Failure to Launch: Can Android Deliver?
In a world of “I want it now!” and “Shut up and take my money!” tech companies live and die by their ability to quickly deliver the goods. Some have been able to understand the fast-paced nature of the tech industry and use it to their advantage; others have faltered, to say the least.
When the first iPhone burst onto the scene in June of 2007, it redefined the phone for the average consumer. Apple never looked back.
Android was close in pursuit from the onset. Just over a year after the iPhone’s launch, the world was introduced to the HTC Dream (or the T-Mobile G1). Since its first incarnation, Android has steadily developed into the world’s top smartphone platform.
Despite a possessing a smaller market share than the total of all Android devices, five generations of iPhone later, Apple is still considered the standard-bearer for the smartphone market. Only one producer of Android devices has been able to achieve significant individual success: Samsung. The company’s Galaxy line has propelled the company to a sizable market share.
But neither the Samsung Galaxy SIII nor the Apple iPhone 5 is the most technologically advanced smartphone on the market, though they may be the only top notch phones that are fluently available to consumers.
On February 19, HTC unveiled its new flagship device: the stunning HTC One. Featuring an aluminum body, 1.7 GHz quad core processor, and 4.7 inch, 1080p display with a dazzling 468 ppi, the One captivated reviewers and buyers alike. Many believed that the One would be available by mid-March. Then the expected release date was March 22. Next the company announced that there would be further delays due to a camera component shortage.
The HTC One was released in the UK, Germany, and Taiwan in late March. For those of us in the United States, pre-ordering has finally become available today from AT&T; Sprint will begin offering pre-orders tomorrow. The expected release date: April 19, exactly two months after the phone was unveiled.
This is the sort of thing that many Android users are used to by now. Last November, Google announced its newest smartphone: the LG-produced Nexus 4. Much like the HTC One, Google’s new flagship device had the tech world buzzing. It features first-class specs, including a 1.5 GHz quad core processor and an unadulterated version of the Android 4.2 “Jelly Bean” operating system. Even more enticing to many, though, is its price: Google is selling the unlocked Nexus 4 with 8 or 16 GB of internal storage for $299 and $349, respectively. To put that into perspective, an unlocked iPhone 5 (16 GB) costs $649 at the Apple Store.
The Nexus 4 sold out within thirty minutes. The device’s website was bogged down due to heavy traffic and many customers had no idea whether or not their order had gone through or when to expect to see their new phone. The company’s representatives were unhelpful. During the following months, the Google Play Store was either officially sold out of the Nexus 4 or had the device in stock but with shipping times of at least one or two weeks. It took months for Google and LG to clean up the mess.
Now the Nexus 4 is in stock at the Play Store with some of the shortest shipping times since its fumbled release. The innovative, four-month-old device has finally become regularly available –just in time to be made obsolete by its fiercest rivals.
Despite competition from Blackberry and Windows Phone, the story of today’s smartphone market is largely the story of Apple’s iPhone and its Android-based competitors. Producers of Android devices have two major competitors: other Android devices and Apple.
HTC’s chief executive, Peter Chou, has vowed to resign if the One is a failure. While the device certainly has the potential for success, saying that it has started off on the wrong foot is a serious understatement. How can a company like HTC expect to challenge Samsung’s (let alone Apple’s) dominance of the smartphone market if it can’t even manage to get its best products into customers’ hands?