coverage in
    my area. Sam... where do you live? Are you SURE
    that AT&T provides less coverage nationwide? Maybe
    it's just your area? Surely you don't believe the
    "can you hear me now" guy... I can show him dead
    spots all around Huntsville, AL... and I'm not
    talking rural areas... and it's more than just a few.

    And the plans are priced the same... within dollars
    of each other.

    jsmit24
  • RE: Verizon-Google changes mobile landscape; Customers have real options again



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    gowithwind888
  • RE: Verizon-Google changes mobile landscape; Customers have real options again

    Interesting... I was hoping for a Verizon Wireless/ Apple joint announcement as well but hopefully this will spur Steve Job/ Apple into looking at other carriers and maybe opening up the OS a bit more - or at least adding things to it. Don't get me wrong I love my iPhone and it does everything I need it to do but with the OS being as closed as it is, with Job/ Apple keeping the OS closed, I think that Android might wind up being their worst nightmare...
    athynz