The most important Android phone

We are 10 years into the Android era and I've been talking a lot about how it's dominant now. There's over two billion users and it has over 80% worldwide market share. Now, in a previous video, we looked at why Android got started, but this week, I have a different question. How did Android get so big? If you take yourself all the way back to 2009, it was very much not a sure thing that Android would become the king of mobile. In fact, what you were looking at back then was like a six or seven-horse race. Far out in the lead was Symbian, which was dominant in Europe but almost nothing here in the US.

The iPhone was getting a little bit of traction, BlackBerry was doing okay, and Android was like a blip, like, a 4% blip. Now, in hindsight, it's really easy to say why Symbian and Windows Mobile and BlackBerry and Linux and, yes, Linux phone existed, and webOS, why they all crashed and burned. They all happened for kind of different reasons but today, I wanna focus on one of the biggest reasons they all went down in flames instead of staying competitive and that reason is.

Droid. - More so than the G1, this right here is the real Android OG and there's a lot of really notable things to talk about with this device. First off, it was a big deal for Motorola, which hadn't had a hit since the Razr flip phone, and it was before the company fell on hard times and then got bought by Google, and then got sold by Google, and now, just kind of makes bog standard Android phones now that it's owned by Lenovo. No, this phone right here with its little flip out thing here, this was the big comeback, and oh my gosh, what a comeback. It's hard to remember now but this thing was the pinnacle of tech. I mean, just look at the crazy angles on these things and it had turn-by-turn directions in Google Maps, which was very rare back then and it launched with Android 2.0. It had a very big screen, it had multiple buttons, little five-way, removable battery, a whole bunch of stuff. And if you didn't know, Google had a hand in developing this phone. I've even heard some Googlers referred to the Droid as the unofficial first Nexus device, even before the Nexus One in 2010. This phone was metal. It was metal as hell. And that brings me to the real reason that the Droid was the moment when Android started to get big, and that's because of Verizon.  - What in the world is that?  You see, back in 2009, carriers had a lot more control over what phones got on their networks and they still did most of the marketing work on them. And to be clear, I'm mostly talking about the US right now.

But the US was also kind of ground zero for the smartphone wars. Sure, the iPhone was getting big but it was exclusive just to AT&T after Verizon had turned it down. So, Verizon was desperately looking for something to compete with the iPhone. Now, Verizon started this thing called the BlackBerry Storm, which was a absolute dumpster fire of a device with a big screen that you're supposed to click down on to type. It was really bad. So, Verizon was looking around for the next big thing and you know what? I know a lot of you have been waiting for this because the company that Verizon took a look at next, Palm. Verizon had rejected the first Palm Pre and that went to Sprint, which, you know, anytime a phone was exclusive to Sprint, you know it's gonna bomb. Just ask Essential. But by 2009, Palm had made this, the Palm Pre Plus, and it was looking to launch it on Verizon and Verizon was actually game. The Palm Pre Plus was maybe going to be Verizon's iPhone killer. We reported that Verizon had placed an order for a, quote, extraordinary number of Palm smartphones, but somewhere in there, Verizon changed its mind. It might have just been playing Palm all along. Instead, it launched the Droid in October 2009 as its flagship, and it did so with a huge marketing campaign. I mean, massive. The campaign was called Droid Does and it took direct aim at the iPhone. It said that it could do all sorts of things that the iPhone can't, like multitasking and navigation and taking five-megapixel photos and just on and on and on. It was a spec war, basically. Ad Age reported that Verizon pumped $100 million into its marketing campaign, which is a lot of money now and it was a huge amount of money back then. Verizon also licensed the word Droid from George Lucas, who had the trademark on it thanks to, you know, Star Wars. I have to point out that these ads, they were awful and really misogynistic. They painted the iPhone as girly and the Droid is a manly stealth-bomber-looking thing. I mean, just look at some of these imagery, it's kind of flat out offensive. -

Is it a precious porcelain figurine of a phone? In truth? No. It's not a princess. It's a robot. A phone that trades hair-do for can-do. - Verizon, what were you doing? A lot of people bought into your manly Droid ad claptrap and it kind of hurt the Android community for a while. Thankfully, those days are mostly behind us but the Droid was good enough to serve as the thing that people could get on Verizon since they couldn't get an iPhone. And that ad campaign made Android the de facto other smartphone to the iPhone. Now, it does not help that everybody else was tripping over their own shoelaces trying to make a phone to compete with the iPhone. BlackBerry was antiquated, Symbian was on the downslope, and Microsoft was so years away from really knowing what the hell it was doing with phones. They all shot themselves in their own feet over and over and over again. And Palm, it wasn't much better, but it was a little better. Now, Verizon did eventually launch the Palm Pre Plus but they made some pretty terrible commercials for it, which were also a little bit sexist. But that whole Verizon thing, it kneecapped the company. And in the face of that huge, massive marketing blitz, there wasn't any oxygen for anything other than Droid. The rest was history. Within six months of launching the Droid, Android passed iOS as the most used smartphone and it never looked back on its path taking over most of the world. So, I'm not saying Verizon single-handedly made Android happen, but without that ad campaign and this phone right here, who knows? Who knows what might have happened? The next time you see a phone ad and you just feel it's just a little bit too feel-good and sentimental, just remember, nice is better than. - [Robotic Voice] Droid. - Hey, everybody, thanks so much for watching and let me know in the comments what made you buy your first Android phone. Was it an ad campaign? Was it a friend? Was it something else? I'm really curious, let me know. Also, if you missed the first part of this series about Android history, it's about why Google bought Android and made it in the first place, so you can check that out.

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