October 25, 2014

Android Will Make Verizon Relevant

Android-VerizonWired Gadget Lab recently said what a lot of people are thinking: Why does Verizon “have the worst smartphones?” Verizon’s take? “Customers don’t care about phones. They care about the network and our network is the best.” Ok, so they didn’t really say that, but it’s implied in their advertising. When was the last time you saw a Verizon commercial that wasn’t about the network?

Verizon is proud of their network. So proud, that they’ll let customers go mid-contract if the customer is having network-related problems. I know this because I used to be a Verizon customer. I had great coverage until I moved to a new house. Verizon doesn’t guarantee coverage inside buildings but I couldn’t even get a good signal in my driveway! After some calls to customer service, Verizon offered to let me cancel my account one year into my two-year contract! Without any penalties!! Verizon is all about the network.

What about the phones? Aside from Verizon’s penchant for trying to charge for features that should be free (bluetooth and GPS to name a few), are their smartphones really that bad? A quick look at Big Red’s lineup shows more or less the same Windows Mobile and Blackberry phones that Sprint carries. The same phones, yet Verizon gets the thumbs down in the smartphone department? Verizon must have thought they were pretty safe with their smartphone offerings. They obviously did not anticipate—or take seriously—the effect that new smartphone operating systems would have on consumers.

Two years ago there was the iPhone. Love it or hate it, the iPhone introduced a modern, easy to use, and exciting operating system. Add in the App Store and you have the anti-Verizon smartphone. What iPhone started, Android is building on. And then there is the Pre with WebOs. Within a span of two years, three new and modern smartphone operating systems have come onto the market and are now available with multiple hardware configurations, on multiple networks worldwide—and none of them are Verizon. Herein lies the problem for Verizon.

Customers want a phone with a modern OS, real-time updates, a place to download new apps, etc. The customers that used to buy “feature” phones are now looking at these new smartphones and getting excited. The WinMo and BBerry customers are looking at their antiquated operating systems and wondering what they were thinking. Verizon customers are wondering if they’ll ever get the chance to upgrade to a cool new smartphone.

All is not lost. Apparently Verizon has realized that they are behind in their offerings and have said that they will carry at least one Android device this year—widely believed to be the Motorola Sholes. In addition to the Sholes there are rumors that Verizon will carry three other Android phones this year. Even if the rumors prove to be false, it is fairly safe to assume that there will be additional Android phones available on Verizon over coming year. They are also slated to get the Palm Pre at the end of Sprint’s exclusivity. I am not discounting the Pre’s effect on Verizon’s phone lineup; I just believe that over the next six months to a year there will be more Android devices on Verizon than WebOS devices and thus more choice.

Current and potential Verizon customers and can once again be excited about Big Red’s phone offerings. Verizon will be relevant again, thanks in large part to Android. Verizon was famously cold towards Google and Android a year ago. There is some irony in that.