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Moto Droid Off To A Good Start. But Is It Good Enough?

Market research firm Flurry, which tracks smart phone market share by monitoring usage of thousands of mobile apps, says Motorola sold 250,000 of its Droid smart phones in the device?? first week on the market. That?? not bad. HTC?? MyTouch sold just 60,000 in its first week. And analysts believe Palm sold between 90,000 and 100,000 of its Pre smart phone when it came on the market earlier this year.

But the question is what happens to Droid sales in week two, three and those that follow??s dozens of other Android phones are expected to hit the market, as Olga Kharif points out in her story in the magazine. As of now, the device??hich has gotten mostly good reviews??s benefiting from a huge marketing push from Verizon, estimated to total around $100 million. No doubt, you??e seen the ?? Don???ads, which clearly position Droid as a superior alternative to Apple’s iPhone.

That’s an effective advertising campaign, especially when combined with Verizon’s “there’s a map for that” ads that bust on AT&T’s reputation for spotty 3G coverage. Former Motorola CEO Ed Zander, for one, thinks Moto “has a good shot to sell a ton of Droids” if the device emerges as the gotta-have phone on the Verizon network. Indeed, if Motorola can maintain this 250,000-a-week clip for a quarter, it would move 3.25 million Droids. That would make it a blockbuster and the iPhone’s nearest rival. Apple sold 7.4 million of its iPhone 3Gs in the company’s just announced fiscal quarter. And Flurry’s Peter Farago says the firm’s data shows that Apple sold 600,000 iPhones during Droid’s debut week.

But Droid’s main competition isn’t really the iPhone: it’s fragmentation of the Android market. Clearly, Apple will have no problem keeping consumers focused on its device. The iPhone is the only smart phone Apple sells, and the company spends beaucoup bucks reinforcing a clear, powerful message: buy an iPhone, and get the benefit of Apple quality as well as those 100,000 apps in the App Store.

Now consider Motorola’s challenge. Within weeks, consumers who go into a Verizon store will have many of different phones to choose from. Many of these devices will have a different “skin”, a layer of software interface to make it stand out. That may make strategic sense on paper, but all these different interfaces is bound to confuse consumers. Also, it’s not clear to me whether all of those 12,000-plus Android apps will run on all Android devices, further muddling the message.

And Zander wonders if consumers will be put off by the complexity of the Android model. It’s bad enough with the iPhone, where Apple is responsible for the device and AT&T for the network. With Android, “are you buying from Verizon, or Google or Motorola?” While Zander thinks current Motorola CEO Sanjay Jha has done “a helluva job,” he also thinks “there are a lot of competitors in this space. It’s going to be an interesting Christmas.”

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