Will Droid Owners Get Buyer’s Remorse?

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — If you rushed out to buy a new Droid phone from Motorola based on reviews and the heavy marketing campaign, congratulations, your phone’s been obsoleted by Google.

That’s an exaggeration, but today’s release of Google’s Nexus One, what the company describes as a new generation of “superphone,” has clearly moved the high-flying Droid down a peg a two from the perch as the hottest Android phone.

“Google has talked about equal opportunities for developers, but now it’s showing that some Android devices are more equal than others,” said Michael Gartenberg, vice president of strategy and analysis at Interpret.

“If I were [Android supporters] LG or Samsung, I’d be feeling pretty bad right now,” Gartenberg told InternetNews.com. “And if I’m a Droid user, I’d be feeling some buyer’s remorse now. You might even think, ‘Well the Nexus One is on T-Mobile and I want to be on Verizon,’ but you can’t even say that for long because Google has already said Verizon will ship a Nexus One this spring.”

Many if not all of the slick software features on the Nexus One will eventually be available to Droid users, as they are part of the latest version of the open source Android software stack, version 2.1. Droid currently ships with version 2.0.

Also, the Nexus One is also a much sleeker, lighter device than the Droid. “The Droid really feels like a guy phone, it’s bigger and heavier,” said Michele Turner, executive vice president of products at Cooliris which developed the flashy, 3D media gallery software for managing photos in the Nexus One.

Gartenberg said Google is raising the bar for the Android ecosystem with Nexus One, and its challenge will be not only to lead but also support and keep its partners happy. “This is really a Google phone and Google is now a consumer electronics company,” said Gartenberg. “You can’t even buy the phone at T-Mobile, only at Google’s Web site, so Google owns the customer.”

Controlling the ecosystem

He also likened Google’s move to Apple’s iPhone strategy of controlling as much of the ecosystem as possible.

At the beginning of today’s media event, Google acknowledged the work of other mobile Android device providers whose offerings, for now, appear to be eclipsed by Nexus One. It’s also worth noting that since the device is, for now, only being sold via the Web site, Google is not competing directly with its partners at the retail level.

“We’re in the early stages of a longer journey,” said Mario Queiroz, vice president of product management at Google. “We’re proud of our partners,” he continued, ticking off the names of Android devices like the Sprint HTC Hero, the Droid, Motorola CLIQ, Acer A1 and Sony Experia. “The volume and variety of devices has honestly exceeded even our most optimistic expectations, but we want to do more.”

Queiroz said Google developed Nexus One with HTC as part of a plan to “bring devices to market which are going to help us showcase technology software at Google.”

Gartenberg said he thinks Google was more directly motivated by some level of disappointment in the Android devices released so far. “They’ve been kind of lackluster. I really think Google wants to kick things up a notch.”

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