Not usually given to hop on the hot-button iPhone scandal of the day, but that'll happen here from time to time. More often, what you'll see here is a stream of observations. Things that don't make sense. Ways in which Apple isn't drinking their own Kool-Aid. Signs that they're painfully behind the times in the iPhone software market, even though it's their own damned platform.
Whenever I’ve overheard conversations about smartphones in real life, by “normal people” (not geeks like us), it has always been clear that the true battle happening in the U.S. phone market wasn’t iPhone versus Android, but iPhone versus Verizon.
The decision that people were discussing wasn’t “Do I get an iPhone or an Android whatever?”
It was always “Do I get an iPhone or do I stay on Verizon?”
I get the feeling that very few people except anti-Apple geeks really care about Android itself.
One thing that’s important to note, in this mental calculus, is what happened to all of the folks who adopted Android phones over the past year, no matter what their initial reasoning was. Many, many of them have become extremely rabid proponents of Android (or their particular device) simply as a matter of course.
I’ve had a number of friends on Tumblr and Facebook mention this VZW iPhone thing to their friends list, and invariably someone posts something like “Just get a Droid, they’re fantastic!” And, also invariably, the commenter is someone who six or ten months ago wouldn’t have been able to tell you the difference between a smartphone and a feature phone. So, these are the folks who just really enjoy their Droid (or Evo, or whatever), and haven’t ever spent time with an iPhone, so they assume it just can’t be quite as good. Perspective is hard to get when these devices are so expensive.
But then there are the folks who ditched an iPhone 3G for Android, so the last iPhone they’ve experienced is Apple’s resting-on-their-laurels device. I’ve seen a number of these people (or folks with similar stories) become truly rabid about Android over the past year, year and a half. They’re the first to rip your head off in a conversation, and they’ve likely bought two or three of the latest-greatest Android phones over the past twelve months.
I still think your assessment of the iPhone/Verizon situation is on point. But it’s important to note that Google has not only been playing a strong handset/subscriber numbers game over the past year or so…they’ve also been very effectively creating promoters. It’s a game that Apple knows well. I don’t think Google plays it as well as Apple does, but they are playing it well.