As expected, the back half of the year is already full with Android announcements. When Android was first announced in late 2007, there was some skepticism in the industry that operators might find it tough to partner with Google and many of them would go for the “wait and watch” approach. It is fair to say that Google has dealt with the issue diligently by scoring wins with three of the top four major US carriers.
As of today, the Android scorecard for major US operators is as follows:
T-Mobile USA : Three Android devices, the HTC MyTouch, Motorola Cliq and Samsung Behold 2. TMO US has been a slower mover in the converged device space. No doubt that the carrier is positioning Android as a preferred platform in the converged space.
Sprint: Two devices, the Samsung Moment and HTC Hero. The new devices will complement Palm devices in the smartphone segment. However, we believe the Palm Pre and Pixie are likely to remain the focus of the carrier during the holiday season.
Verizon: Two devices; although the device partners are not announced at this point. RIM has been a key vendor partner for VZW, especially in the converged device segment. Blackberry devices have benefitted from heavy promotions, such as the BOGO offer for most of the year (Buy One, Get One free). With the addition of Android in the Verizon portfolio, it will be interesting to see whether it will have any impact on subsidies/promotions offered on RIM devices during the seasonally strong fourth quarter.
AT&T: AT&T is under no pressure to include Android to its portfolio in the near term. The Apple iPhone is doing a superb job in attracting new subscribers and upgrades. However, the carrier has hinted on several occasions that they are open to multiple platforms. The AT&T portfolio already supports Windows Mobile and Symbian in addition to RIM and iPhone. In our view, it is only a matter of time that additional platforms, such as WebOS and Android, will be joining the ranks of AT&T.
Android’s penetration of major carriers' portfolios will fuel interest among the developer community to build compelling applications. The US is the world's most important handset market and Android has gotten off to a good start. Although the expansion of Android to major US carriers' portfolios is good news for Google, it is too early to say whether the devices announced so far have sufficient traits to differentiate sustainably from one another. It remains to be seen how effectively OEMs utilize Android in differentiating from the sea of Android devices expected to join carrier ranks in the next 6 to 9 months.