Smartphones are one of the most talked-about and hotly debated consumer electronics on the block these days, and manufacturers are pumping out more of these devices each month.
So, how are these devices measuring up in the arena of public opinion? A few 140-character user reviews can say a lot about a phone's early success or failure, and we've got details on what social media junkies are saying about a few Android () devices, including the Droid X, the HTC Evo, and the HTC Incredible.
In the past year or so, we've gone from "smartphones" to "superphones" â€” slick, sexy pieces of hardware with huge screens, HD capabilities, powerful cameras, zippy processors, impressive browsing capabilities and more apps than you can shake a stick at. Technology has accelerated quickly over these months, and Android devices are competing nicely with Apple's iPhones. How they compete amongst themselves, however, is another story.
Many of these phones are selling faster than they can be built. And each one is making a significant media splash at its launch. In the public eye, is there one Android to rule them all?
Android Devices by Sentiment
In looking over data from sentiment analysis tool Chatterscope, which does some natural-language processing on tweets containing a given keyword, we see some interesting patterns emerging. Chatterscope even parses emoticons, and it can determine the difference between a moderately satisfied customer and a truly enthusiastic reviewer. Here's what we learned from tracking Android-related keywords for eleven days.
Between July 8, 2010 and today, Chatterscope collected 13, 303 tweets about the Droid X, 976 about HTC's Evo, and 427 tweets about the HTC Droid Incredible. Clearly, the Droid X â€” which launched just last week â€” saw the lion's share of buzz in terms of volume. We can attribute most of this noise to the fact that the device is brand-new and getting a lot of press coverage at the time, leading to more tweets and retweets of blog posts, consumer reviews and news articles.
When we dice up the tweets into positive and negative sentiment, a different picture emerges. While the Droid X gets more tweets overall, the Incredible shows by far the best positive-to-negative tweet ratio:
And when it comes to "supergood" and "superbad" tweets, i.e. the overwhelmingly positive and negative opinions and reviews, the Incredible was again the clear winner, with zero tweets of the "I hate this phone and would rather die than use it" variety.
The underperforming device in terms of consumer sentiment, then, is the Evo. Why would this device â€” Sprint's first 4G phone, which had completely sold out by June 8, just 4 days after its debut â€” be getting such a slew of negative Twitter () reviews? We have seen some frustration expressed over this fact, which may account for a fair amount of negative sentiment; looks like the Evo's manufacturers need to step up their game while demand is still hot and before the buzz around other devices sweeps that demand aside.
Android Devices by Volume Over Time
Another app we used to parse Twitter data about these three phones is The Archivist, which looks at users, links, keywords and tweet volume over a period of time.
What we learned from a pure volume analysis is that the Incredible lags in terms of overall mentions â€” possibly because the Incredible launched at the end of April; the Evo and Droid X, which debuted June 4 and July 15, respectively, haven't quite cooled yet in terms of media mentions and general public interest.
The Droid X shows a predictable peak around its launch date, but mentions have sharply declined, perhaps signaling a dropping-off in consumer interest. On the other hand, the Evo's sustained buzz signals good things for that device. Overall, during a 12-day period, the Archivist picked up 63,329 tweets about the Evo, 43,025 about the Droid X, and just 6,466 about the Incredible:
Android Devices Being Compared to the iPhone
Going into this analysis of Android versus Android, we wanted to leave any comparisons to the iPhone 4 completely out of the picture. However, the Archivist showed us that consumers themselves are making comparisons between these Androids and the iPhone in a huge number of their tweets.
We checked out the lists of words used in the same tweets as these Android brand names; only the Incredible didn't have the term "iPhone" in the top 5 associated keywords.
For the Droid X, "iPhone" was the third-most used word in tweets about the Droid X, outnumbered only by instances of the terms "Motorola" and "Verizon." In these Droid X tweets, the word "iPhone" shows up in a full 10% of all updates.
When looking at tweets about the Evo, "iPhone" is the fifth most-used term, topped by "HTC" and "4G." The term "iPhone" appears in 9.8% of tweets about the Evo. And for the Incredible, "iPhone" is the tenth most-used term, showing up in 6.4% of Incredible-related tweets.
For qualitative data on why Twitter users would be putting Android phones in the same tweets as the iPhone, we turned to generic Twitter search. What we saw were frank, brief, gut reactions that compared one device to another; in a significant majority of the tweets we tallied, the Android devices were favorably compared and even considered preferable to the iPhone. Call reception, device speed, open-source software, device-specific features and even hardware aesthetics were touted as Android advantages.
Granted, these tweets all represent subjective user opinions; still, these are the kinds of intuitive, emotion-charged beliefs that move product â€” and having these evaluations spread over a medium such as Twitter is definitely positive for the makers and retailers of these devices.
Let's just hope those manufacturers can keep up with demand.
As more and more Android "superphones" roll out with each passing month, we'd love to know which phones are catching your interest. Should we be tracking Samsung's Galaxy S, too? And what about the Charm from T Mobile?
Let us know which phones are most exciting to you; we'll add them to our list of devices to track, and we'll update you on their progress in a couple weeks.