Why The Google Phone Will Fail

Updated: January 07, 2011

Written by: Alan Lindsay

There has been a huge amount of speculation over the past two weeks about the 'Google Phone' and the idea that Google might release a phone of its own rather than push the usage of its mobile Android OS on other phones. While it isn't really totally confirmed that Google will do so, it now seems very likely that they will release a Google branded phone. Google handed out test units to employees last week and the very next day I actually saw them in use in the wild while attending a show. The couple to my right spent more time fiddling with and adjusting and updating their Google phones than they did watching the show! My impressions were that the screen was large and really high quality and that it seemed rather less intuitive than an iPhone.

The new phone is running a new version of Android. The rumors are that it will be available locked through a regular phone carrier (probably Verizon would be my guess) at a pricepoint comparable to the iPhone and unlocked direct from Google at a significantly higher pricepoint.

One of the reasons that this is creating a stir is obviously that this is Google coming out with a consumer hardware product. But that isn't the only reason. There is sense that the iPhone is vulnerable because it is slowly getting a reputation as a great device but a pretty bad phone. In my experience that is an accurate assessment. So bleeding-edge techies see an opportunity for Google to step in and start scooping up market share.

Not so fast. Here are the reasons why the Google Phone will fail.

  1. The Apple UI is far better than the Google UI. Not just from my cursory observations of a beta product but also, let's face it, Google are not great at killer UI - simple UI yes. Whereas Apple ARE great at UI. Not just great but essentially totally dominant. Usability is the reason Apple does well wherever it does well. There is not a single chance that the Google phone will be a more user friendly device than the iPhone.
  2. The App Store. Sure there are lots of things to hate - setting up an account. Hard to search. No sensible way to browse. Etc. Etc. Etc. But one of the main reasons for the iPhone's success are the apps - the hundreds of thousands of apps. The apps that developers LOVE to release for the iPhone because it is so easy to post them and more importantly, SELL them in the App Store. Developers LOVE developing for the iPhone more because it is easy to sell apps than any other reason. And even though Apple keeps 30% of the collected money, that is way better than most electronic content marketplaces.
  3. The App Store again. And consumers like the App Store - sort of. If nothing else they are familiar with it because of iTunes. It is EASY to buy apps. It is familiar. Apple and the iPhone are already all well ahead.
  4. Despite what you might think, the phone is unimportant. Really. This is all about portable computing devices.
  5. iPod integration. People want one device that does it all and the fact of the matter is that the iPod completely dominates the music player market - so the iPhone gets a huge advantage by integrating an iPod into the device.
  6. First mover advantage. This might seem like the most obvious advantage and the one that should have been first on this list, but actually it isn't really any more important than the other items. Nevertheless, it is hard to see how the Google Phone is going to make up a two year headstart on top of everything else.
  7. Oh yes, one more reason. The cell phone carriers will HATE the Google Phone - and everything about it. But they'll still facilitate it if they can get an exclusive and lock-in contracts and keep Google from selling cost-effective unlocked devices.

It's time to acknowledge that Apple has already won this round. But there is still plenty of room for overtaking Apple in other ways if Google recognizes that the killer device isn't a phone. It is a multipurpose device that somehow brings together the tablet/portable internet browser, the ebook reader, the iPod, and voice as an application as well as video camera, GPS and more. Perhaps it is a little larger than a phone and phone functions are handled via a bluetooth headset. This next generation device isn't a phone - voice applications are just one set of applications on the device. Much in the same way that VoIP is moving beyond just being a phone, now the phone is moving on to be an application that has more functions.

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