Google’s Android Branding Dilemma


Google has a problem, and it’s not Apple — despite the just revealed tidbit that Steve Jobs threatened “thermonuclear war” on Android for what he saw as “grand theft.”

Despite the iPhone’s popularity — Apple sold 4 million units the first weekend the iPhone 4S was available — the Android platform now dominates the smartphone market Blackberry and Apple pioneered. According to a recent comScore report, the Android platform accounted for 43.7% of the smartphone market compared to 27.3% for Apple’s iOS platform.

Growing market share is good, right? So what’s Google’s problem? The problem is the lack of a coherent brand image. Because iOS is only available on the iPhone, consumers know what they are going to get with an iPhone. If you walk into a Verizon store, a salesperson may have to explain to you the nuances between an iPhone 4 and 4S, but it’s all pretty simple.

In fact, there are a total of six combinations available at Verizon. You basically decide whether or not you want the 4 or 4S and which size hard drive you would like. Include the choice between white and black and you get 12 possible choices. As a matter of fact, walk into an Apple store looking for a computer, and it’s much the same. Simplicity in a complicated world. Such was Steve Jobs’ genius.[more]

Google’s Android operating system, on the other hand, is used by numerous manufacturers. While this strategy has resulted in astonishing sales growth for Android handsets, it also creates competition between devices on the same platform, and ultimately, confusion for consumers. Walk into a Verizon store looking for an Android handset and you’ll have 23 different phones to choose from. We’re not talking about 23 different combinations of the same phone. We’re talking about 23 different phones produced by seven different manufacturers. In case you were wondering, only one of those is available in more than one color.

Over the past month, we experienced the launch of the iPhone 4S amidst a flurry of announcements from the Android pack. Motorola announced the new Droid Razr to the chagrin of many a Droid Bionic owner, and Samsung announced its new Galaxy Nexus phone. The new phones both run on Verizon’s 4G LTE, but the Droid Razr uses Android Gingerbread while the Nexus runs Android’s newest platform, Ice Cream Sandwich. If you don’t like those phones, you can also choose from such brilliantly named devices as the Charge, Stratosphere, Thunderbolt, and Enlighten. Confused yet?

Consumers certainly are confused. Now that Google has propelled its platform to the top of the smartphone industry, it should begin to take more control over its own brand so it isn’t tarnished by its own success.