When people think of Android, they think one of two things, Galaxy or Droid. And while the Galaxy brand is a fairly new one that took off only with the Samsung Galaxy S in 2010, the Droid brand was the one that got Android in the mind of the people in the year 2009 with the original Motorola Droid, exclusively on Verizon. The phone was known worldwide as the Motorola Milestone, but it was Verizon’s Droid that really did the job.
At a time where the smartphone market was dominated by Blackberry and a couple Nokias, followed by the likes of Windows Mobile and the iPhone was just starting to win the market over, Verizon saw a chance to take a mobile OS and make it their own. They couldn’t modify anything on any platform except Android, which was open and free for them to do what they wanted. And they did, they partnered with Motorola and created the Droid brand, a tough, robotic, manly brand that was aimed to compete with Apple’s iPhone simplicity and minimalism. Where Apple went for white backgrounds, slow cameras and regular people using the phone, Verizon put out a robotic, chaotic, ultra fast commercial and called the iPhone “a princess”, well, that and the whole “iDon’t” campaign.
So, the Motorola Droid came out with Android 2.0 (With Google Maps beta!) and slowly started to gain popularity, mostly among most the tech savvy users who started to see a platform when they could change, modify, adapt and make their own. Two identical phones were completely different from each other.
Even then, most companies didn’t saw Android as a threat, Nokia said “we don’t see this as a threat” and from the team of Microsoft’s Windows Mobile, someone said “I don’t understand the impact that they are going to have.” Obviously, they didn’t have the best judgment, but at the time, who could blame them, RIM said the same thing about the iPhone when it first came out, and look where those 3 companies are right now, struggling to reach a low third place in world market share.
We could talk about the history of the Droid brand for a long time, its failures (I’m looking at you Droid Bionic) and successes (Hello Razr M) but that’s not the point of this article, what we want to discuss is the future of the brand and if its worth it anymore.
Let’s fast forward to today, July 2013, Android has over 900 million activations and 1.5 million more devices every day. Samsung has completely taken over the market, not only flooding it with devices of every size and shape but also every price point, HTC has probably the best device in the world with the HTC One but still fails to be a success and make serious money, Motorola is now owned by Google and about to release the Moto X after a long period of inactivity and the rest, well, Sony and the others are way behind and people seem to be forgetting them slowly.
The Droid brand in Verizon had a couple of good phones lately with the mid-ranger Razr M and the high-end Razr HD both regular and Maxx versions, but still, they’re not nearly as popular as the Samsung Galaxy S III or S IV. After that, they had the Droid DNA made by HTC, a pretty great phone and now they should be announcing 3 new Motorola Droids any day. The Droid Maxx, Droid Ultra and Droid Mini, which by the leaked renders, seem to be a little bit less robotic, but still carry the same angular design that characterized Droids for a long time (the worst offender being the Motorola Xyboard).
Is a brand like Droid still necessary? is Verizon trying to hang on to its own brand even if it looks old and clunky by today’s trends? Maybe. Everyone else has moved on into a more simple aesthetic, look at Google’s redesign, look at the new line of Sony devices, or the HTC One and One X and the changes from Sense 4 to Sense 5, even a company like Samsung who always had the most bloated design of all, is trying to cut back a little although they obviously don’t know how.
What is Verizon gaining from all of this? Droid is a brand that they created, they manage, they can do whatever they want with it. Samsung managed to convince Verizon into launching the Samsung Galaxy S III and Galaxy S IV without rebranding or modifications. HTC accomplished the same with the soon-to-be-launched HTC One but they still have all those Droids to call their own, to fill with as many apps as they want, to put the famous and annoying DROOOOOID ringtone in every single device they launch, but if the market is showing us something, is that people don’t want that any more. What was once the hottest trend against everything else, now pales in the eyes of consumers who have evolved and know how to appreciate more delicate designs. People already hate bloatware and Verizon is known for putting all sorts of apps in their phones, people are sick of it.
The Droid brand is making people hate Verizon’s devices and even companies aren’t even trying anymore to please the carrier. Motorola has always been the number one manufacturer of Droids and now they’re about the release the Moto X on Verizon outside the Droid brand. The Droid brand even made Verizon missed great phones like the HTC One X, which could have been a great hit on the red carrier.
Verizon can do better, they should come up with a new mentality, a more modern idea, something that not only sets Verizon apart from the other carriers but also from the old self. Come up with a new way to approach their customers, with a more quiet voice that wraps itself in the warm arms of manufacturers. Let Motorola, Samsung, HTC and Sony do what they know, and place yourself around them, let them do all the work with the design, they’re the ones with the industrial designers, the engineers and the UI experts.
Give the users better experiences, less complicated ones with better upgrade cycles, not only for the new features but for the security and bug fixes. Focus on being the best carrier possible, have the best data service, the best network coverage and the fastest speed everywhere, but also be the best to you customers, don’t try to squeeze the money out of them, and you might be surprised how much people are willing to pay for good and simple service. And then, consumers will migrate to your doorstep begging for new phones and throwing money at you. People choose their phone based on the manufacturer, but they also choose the carrier based on the network and the service. Verizon should know that, and they should act on it.
Kill the Droid brand Verizon, or eventually consumers will kill it for you.