Apple isn't playing catching up in the mobile space just yet but if things stay at the current tick - and all signs suggest that things will move even faster than expected - Google's Android will become an even bigger threat to the success of the iPhone.
That's the word from Bernstein Research analysts Toni Sacconagh and Pierre Ferragu, who say that Google is on pace to overtake Apple's share in the next five quarters unless... well, you know unless what. Yup, Apple needs Verizon in the U.S.
According to a report on Barron's Tech Trader Daily blog, the analysts say that one of the key reasons for Android's success is because the iPhone is still a one-carrier device in large market countries, notably the U.S. Sure, Apple's device may be available through nearly three times as many carriers as Android devices globally - but Apple needs deals with some of the world's largest carriers if it wants to keep from being run over by Android.
There have been rumors for longer than most people can remember that a Verizon version of the iPhone will come to market next month or next quarter or next year. Of course, those days never seem to arrive. And because of that, potential iPhone customers - myself included - grew tired of waiting and discovered Android. Many of us are now locked in among the Android faithful. Still, even if Apple releases a CDMA version of the iPhone early next year (the latest rumor), there's no guarantee that it will be with Verizon. Why? The answer is in this quote from the Bernstein report:
We believe Apple needs to strike distribution deals with these carriers, even if it has to sacrifice some pricing power since doing so would still be accretive to company gross margins, and take away the strong foothold it currently provides to a potentially formidable competitor.
Even if it has to sacrifice some pricing power? Apple? Steve Jobs? Ha!
It was widely suggested way back when that the iPhone wasn't on Verizon to begin with because Jobs and company couldn't cut a deal with Verizon over control over the iPhone's apps. Has that changed? Is Steve Jobs willing to cut that sort of a deal to get his mighty mobile device on the shelves at Verizon stores? Is Verizon willing to cut such a deal, considering the traction with a lineup of high-profile Android devices, such as the Droid, Droid Incredible, Droid X, Droid 2 and others?
The analysts note that the daily run-rate for Android phone sales has more than tripled in the last seven months, jumping from 60,000 phones per day to 200,000. The estimate is that 53 million Android phones will ship this year and that Android alone will drive the entire sector above its projected growth.
Oh, and the analysts also warn Symbian and RIMM to either step up their game - and fast - or risk "an accelerating erosion" of customers who will eventually migrate toward other platforms. No mention of Windows Mobile 7 or HP's WebOS, which it obtained when it purchased Palm.