Daily question: How do you sell an Android phone?

From “Google phone won’t be an immediate game changer”:

While Android could offer real promise in terms of technology and usability — particularly because it is an open platform — it is unlikely to single-handedly change the restrictive nature of the mobile industry, said John Poisson, founder of Tiny Pictures, a developer partner of Android.

“Carriers in each market will still control how it gets implemented and on which devices and in which form,” Poisson said. “Android lives and breathes at the pleasure of the operator.”


Another problem for Android is how to explain what it is to consumers. Unlike the iPhone, which came on the back of Apple’s hugely successful iPod music player, Android is an unknown brand, even though the Google name has plenty of cache.

“People forget these things get to customers through the retail channel and marketing,” said Frank Meehan, the global general manager for handsets and applications for Hong Kong telecommunications conglomerate Hutchison Whampoa Ltd

“We operators struggle with how to market this phone. There’s nothing really unique about it and we can’t say it’s a Google phone,” said Meehan, whose company buys millions of 3G devices year.

How do you then sell an Android phone?

10 thoughts on “Daily question: How do you sell an Android phone?

  1. Pingback: Android un-Marketing vs. iPhone Marketing « picocosmos

  2. TAP: “the figures speak for themselves”

    What figures? I haven’t seen any hard numbers from primary sources at all. If you recall, it was widely claimed that 1.5 million G1 units were sold in the U.S. alone within a few months of its introduction, which was bogus.

  3. It’s a fair question but several months on I think the figures speak for themselves as T-Mobile UK now claims that 20% of new contract sales are for the G1 and estimates put UK sales at 700 000 units. T-Mobile obviously did something right.

  4. Android would sell provided 1) they come up what a really cute robot mascot and related toys to give away at purchase; 2) each phone maker can actually put their individual spin on their phone model (ala Instinct, Dare, etc.) to differentiate their product as opposed to just a line of Samsung Google phone vs. Verizon Google phone vs. ATT Google phone… all with the exact same look-and-feel and functions and features.

  5. Ziad: “capability to escape the proprietary walled gardens which subsidized the hardware on purchase”

    Yes, and I’m really curious if the end-result of all this will one day be a level market where unsubsidized devices are sold (just like PCs) against 4G-standardized network services world over.

  6. I don’t believe Android will be provided on cellphones sold by operators except in limited cases like the HTC, a device with many hardware features, and little to no subsidy.

    Android has greater value as a replacement for Windows Mobile and Symbian on phones that are locked 25 ways from Sunday to offerings from the cellular operator only. Like being able to wipe a Windows PC choked by crapware with Linux, Android offers the capability to escape the proprietary walled gardens which subsidized the hardware on purchase.

  7. Yes: Good design is more than a good looking skin wrapping a horrible foundation.
    And Yes: the talent to combine hard and soft aspects in design is extremely rare.

    Still, I would consider Apple to be a life style company. And I would consider Steve Jobs to be an artist who can match with the names I mentioned before, each on their own field.
    Apple is concentrating on a top layer – user experience – building their products with existing components and third party manufacturing. Even OS X can be seen as a skin around Unix.

    If I had to compete with Apple I would focus on user experience, which includes interaction, behaviour, reliability and performance. It’s this “top layer” that determines the integration, which is pretty difficult. Underneath the top layer there are lots of very good “components” that can fit in. Googles Android helps, if you see the core OS as a “component”.

    Apple has a tremendous head-start and will definitely be a big player. But the Apple “snob” image does not appeal to everybody and all over the world companies will try and compete. They will try and fail, fail again, fail better… Existing parties will be more than happy to participate in the competition. The key part will be the integration and we might need a little wonder (or: newborn artist) over there.

  8. Berend: “Ralf Laurens, Pininfarinas or Norman Fosters”

    I’m surprised you say that because many of those names tried their hands in the hardware ‘design’ business from hard disks to laptops to mice. It’s been worse than a yawn, in general. I think what the iPhone proves beyond anything else is that true design innovation only comes through the seamless integration of hardware + software + services, as I explained in:

    Who can beat iPhone 2.0?

    Designers from non-consumer fields don’t often grok the nature of that integration, so we get lipstick on a pig like the Prada phones.

  9. Phones are fashionable life-style products. Android appears to me to be a component – an interesting alternative for Windows Mobile – but still a component just like the processor and the memory.

    To sell a phone I think you need a life-style brand, a brand that integrates values, technology and design. Hardware components, the basic OS and manufacturing can be purchased from third parties. But the finishing touch, including the top layer of the user interface, needs to be provided by a really talented designer.

    I don’t expect Android to become a design brand by itself, but i’d love to see it enable future Ralf Laurens, Pininfarinas or Norman Fosters to enter the market.

  10. I think “Powered by Google” would be one of them. It would be an immediate and very safe eye catcher.

    Is there a fixed feature set to Android? if there isn’t then an overarching campaign by Google to promote these isn’t really am option.

    Google could dump a whole lot of ads in their ad-sense on behalf of it’s partners but I doubt that Google will do this one.

    How to sell this thing indeed..

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