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


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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.

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

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