Will Android topple the iPhone?

It might not be the best reflection on human behavior, but people are often drawn to the spectacle of a fight. With the recent introduction of the Google software-based Droid smart phone, the trailblazing Apple iPhone is in for the first real fight of its life. And the federal tech community apparently can’t keep its eyes off the showdown.

For several days, John Breeden II’s review of the new Verizon Wireless Droid by Motorola was the most requested article on FCW’s sister Web site GCN.com. The review, in which Breeden called Droid a potential game changer in the government market, triggered a barrage of reader comments, many from the characteristically vocal Apple partisans. GCN packaged some of those posts into a follow up blog item, and that too had a run of several days as the site’s most popular article.

No doubt the prospect of Google and Apple facing off for the hearts and wallets of smart phone buyers is a hard-to-resist storyline, given the reputations that both companies have as uber-creative yet take-no-prisoners profit seekers.

But that certainly doesn’t explain it all, given that there have been other smart phones introduced in the past year built on the previous version of Google’s Android software, and none have created a stir quite like Motorola’s Droid. There are two important factors at play.

One is the cellular network Droid runs on, which is not the oft-criticized AT&T that iPhone owners must use.

As product reviewer Matt Buchanan writes on Gizmodo, the new Droid is “the best phone on Verizon, and with Android 2.0, the second best smart phone you can buy, period. It's flawed, deeply in some ways. But it's the second best phone around, on the best network around.”

In case you can’t guess what phone Buchanan thinks is No. 1: “It's this simple: If you don't buy an iPhone, buy a Droid.”

The other significant point is Droid’s use of the latest Android 2 software. Reviewers note its ability to run multiple applications simultaneously, its better integration with multiple e-mail accounts, including Microsoft Exchange, and the availability of thousands of third-party applications to run on the phone.

BusinessWeek tech writer Stephen Wildstrom also called Droid’s debut a game changer, but not only for the smart phone market. “It's rare for one product announcement to wreak this much havoc on multiple industries,” Wildstrom writes.

By example, he thinks Droid’s inclusion of Google Maps Navigation software, with its free real-time, turn-by-turn driving instructions, is a serious threat to portable navigation devices and the fee-based mapping software sold on other smart phones.

About the Author

John Zyskowski is a senior editor of Federal Computer Week. Follow him on Twitter: @ZyskowskiWriter.

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