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Surviving in iPhone Territory: A Competitive Analysis of the Launch of the HTC G1
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Surviving in iPhone Territory: A Competitive Analysis of the Launch of the HTC G1


Chris Thomas (The Conversation Group) presents the findings of a TCG research project covering the launch of the HTC G1 - the first smartphone to use the Google Android operating system. The project …

Chris Thomas (The Conversation Group) presents the findings of a TCG research project covering the launch of the HTC G1 - the first smartphone to use the Google Android operating system. The project showcases the contribution of social media research to competitive intelligence, brand positioning and strategic communications. Covering a three month period around launch, and including almost 100,000 unique items of discussion content. The presentation offers lessons for the effective blending of quantitative and qualitative analysis methods, and evaluation of the relative contributions of a range of free and licensed monitoring and analysis tools.

Published in Technology , News & Politics
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  • 1. Surviving In iPhone TerritoryA Competitive Analysis of the Launch of the HTC G1Monitoring Social Media, Cavendish Centre. 17th November 2009
  • 2. Introducing…
    The Conversation Group:
    • A consultancy dedicated to the art, science and application of social technologies
    • 3. Operating globally, offices in London, San Francisco and Helsinki
    • 4. Practice areas in strategy, research, communications, technology and process
    Chris Thomas:
    • CV: Observer Group / Cisionand Infonic
    • 5. Specialised in online and offline media research tools, methods and program design
  • The Problem With Social Media Research…
    Data and analytics are frequently subpar:
    • Data aggregation often treated as an end in itself
    • 6. Oversold automation / turnkey solutions for monitoring lead to substandard or incomplete data
    • 7. Research projects executed by communicators, not researchers
    “Typical approach” to social media analytics is:
    • Tactical, not strategic… lacks appropriate context
    • 8. Conceived and executed at junior level… ignored at executive level
    • 9. Used as a fig leaf for “execution by intuition”
  • Our Approach To Social Media Research
    ‘Surviving in iPhone Territory’ is TCG:
    • Demonstrating the strategic value created by social media monitoring and analytics
    • 10. Carrying the flag for a mature approach to social media research, that can talk credibly to executives
    • 11. Showcasing the importance of research expertise during program design, especially in determining appropriate mix of qualitative and quantitative research methods
    • 12. Demonstrating a methodology for evaluating, selecting and effectively using SM monitoring and analytics tools
  • Project Brief and Program Design
    A strategic analysis of the performance at launch of the T-Mobile / HTC G1 handset. Viewed from the perspective of all major stakeholders
    Project concept
    Social media content – blogs, microblogs, discussion forums – relevant in a broad, competitive context to the handset launch
    Content scope
    Geographic Scope
    Global, in the English language
    Historical analysis encompassing a three month period around launch (Autumn 2008)
    Time span
    6 man-weeks in program design, research and reporting. Software license costs as required (in consideration of cost-benefit analysis)
  • 13. Tool Selection
    Choice criteria:
    • Fully supports project objectives
    • 14. Works transparently
    • 15. Offers robust, differentiated analysis tools
    • 16. Creates unique value over free
    We used:
    Common problems:
    • Insufficient archive
    • 17. Unreliable search results
    • 18. Lightweight, or minimal differentiation in analytical tools
    • 19. Little granularity in data
    (and our own manpower)
  • 20. The HTC G1, AKA The “Googlephone”
    HTC is…
    • The manufacturer which makes…
    The “G1”
    • The first smartphone to operate on…
    Google’s “Android” mobile operating system
    • An early contender – with Symbian – in the “open source mobile” space. Essentially an open code base for developers of mobile apps, supported by an alliance of smartphone manufacturers, network carriers and developers called…
    The Open Handset Alliance (OHA)
    • Which has around 50 members as of today, and expects to have launched 18 Android devices by end 2009
  • What We Found…
  • 21. What We Found…
    • Viewed in isolation, the G1 built impressive buzz around its launch.
    • 22. Looked at in a broader competitive context, results are very disappointing – particularly for a handset held up as an “iPhone killer”
    iPhone dominates, even during G1 launch
    • iPhone commanded more than 12 times the raw volume of new blog comment during the 3 month study period
  • What We Found…
  • 23. What We Found…
    • More evidence that launch buzz was a profound disappointment – peak discussion was substantially overhauled by a trade press story!
    • 24. A significant downwards dip in discussion towards the end of the launch period is held up by rumours about the G2
    G1 launch = “tech story of the year”?
    • A longer term view of blog buzz shows that the launch was anything but: discussion actually peaked in relation to a routine OHA news story, several weeks after launch
  • What We Found…
  • 25. What We Found…
    • The G1 is a complex product to communicate – with much of the anticipatory buzz built around the Android operating system, not the handset on which it operates
    • 26. The positive appeal of and residual goodwill towards the Android OS is not successfully leveraged in G1 comms
    Thumbs up to Android; Thumbs down to G1
    • Commentators found a lot to like, but also a lot to dislike about the G1 handset features
    • 27. But there was nothing but praise for the Android OS
  • What We Found…
  • 28. What We Found…
    • Measuring raw buzz makes the competitive position of the G1 look weak, but weighting this for reach or influence makes it look still worse
    • 29. Participants in discussions tend to be either Android OS fans, or G1 handset haters. The “complete package” needs to be better communicated
    G1 has weak friends and powerful enemies
    • By a simple count, the G1 has a community of potential advocates that rivals iPhone
    • 30. But this misses important nuance: iPhone fans are MUCH better connected
  • What We Found…
  • 31. What We Found…
    • It’s important to engage with criticism as well as encourage advocacy – this does not appear to have been done in the case of G1
    • 32. As a result, unmoderated critical voices dominate the busy hub of the smartphone community of interest – a key driver of customer intention
    Mature smartphone network of influence
    • The smartphone community of interest comprises a diffuse halo of unconnected sources, and an extensively networked hub of influential sites.
    • 33. Not enough positive discussion about G1 takes place in the “hub” of the smartphone community
  • Recommendations
    Online sources are confused by the relationship between the Android OS and the G1 handset. This confusion is harmful to all OHA members. This could be addressed through a harmonised approach to comms at OHA level
    Coordinate comms with OHA Partners
    Align aims of market and developer comms
    Developer communications have been very successful, but market communications have not. This risks putting the cart before the horse – developer uptake is ultimately driven by market traction. Market communications must become a priority
    Engage existing smartphone community
    There is a thriving smartphone community of interest in social media, that – in contrast to Apple - remains largely unengaged by OHA members. Participation in this community needs to feature in the communications roadmap for Android phones
    Discourage “iPhone killer” narrative
    It is tempting to encourage such comparisons as a way of driving buzz. At present time, this is a comparison that the G1 can’t qualitatively win. The G1 (and other Android phones) are a substantially different offer to the iPhone – and they should be communicated as such
  • 34. Lessons: For You
    Insights are driven by expertise, not tools
    • Social media monitoring tools give good support for tactical communications, but are less suitable for articulating and solving strategic challenges
    • 35. Cost-efficiency in learning to use a tool is a false economy if the feature set doesn’t support your goals
    Context is King
    • Creation of data is not an end in itself, and bad analysis is worse than no analysis at all
    • 36. Outsourcing research is not necessary, but solid business context, research expertise and understanding of online social ecosystems is
  • Lessons: For The Conversation Group
    Systematised social media research can support a range of knowledge functions, in this case:
    • Competitor analysis
    • 37. Product feature / brand perception analysis
    • 38. … and reaction to the study has been very positive
    Current state of supply:
    • Feature sets of most commercial acquisition and analytics tools disappointing for “power users”
    • 39. Cost / benefit analysis points towards investment in complex tools to create better insights and more business value
    • 40. Next stop: open source?
  • Thank You!
    Chris Thomas
    Head of Research @ The Conversation Group
    +44 7970 665497
    christhomasuk on Skype; LinkedIn and various other places online
    PDF download links for “Surviving in iPhone Territory”: (executive summary) (full report)