The DROID vs. the iPhone: It’s in the Advertising

by Josh Rubenoff Nov 05, 2009

Someday, there will be a time when our way of life causes our destruction. There could be a physical attack on the fiber-optic and phone lines that provides us with Internet service, and America's infrastructure will be hopelessly crippled — or terrorists could successfully destroy one of the many data centers which store hundreds of terabytes of financially sensitive information in the nebulous space often referred to as the "cloud".

An enterprising group of hackers could create a virtual skeleton key and use it to destroy the reputation of and aura of safety around online transactions. Our machines could even become sentient and rise against us, and as we huddle around the transistor radios in our basements, surrounded by canned goods and yellowing issues of inTouch Magazine, listening for updates from the resistance as the robots salvage bits of metal and plastic from the wreckage that was once our homes, we will wonder why we kept buying excessive amounts of electronics until it was too late. Did we really need that fourth iPod nano, the one with the marginally interesting extra features? We will cower in the darkness and marvel at just how irrelevant it all really was.

Until then, there's the Motorola DROID.

Verizon and Google recently announced a partnership centered around Android, which basically amounts to VZN throwing its weight behind the platform. One should note that the DROID is a line of products rather than a single phone (for example, Sprint's HTC Hero is being rebranded for Verizon as the Droid Eris). What's interesting to me is how this commercial, the only DROID ad I've seen thus far, is primarily anti-Apple.

It must be obnoxious for Apple's competitors to have their flagship products constantly compared to the iPhone — recently, Walt Mossberg lumped the BlackBerry Storm 2 and the Cliq (also by Motorola) into one article, dismissing them as part of the "long parade of iPhone threats." Motorola and Research in Motion are both huge companies who've spent a ton of money and hired quality personnel to develop and market these phones. It's a testament to the iPhone's world-class industrial design and user experience that ads like this one have to bash Apple rather than tout the impressive features of the product they're selling.

The Motorola DROID is getting excellent reviews — it's running both a fast processor analogous to the internals of the iPhone 3GS, as well the newest version of Android (code-named "Donut"). Both Engadget and Gizmodo rate it as second to the iPhone. So, again, not a product that should need to bash the iPhone in its ads in order to get attention, but a product that has to in order to gain any significant traction with consumers. It's unfortunate that it has to be that way, and maybe if a company like Palm or Motorola really gets its act together, that might no longer be the case. Until then, you have the iPhone and the DROID. One device runs a proprietary, notoriously closed OS and app marketplace, and one device is mostly open-source. One device has a great physical keyboard, and one device has a great virtual keyboard. But only one device is the iPhone, and for the forseeable future, all others have to follow its lead.


  • From the reviews that I have read, the Droid seems not to have an excellent physical keyboard - it’s described as mediocre at best (without any predictive text correction, either.) Also, I’m trying to figure out who at Verizon thought that I would want to buy a phone that puts Sauron in my pocket. wink

    No matter; the Droid is a positive step for Verizon customers - say, those who might consider an iPhone but cannot get good service from AT&T;, or who prefer Verizon’s customer service over AT&T;, or who do not want the hassle of switching carriers. The Droid looks to be better than anything WM or Blackberry right now, so that’s good news.

    doogald had this to say on Nov 05, 2009 Posts: 4
  • “What’s interesting to me is how this commercial, the only DROID ad I’ve seen thus far, is primarily anti-Apple.”

    You mean like Mac OS X, whose “I’m a Mac” ads mostly feature the depressed and lackluster PC guy to the hipster Mac?  What kind of pathetic company would need to spend all its time bashing the competition?

    Must be a testament to Windows world class design, eh?  wink

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Nov 05, 2009 Posts: 2220
  • I think Motorola’s ad and the Get A Mac campaign differ in some pretty significant ways. First and foremost is the markets of their respective products: the desktop/notebook market is overwhelmingly dominated by Windows PCs, while the mobile space is broad enough to be occupied by many different players. If Apple runs a commercial attempting to persuade consumers to switch from their old computer to a Mac, they’re almost always trying to persuade the consumer to switch from Windows.

    The iPhone, however, holds less than a 30% share of the smartphone market - and Android, WebOS and the BlackBerry are very serious competitors. There’s no way to assume that a potential buyer of the Droid currently owns an iPhone. It’s the fact that the iPhone dominates *mindshare* in the mobile space that makes it a primary target in smartphone advertising.

    Also, when Apple began its Get A Mac campaign, Microsoft was running zero advertising for Windows - and, until recently, continued to stand idly by while Apple ran this series of pretty vicious attack ads. By contrast, all smartphone manufacturers regularly buy media time - but a lot of them are now forced to use those media buys to attack the iPhone. In 2007, the original iPhone’s UX and design were five years ahead of the competition. The iPhone’s competitors had to play catch-up to a gamechanging device, and it became that much more difficult for them to market their devices on their own terms.

    Josh Rubenoff had this to say on Nov 05, 2009 Posts: 10
  • The whole “Droid” name puts me off. It sounds blah and depressing.

    Chris Howard had this to say on Nov 06, 2009 Posts: 1209
  • “I think Motorola’s ad and the Get A Mac campaign differ in some pretty significant ways.”

    But the rest of your argument is basically for why they’re pretty much the same.  The Droid is competing against the iPhone’s mindshare dominance.  OS X is competing against Windows’ marketshare dominance.

    Both are examples of a company attacking the leader.  Not exactly unprecedented in the ad world, btw. 

    The only “significant” difference is that Apple is doing the attacking in one and being attacked in the other And the Apple fanboys simply can’t deal with that.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Nov 06, 2009 Posts: 2220
  • Well, I’m definitely not pointing this out to defend Apple in any way. I just think that it’s important to note that comparisons between those two campaigns are inevitably flawed because they ignore the markets the ads were intended for.

    Just to restate my case in an oversimplified way, and the reason why I’m sticking to this point: The personal computer market has been around for a few decades, Windows has dominated with a 90%+ marketshare for a very long time, Microsoft ran almost no advertising promoting their operating system until Apple ran a humorous attack campaign that significantly damaged Windows’ reputation and Microsoft was forced to fight back by creating a marketing campaign.

    A tangible smartphone market has been around for a decade or so, maybe less. There were a few major competitors like RIM, and they ran advertising promoting their phones constantly because it was still a nascent market and they were trying to get people to buy a phone in the first place. When the iPhone was introduced at Macworld and became a mindshare leader by default with its insane amounts of hype, many cellphone companies ignored it because Apple was a new entry into the mobile space, and they didn’t think Apple could hit a home run its first time around. (That’s the only reason why I say it’s a testament to the iPhone’s design that they’re running these ads, because clearly sales are no longer being driven by hype.) Apple runs ads promoting its own phone for a year, ignoring everyone else’s products after other companies have been advertising for a decade in the same market. Suddenly, these companies are motivated to run attack ads against Apple after it gains only a 10% market share. If they wanted to run negative ads against a smartphone leader, try Symbian, which powers around 50% of smartphones worldwide.

    I understand that I’m writing an Apple blog and so any arguments I make are going to be interpreted as sympathetic to that company, but I don’t think I have any bias here. Just trying to point out the two different contexts both campaigns were running in and attempting to explain my gut feeling that I don’t think they’re analogous.

    Josh Rubenoff had this to say on Nov 06, 2009 Posts: 10
  • Also: as someone who used Windows for a decade before switching, it doesn’t really have many superior features to OS X to advertise to the world other than the price of its partners’ hardware and, uh, Photosynth. But there are plenty of phones out there with quality features (like SMS management and e-mail) that far exceed the iPhone.

    Josh Rubenoff had this to say on Nov 06, 2009 Posts: 10
  • “Microsoft ran almost no advertising promoting their operating system until Apple ran a humorous attack campaign that significantly damaged Windows’ reputation.”

    This is simply not the case, as anyone who was around for just about every Windows launch could tell you.  Off the top of my head, I recall the butterfly ads that were really quite good.  But that’s largely irrelevant.  The issue here is what the underdog competition has done.  In the OS market, it was Apple as the underdog that went directly after the market leader.  In the smartphone market, it’s the Droid going after the iPhone.

    And again, I’ve seen no argument that you’ve made that actually points out these significant differences, other than the iPhone isn’t really the market leader in terms of pure sales.  But it’s definitely the mind share leader in its category, and that’s certainly what the Droid is going after.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Nov 06, 2009 Posts: 2220
  • “Also: as someone who used Windows for a decade before switching, it doesn’t really have many superior features to OS X to advertise to the world”

    I use both systems every day and do not agree at all.  For one thing, the sheer volume of apps available on Windows vs OS X is overwhelming.  And while you could make a quantity vs quality argument here, keep in mind that Apple itself has undermined that argument by touting the sheer volume of apps available on the iPhone as a selling point, and indeed Engadget recently gave the iPhone the edge over the Droid based SOLELY on the number of apps available.

    In terms of other features and use, I consider them basically at parity.  I hop back and forth between the machines, doing roughly the same tasks with roughly equal ease.  In that case, I don’t think it’s MS’s responsibility to tout superior features.  Given MS’s 90% market share, OS X has to prove why it’s good enough to make you switch.  This has also been my argument for the iPod over the Zune.  Just as good isn’t good enough unless you’re cheaper, which is not true of either the Zune or the Mac.

    That would be my argument for the Droid as well.  Just as good isn’t good enough.  I think it’s a great product and on par with the iPhone, superior in some ways and less compelling in others.  Not enough just yet for me to regret my iPhone, but certainly good enough to pick over the iPhone if I were in the market for a new smart phone and weren’t having to make a switch.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Nov 06, 2009 Posts: 2220
  • This isn’t to say that the iPhone 4 is better in every aspect however, there are many features that the DROID Incredible still offers that the iPhone simply can’t match. -Tire Works

    Tire Works had this to say on Aug 10, 2011 Posts: 12
  • As a simple user of both of these operating systems in turns, I must say I am more of an Android fan. It may be that I don`t have all necessary insight to pronounce my point of view from a technical perspective, but it seems to me that exe file extension sets are more easily read on Android than on other operating systems.

    Sandy had this to say on Oct 28, 2011 Posts: 7
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