Lessons in Competitive Brand –
Building from the Android and G1
Executive Summary by Chris Thomas and Haydn
Scope: The Launch of the First Android Phone,
The T‐Mobile G1; the Open Handset Alliance &
the Android operating system
As mobile handset makers gear up to launch a new generation of Android
mobile phones a question mark hangs over their ability to gain online traction in
the face of the Apple iPhone's game changing success. To date marketers have
had little access to true competitor landscape analysis in online media
campaigns, or to share‐of‐voice data. The Conversation Group set out to change
that by creating this report into the launch of the HTC/T Mobile G1 and the
lessons it holds for this falls crop of new launches. In short we set out to create a
case study in online competitor analytics.
Social media, as everyone knows, is a fast growing area of communications but
one that has proved difficult for many companies to exploit in predictable and
measured ways. Yes, we tweet and yes we blog, but few companies know the
true value of those investments nor can present their outputs to senior
management in a coherent way.
The Conversation Group has been involved in social media since its inception
and is constantly refining its measurement and analytical services. Here we
show what can be learned from a systematic analysis of the high profile
Google Android and the Open Handset Alliance have pioneered an open source
approach to mobile phones, while Symbian has followed with an open source
initiative of its own. Given the popularity of the mobile (the market stands at
around 800 million units per annum), and the strength of the opposition (the
iPhone and Symbian‐powered handsets) there is a potentially huge community
of interest investing in shaping perceptions of what Android can deliver.
When HTC/T‐Mobile launched the first Android phone in Q4 2008 the stakes
could not have been higher. In a market dominated by Nokia here was not just a
competitor but a new movement and eco‐system.
What can social media analysis add to the understanding of how an online
campaign and associated comment shaped‐up, following the launch of the
HTC/T‐Mobile G1? We believe the lessons can be illustrated by the scale of the
There were over 90,000 relevant & unique posts referencing G1 on English
language blogs between October 15th 2008 and January 25th 2009. Many
commercial campaigns have a similar impact on the social space. If you want to
guide your social media campaigns and learn from them then it is important to
gain experience in highly scalable metrics and reporting, an area The
Conversation Group specializes in.
About This Project
The output of this research project consists of three parts
• Google Android Social Media Landscape – Executive Summary (this
• Google Android Social Media Landscape – Full Report (PDF)
• Google Android Social Media Landscape – influencer Wiki (Tiddlywiki)
All three documents are contained in a compressed file archive available for
download from http://www.tcgemea.com/Home/research‐assets, or via email
on request to the report authors.
A Case Study of Social Media
1. The HTC G1 Handset Launch Was One of the Key Tech
Stories of 2008. Or Was It…?
The official October launch of the Android G1 was big technology news,
extensively reported and discussed by a large range of media outlets and
bloggers. The launch of the phone made ‘best of the year’ lists in a range of
influential online media, including Tech Crunch; Consumer Reports; Mashable;
CNET; PC Mag; Fommy Blog; InformationWeek and ReadWriteWeb.
However, to HTC/T‐Mobile's potential cost, there was some confusion about
exactly what these authorities were excited about – the G1 handset, or the
Android operating system.
While the launch of HTC’s G1 was a catalyst for interest in Android, in fact, it was
the Android story that dominated. But not even geek and expert interest could
build the HTC or Android story sufficient to compete with the iPhone. Even on a
quiet day the iPhone had twelve times as many online references as the
Six weeks after the HTC launch Android references came back to the fore with
news that a raft of other companies (including Sony Ericsson) had joined the
Open Handset Alliance. OHA membership in other words spiked more interest
than the G1 handset launch.
The social media space is made up of experts and amateurs, professionals and
public and that can lead to confusion – particularly among consumer facing /
“non‐expert” pundits – between the handset (G1) and the operating system
(Android), and how the respective merits of the two should be collectively or
separately presented. Secondly, a sense of disappointment about the
shortcomings of the G1 handset as a showcase for Android’s market‐changing
potential is clear in the comments.
Lesson 1: Social media analysis needs to take an extended timescale for its
parameters. Android coverage at the launch of its first handset might be
considered adequate or impressive but looked at over time it was
overshadowed by what is essentially a trade press story, and by routine
coverage of its major competitor. These factors put the actual scale of coverage
at launch into a disappointing context.
Lesson 2: best practice in social media communications is to set benchmarks for
coverage by scoping out competitor buzz in advance; keep monitoring and
profiling your campaign against these benchmarks.
2. Smartphone Enthusiasts Look Ahead – G2 and Beyond
Within a short time of launch, many commentators were looking ahead to the
next developments for the Android platform. The fire was fueled with rumors
and leaks about a forthcoming “G2” handset – including speculation about
feature sets; handset manufacturer and carrier identity.
There were both positive and negative outcomes from these rumors and leaks.
On the positive side, discussion moved on from criticism of and disappointment
with the G1 handset, and the mood grew that stakeholders were prepared to
give Android a second chance to impress.
However, on the negative side, the chilling effect on market performance of this
new buzz became apparent – that the handset would soon be rendered
obsolete by a superior, second‐generation Android phone, for launch of which
many prospective customers were prepared to wait.
This was also manifest in the reluctance of developers to commit in large
numbers to developing applications for the platform. The slower‐than‐predicted
accrual of applications for Android poses a major threat to the long‐term
prospects of the platform.
Lesson 3: Look sideways as well as forwards and be sure you are ready to
counter errors and misconceptions in the pro‐amateur environment of the social
web. Social media is a democratized venue for discussing your products and
brands but you can still anticipate how the grapevine and word of mouth might
3. Android Defined by Relationship with Apple iPhone
The G1 launch was most often framed in context of the challenge it posed to the
Apple iPhone. This did not often work to the term advantage of any of the
“Android” players – HTC; T‐Mobile; or the Open Handset Alliance.
Most of the Android hype was built up around the open operating system, and
the reputation and track record of the members of the Open Handset Alliance.
However, in its first commercial outing, the word‐of‐mouth found Android's flag‐
bearer HTC G1 handset wanting.
Head‐to‐head, the G1 lost out to the iPhone in almost every category: style;
design; features; application availability; sales and market traction.
This “head to head” narrative is clearly evidenced among the largest and most
influential voices in the mobile telephony / gadget space – TechCrunch;
EnGadget; GigaOm and so forth.
True, author, blogger and open source advocate Cory Doctorow – who has taken
issue with Apple in general, and the iPhone in particular, is representative of a
demographic that looks to Android as the “anti‐Apple” smartphone alternative2.
But on a volume and quality test, Android lost out in part because of G1
Lesson 4: Put your best foot forward. There is no point trying to build out a story
through inferior product or trying to tell this community that better things are
on the horizon. No amount of schmoozing will persuade the social space to wait
while another bus comes along.
4. Positive Sentiment Focuses on Android Operating System
The narrative wasn’t uniformly negative. Beyond lukewarm appraisals of the
“whole package”, as our qualitative analysis of detailed G1 reviews shows,
reviewers were uniformly positive about their experience of using the Android
OS on a live smartphone handset.
Lesson 5: Really know your strengths and case harden your story by taking
those and your weaknesses to the important voices first. If you have a weakness
you won't convince detractors as the debate unfolds but you may be able to buy
time by having those discussions with key voices ahead of the game.
5. Lack of Credible Advocates Within Smartphone Community
Figure 1: Influencer Network Visualization
This community network visualization thumbnail (which can be viewed and
navigated with Touchgraph Navigator – the datasheet and structure template is
available from TCG on request) shows a highly populated, active and densely
networked community of interest relevant to Android. Yet, our qualitative
identification of influencers shows most of its key advocates are not established
participants in this community.
This is in marked contrast to the G1’s detractors – which include extremely
influential and well‐connected sources such as the Boy Genius Report and
Further, the bulk of Android advocacy appears to originate from sites,
individuals or communities that have been formed solely to follow Android
developments, either from a personal interest or commercial perspective – a
position that tends to work against the credibility or influence of these sources
as independent, objective commentators. This creates a distorted view of the
aggregated nature of discussion, with much of the serious, positive content
about Android originating from sources outside of the established hub of the
smartphone community, or from sources whose credibility and impartiality
could be called into question.
Lesson 6: Credible advocacy takes a long time to establish on the web. From a
metrics viewpoint it is important to differentiate comment from credible
sources and comment from non‐credible. The objective of making this
distinction is not to jettison the latter but to question how and over what
timeframes it might gain in strength.
6. Developer Communications Succeed, But Market
Our analysis of topic sentiment in Android discussion shows that developer
engagement efforts – particularly via the pre‐release “developer model” of the
G1, and the Cupcake site ‐ were generally positively received. Cupcake in
particular was the subject of extensive positive comment for the degree of
openness it demonstrated over issues such as release timescales and logistics.
However, market communications appeared to be both less energetically
pursued, and to have achieved less positive results. The confusion identified
earlier in this section about how the G1 handset and the Android OS interrelate
appears symptomatic of a failure to successfully engage with and communicate
concepts to the key influencers in the smartphone sector.
Lesson 7: As eco‐systems become more important companies need to be aware
that while developer sentiment might get you good code or bright innovations,
the litmus test is still the market and it is dominated by quite a different set of
If you were an Android marketing or brand manager responsible for promoting
the platform and its member products online what would you do? These would
be our recommendations.
Develop a Coordinated Communications Plan at OHA Level
While communications relating solely to the Android operating system appeared
to be successfully handled, communications relating to the launch of the G1
handset were not. The confusion evident among online sources about the
respective roles of Android and HTC in the G1 offer suggests that there may in
fact have been no significant market engagement concerning Android in
connection to the launch, other than that pursued by HTC.
The Open Handset Alliance shares a stake in the successful market adoption of
the Android operating system, and a market failure for one participating
manufacturer’s handset harms all. For this reason, it is important to address the
issue of communications at a higher level.
Align Development Objectives With Market Goals
Existing Android communications are heavily developer focused. Given the
Android initiative’s emphasis on openness, and the collaborative nature of
participation in the OHA, this is not surprising. However, communication
towards developers without aligned communication towards Android end‐users
represents potentially wasted effort. Application volumes and developer
engagement with Android will be more effectively driven by handset volume
sales, and a weakness in market communications undermines this goal.
Engage Existing Smartphone Community
There is a thriving online community of interest for smartphones / consumer
electronics. This community appears to have been significantly under‐engaged
in relation to the G1 launch. This is in contrast to engagement by the Apple
iPhone, which has cultivated a passionate and enthusiastic advocacy base in the
community. Android – and manufacturers and carriers of handsets using
Android – could and should do the same.
Disassociate Android from Market Narrative of iPhone /
The collaborative structure of the Open Handset Alliance puts Android handsets
at a clear disadvantage in a head to head battle against the efficiency,
incumbency and sheer clout of the Apple iPhone’s marketing machine.
There is an understandable attraction inherent in the “Apple v Android”
narrative, and while the narrative may make a contribution to driving discussion,
the discussion has so far not favored Android. The accumulated brand currency,
critical mass of available applications and user‐base of the iPhone adds up to a
The Apple iPhone is a significantly different offer to the G1, though, and quite
possibly to any subsequent Android handset. There are clear strategic
advantages to telling a distinct Android story.
Appendix 1. Research Design
Monitoring and analyzing online conversation around product and brand is
potentially a huge undertaking – one of the reasons why a lot of social media
marketing takes place with inadequate metrics and analysis. Done properly it
should yield insights that a non‐metrics based approach cannot hope to match.
In the case of Android, as with many other large brand projects, the task extends
to apparently peripheral but ultimately essential by‐products, in this case
comment around the Open Handset Alliance and the ever‐present Apple iPhone.
The three are inextricable, even if the other actors wished it to be different.
Our approach – which is documented in the methodology annex at the end of
this paper – is based on a combination of blog and comment acquisition
technology and contextual analysis by human researchers.
The objective of the research was to collect an appropriately scaled subset of
data, sufficient to infer accurate findings and to make recommendations for
action. Those findings and recommendations can be found here in our
For those who like their data raw the full, accompanying document contains a
significantly more detailed level of data and analysis, and concludes with a
benchmark study of the presence of competing handset manufacturers on social
Detailed profiles and influence metrics relating to the main advocates and
detractors identified in this research are also available in an accompanying wiki
– configured to provide a basis for note‐taking and collaboration in active
influencer engagement activities.
Appendix 2: Topic analysis
Smartphone Market and Sales
• While reaction to the G1 handset itself was qualified, sentiment towards
Android in principle, and the Open Handset Alliance as an entity was
unreservedly positive. Both were regarded as significant, newsworthy and
strategic drivers of media and discussion interest
• There was significant and sustained social media buzz around the
smartphone sector in general; sales were perceived as robust despite global
• The Android platform established itself as part of leadership tier in smartphone
market, despite reservations about the quality and market prospects of the G1
• The G1’s key competitor for social media interest / discussion is the market-
dominant Apple iPhone. The iPhone secured many times more discussion
than the G1 during the period of this audit
• The second main competitor in the conversation space is the recently-debuted
Palm Pre, which lagged behind iPhone and G1 but sat significantly ahead of
other smartphone competitors, as well as attracting very positive; anticipatory
• G1 was a particularly popular topic of discussion among ‘early adopters’ &
gadget lovers as well as the OS community.
• G1 v Apple iPhone was popularly portrayed as a dichotomy, and frequently a
competitive face-off, explicitly characterized in some circles as an extension of
the ‘PC v Mac’ marketing battle
• There was qualified sentiment in many reviews of the Android G1, with a
common perception that it is ‘a work in progress’, most notable for its potential
rather than its quality as a finished product
• Interest in G1 launch was overshadowed by anticipation about how soon
afterwards a putative G2 would launch
• Trending negative, battery life, video capacity, handset design & appearance,
browser security and the touch screen were the most commonly-mentioned
features of the G1 handset; Trending positive, Android’s potential, the
trackball, calling, using Gmail & other Google apps, and stability.
• Launch of the Android G1 was regarded by many influencers as a noteworthy
tech event, featured in many best of / end of year technology roundups
Open, Collaborative & Transparent
• The radical openness of the Android platform led to both positive and negative
discussion, although the overall trend was positive
• Positive aspects centered on the potential upside of Android’s open principles;
manifest in discussion of application development, and the openness
demonstrated through the Cupcake developer site
• Negative aspects centered on two issues: the potential downside of Android’s
open principles (manifest in technology vulnerability and data security risks),
and the practical downsides arising from the qualified success of its
commercial launch, including:
• Application availability, which lagged significantly behind iPhone despite open
• Market penetration, particularly insofar as the handset was in sufficiently
widespread use to drive developer interest
Appendix 3: Key Benchmarks and
Baseline Metrics (Oct‐15‐08 – Jan‐15‐09)
• 93,228 relevant & unique posts referencing G1 on English language blogs
• Of 264 blogs influential in the smartphone sector, 166 of these posted about
• 2,201 unique posts about ‘Android G1’ from these influential blogs
• 216 G1-related tweets from influential microbloggers
a) mixed, trending negative towards G1 HTC-handset
b) mixed, trending positive toward Android G1 phone overall
c) mixed, trending positive towards Android
d) positive towards the Open Handset Alliance
Social media discussion spiked around the following dates:
• Oct-22-08: Android G1 launch
• Dec-08-08: Unlocked developer mode available to registered app developers
• Dec-09-08: 14 New members join Open Handset Alliance
• Jan-08-09: Palm Pre debuts at CES
• Jan-10-09: G1 is runner-up to iPhone at Crunchies Awards
• Jan-12-09: Discussion of Cupcake update delays escalate
• “In a Nutshell…,” Gizmodo, 1/9/09, 43 links
• “T-Mobile G1 Review,” Engadget, 10/15/08, 34 links
• “T-Mobile G1 Review,” Boy Genius Report, 10/15/08, 25 links
• “The T-Mobile G1, How Would You Tweak It?” Engadget Mobile, 12/20/08, 20
• “Cupcake” Update to Android Sees Video Recording, Stereo Bluetooth, On-
Screen Keyboard and Much More!,” Android Guys, 12/18/08, 17
• “T-Mobile G2 Coming,” Cell Phone Signal, 12/19/08, 15 links
Main G1 Advocates
• Android Central (http://www.androidcentral.com/)
• Android Community (http://www.androidcommunity.com/)
• Android Guys (http://www.androidguys.com/)
• Android Tapp (http://www.androidtapp.com/)
• Engadget (http://www.engadget.com/)
• Engadget Mobile (http://www.engadgetmobile.com/)
• Google And Blog (http://www.googleandblog.com/)
• Google Phone Online (http://www.googlephoneonline.info/)
• TechCrunch (http://www.techcrunch.com/)
Main G1 Detractors
• Boy Genius Report (http://www.boygeniusreport.com/)
• VentureBeat (http://www.venturebeat.com)
• The Gadget Blog (http://www.thegadgetblog.com/)
Appendix 4. Scope
This online social media analysis is provided as an example of The Conversation
Group’s social media research methodology. The method is built on a
combination of two key principles:
• The application of established qualitative and quantitative media and market
research best practice.
• Leveraged application of our knowledge and expertise in the use of cutting
edge content acquisition and analysis tools.
In combination, these two principles allow us to deploy an effective and flexible
toolkit, optimized to produce the best approach for each client.
For this particular project, a combination of human and technology‐driven
approaches was used to acquire and analyze relevant content. Search and
analysis technology comprised both free‐to‐use and commercially licensed tools.
Details of all key method and scoping decisions follow.
The research was scoped to cover a period of three calendar months, running
from October 15, 2008 to January 15, 2009. This period was determined so as to
support the collection of immediate pre‐launch buzz about the G1, as well as to
include a substantial rump of post‐launch reviews, commentary and otherwise
relevant content. Content collected during this period forms the basis for all
partly or wholly quantitative analyses used in this report.
On occasion we have referenced noteworthy commentary, events and
developments that took place shortly prior or subsequent to the audit period. A
clear note has been made in the text wherever this is the case.
The report covers early reviews of the Android G1, prelaunch and launch
coverage, reviews of the phone, and contextually relevant mobile phone
industry related news published in the English language, and occurring on blogs,
forums and microblogs. Topics considered in‐scope include:
• All direct mentions of the T-Mobile G1 in the context of consumer reviews or
• Mentions of the Open Handset Alliance (OHA) in the context of Android / the
• Mentions of the Android and / or the developer site Cupcake
This executive summary was written by Haydn Shaughnessy, Partner and Chris
Thomas, Head of Research at The Conversation Group.
Please direct enquiries to the project lead:
Chris Thomas; Head of Research @ The Conversation Group
Phone: +44 7970 665497
This report is published under a Creative Commons Attribution‐Share Alike 3.0
License. The terms of this license can be viewed here: