I'm not alone in wondering how Google will continue to beat Apple in the smartphone race when the iPhone comes to Verizon. After all, the iPhone alone on a mediocre network is giving Android's myriad handsets on all major carriers a run for their money, even when you combine all Android sales numbers. However, announcements from both Verizon and T-Mobile make it abundantly clear precisely how they plan to ensure Android's dominance: price.
The Motorola Citrus launched today at $49.99 after rebate. It's only running Android 2.1 and you won't confuse it with a Droid X, but the pricing and eco-friendly branding (it's made of 25% recycled materials) will ensure that a lot of Citrus phones become Christmas gifts.
T-Mobile is taking this approach about $40 further with 2 sub-$50 Android phones and 2 (the T-Mobile Comet and LG Optimus) that are free with a 2-year contract if you purchase them online. This isn't a case of carriers trying to dump unwanted Blackberries or Palm Pre's. This is what eWeek called "a great democratization" created by Android devices. Furthermore, Verizon now offers data plans for as low as $15 a month and T-Mobile's unlimited web plans are priced very aggressively.
While $15 a month won't buy you a whole lot of mobile data (keep Pandora off, folks), it, combined with free or very cheap Android devices, will make smartphones available to an entire demographic who could never afford an iPhone, regardless of carrier.
Smartphones are expected to comprise half the US mobile phone market by the end of next year. Aggressive pricing will not only make that happen, but will most likely make that estimate on the low side. It also ensures that, while an iPhone on both AT&T and Verizon will make Apple boatloads of money, many more consumers will be accessing the mobile web on Android devices than on iPhones. Google has always been about ubiquity rather than exclusivity. It doesn't look like that approach will be changing anytime soon on the mobile front, which is very good news indeed for consumers.