December 05, 2010

Android Handset Dreams: Devour, Defy, Be a Magic Legend

Even if you subscribe to the theory that Apple's operating system and hardware is more sexy than its competitive counterparts, the names for its products in the last decade have become pedantically pedestrian. For the most part, one simply puts the letter i in front of a device. The series of i-Products, from iMac to iBook, iBooks, iPad, iPhone, iPod and iLife has become something of an ongoing joke. Meanwhile, the MacBook portable line was unified under one name, with the word "Power" disappearing from Powerbooks and PowerMacs, dubbed Mac Pros.

In contrast, in what looks to be a fight for attention among an array of devices and carriers, entries for the Android platform are increasingly fanciful, with names that attempt to provide passion and grandeur to the fast-growing mobile operating system.

The first, and most well known, name associated with the Android series is Motorola's Droid. Decidedly masculine, its commercials summoned mechanical assembly line like behavior with harsh lights and noise. Follow-on models to the first Droid didn't just stop with the Droid X and Droid 2, already confusing, but were called "Incredible". It's kind of like McDonald's branding move with the "Big N' Tasty" burger, which implied the rest of its meats were say... less big and less tasty. So what of the Incredible? Would that make the rest of Motorola's line mediocre, or simply, meh? "The Motorola Droid Meh. You kinda want it."

Competitive Android models haven't stopped at Incredible. HTC's models are the stuff of romance novels. The Dream. The Desire. The Hero. The Legend. Magic. Wildfire. I personally use the Epic. And the experience with this phone? I'd say it's very good, but I don't know if Epic is the right word.

Dell, not comfortable with keeping to Fabio covers and steamy paperbacks, instead looked to the sky for inspiration. Their first tablet was called the Streak, and it was accompanied by Android models called Thunder, Smoke and Flash. No doubt Monsoon, Tornado, Hurricane and Tempest are next.

Samsung, not to be left out, started with dramatic tones, Behold and Moment, as in, "Behold! This is the Moment you have been waiting for!" Their Galaxy S series seemed to one-up Dell's look to the sky, and Galaxy became the name for their tablet as well.

One has to wonder if the big saber-rattling when it comes to names is something of overcompensation and shouting to be noticed. Should one extend from Incredible, would Marvelous follow? Fantastic? Awesome? Perfection? Or if you're HTC, do you step deeper into the romance novels and deliver the Lust, Muscle, or Climax?

Lest you think these are simply exceptions to the rule, from the largest manufacturers, look no further than the CSL Spice to see how the manufacturer is trying to heat things up. HTC oddly also had the Tattoo, which probably tries to appeal to your bad boy side. The ZTE Blade continues the rebel appeal. HTC plans the Scorpion, whose sting carries a 4.3" screen a 1.5 GHz CPU and an 8 megapixel camera.

These and many more Android device names can be tracked on Wikipedia, which has a fairly exhaustive list of released and future Android models. It all seems silly to me. Great marketers can find a name that works and stick with it through the line of products, whether it's as pedestrian as the Camry or as nondescript as BMW's 3 and 5-series. IBM had its line of ThinkPads, Nike had its Air. But none of these tried to so clearly titillate its customers.

The oneupmanship in the Android naming sex factor surely has to have an end, and like that topic, one hopes they don't peak too soon, before the real good stuff develops. If sex sells, and Android phones are certainly selling, correlation could be driving causation. I didn't buy my Android because I thought it would make me a hunk. That's beyond saving. I upgraded because I thought it would be useful and productive. So bring on the boring naming conventions. We deserve to be talked to like adults.

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