I love Android. The Google-created mobile operating system for smartphones is a breath of fresh air when compared to the polished & regulated iPhone and its iOS. Android devices are selling well, particularly in the U.S., where the iPhone is stuck in an awkward monogamous relationship with AT&T. It has become very clear that the iPhone will break free from AT&T’s shackles within the next year, and when that happens, Verizon and T-Mobile customers will also be clamoring for Apple’s handset.
In Canada, where the iPhone is available on the big three major carriers, the iconic Apple device is simply crushing the competition, and Android appears to be an afterthought for most consumers after deciding on an iPhone or a homegrown BlackBerry.
For Android to stave off a multi-carrier American iPhone assault and to become competition for Apple in Canada and other countries, it has to start taking some steps to make Android more mainstream. There’s no reason they can’t do this without changing their exceptional operating system much. Here’s my suggestions to made “Android” as well-known as “iPhone.”
- Take control of updates: Google needs to cut carriers out of the update equation. Eric Schmidt recently said that one thing Google has learned about the smartphone business is how much power the carriers have. Google needs to leverage some of its power to take control of updating devices. The fact that a new version of Android, with tons of new features including flash playback, exists but isn’t widely available is tragic.
- Police the app marketplace, at least a little bit: I’m not asking for Apple-like behaviour here, but rather some common sense principles to guide what is and isn’t acceptable. Custom Nazi themes and games involving upskirt pics shouldn’t even see the light of day in the Marketplace. It’s simply not good enough to have a system that allows this stuff to been seen by kids, even if it’s removed after an uproar.
- Update responsibly: The fact that I can go out and buy a brand new Android phone today that runs an 18-month-old version of the OS is a serious issue that needs to be addressed. Android should give its OS options firm expiration dates. Once the date is passed, phones can’t be sold without an updated OS. Right now, every single Google phone should be shipping with Android 2.2, period.
- Reduce the number of models: Up against the most iconic brand in the world (Apple) and the most iconic product in the world (The iPhone), Google needs to take more control over the number of products and how they are named. Here’s an idea: Call all of your smartphones Androids. There’d be an HTC Android, a Samsung Android, a Motorola Android, A Sony-Ericsson Android. No Galaxy S Vibrants, no Desires, no Xperias. One name for all Google phones, with only the manufacturer differentiating models. Keep new models from each maker to a minimum, let’s say one every 6 to 12 months. You’d end up with more focus and branding that can go up against the iPhone marketing machine.
- Pay off Nokia: While part of me laughs at how clueless Nokia has been since the iPhone launch three years ago, failing to see clear trends and falling behind even the most lethargic of companies, Microsoft, the other part of me still sees a company with a lot of value. Google should do whatever it takes to get Nokia to abandon its current Symbian/Meebo disaster and start churning out millions of Android phones to its loyal fan base, especially in Europe.
Yes, the iPhone is still the best smartphone overall. Apple has a knack at staying ahead of the competition in hardware and software, but if there’s anyone who can take them on right now, it’s Google. What else should Google do with Android? Let me know by posting a comment.