Only two weeks into 2011, the clear winner for worst-kept secret of the year is the iPhone's availability from mobile service provider Verizon, which the companies officially announced on Tuesday morning. Throughout the week, search engines, social media networks and research firms assessed the device's eventual effect on the smartphone market, and its popularity among consumers.
When Apple confirmed absence from last week's Consumer Electronics Show, many speculated the device would be revealed between the days following the show and Valentine's Day. Those betting short proved correct.
Since the announcement, "Verizon iPhone" has remained a popular topic on Google Trends and Twitter, while Google Realtime search results show intrigue related to the device hasn't wavered at any point this week. Similarly, Alexa reports Verizon Wireless' website traffic has increased 150 percent since the announcement.
The device will likely become available to consumers on February 10, however, neither Apple nor Verizon has released information relating to pricing of data plans. Furthermore, some customers expressed dismay when learning the iPhone will not be one of the devices capable of functioning on Verizon's 4G-LTE network.
Some have questioned the motivation for releasing the Verizon iPhone without 4G capability. Based on the success of Google's Android mobile operating system, it appears as though Apple may have forced the iPhone's release on Verizon earlier than it expected to stymie Android's growth. Future versions of the Verizon iPhone will likely be 4G enabled, however, customers will have to wait. Throughout the week, Apple chief operating officer Tim Cook has declined to comment on future Verizon iPhone releases. The company typically announces new versions of the iPhone in the summer, so many expect a 4G-capable iPhone to drop when Apple releases its next generation mobile devices later this year.
While Google made no counter to Apple’s announcement, it appears as though the competition between the two OS developers has manifested itself in another aspect of the current smartphone market. Research firm Millennial Media reported on Thursday that Android surpassed iOS in mobile ad impressions in December 2010. Since January, the figure grew 3,130 percent, which led to Android taking the top spot in terms of impressions on Millennial's network.
However, the most important frontier of the Android-Verizon competition is market share, of course. According to market research firms comScore and Canalys, the iPhone's availability on Verizon will not negatively impact Android's market share. Specifically, the organizations believe the momentum Android developed in 2010, when it grew from less than 5 percent of the market to more than 25 percent, is too strong to be slowed substantially.
According to ChangeWave Research, AT&T stands to lose more than Android. On Wednesday, the market research firm released results of a survey of more than 4,000 American consumers, which found 26 percent of people would move to Verizon from AT&T.
Other predictions for 2011 yielded positive results for Android. Compal Electronics reported this week that it expects 90 percent of tablet computers it ships this year to run on Google's Android.
Despite the impending availability of the Verizon iPhone, Computerworld reported this week that the service provider is especially strong in terms of its Android support and upgrades for OS updates. More than one-third of Android devices connected to Verizon's network received updates to Android 2.2, while more than half of HTC handsets received updates. Those manufactured by LG, Dell and Sony were among the worst based on research conducted by Computerworld's J.R. Raphael.
For consumers, all of this means there are decisions to make when purchasing a new smartphone, especially on carriers offering both iPhone and Android-based devices. While the iPhone's track record of customer satisfaction needs no explanation, the number of Android-powered phones, paired with their 4G availability on Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile, makes them especially attractive options. The impending upgrades to Android 2.3, and reports of Android 2.4's availability later this year, further adds to the competition between Apple and Google.
Wednesday, Apple announced an OS upgrade in the form of iOS 4.3, which has been released to developers in beta. Also, leaked from Apple were pictures of the iPad 2 and iPhone 5, which will be released this summer. The most obvious difference between them and older Apple mobile devices is the absence of home button, which CEO Steve Jobs reportedly sought on the original iPad. Also, the issues caused by antenna placement on the iPhone 4 are expected to be solved with the implementation of dual antenna on the iPhone 5.
Looking ahead to next week, consumers and technology pundits alike are awaiting further information on Android 3.0, codenamed Honeycomb. Google Realtime search results for “Android Honeycomb” show substantial interest throughout the week, and more information is expected to be confirmed in the coming days and weeks.