John Harrobin, VP-Marketing Communications and CRM, Verizon

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Credit: Tony Pettinato

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Since Verizon Wireless launched its line of Droid phones, Google's entire Android smartphone platform has seen explosive growth.

The No. 1 wireless carrier launched its first Droid device, built on Google's mobile operating system Android, last November. At the time, Android was barely making a ripple in the U.S. smartphone ecosphere.

By December, a month after Verizon launched an estimated $100 million marketing push for Droid, Android's total share rocketed to 5.7% and Android dethroned iPhone as the fastest-growing platform. By the latest available numbers, after a handful more Droid-branded smartphones such as Droid X and Droid Incredible have come out, Android is still the fastest-growing platform. By September 2010, Android had 21.4% U.S. smartphone share, 15 times what it was before Droid hit the market.

"There's millions and millions of Droids sold," said John Harrobin, Verizon VP-marketing communications and CRM, who could not release specific sales numbers. "That's our primary success metric. There are also market-share gains and customers in our base that are upgrading to smartphones and paying more fees. We're growing share of wallet -- Droid has won on all that."

Mr. Harrobin won't pin Android's impressive surge entirely on Droid, though -- after all, other carriers have their own Android-powered phones. Because of that, Verizon decided to create its own brand of Android phones, which the No. 2 U.S. advertiser by revenue lavished with ample marketing.

"We wanted an alternative to iconic smartphones in the marketplace," Mr. Harrobin said. (One year ago, much like today, that device was iPhone.) "The Android platform had existed for some time prior to us launching, but we worked closely with Google and Motorola to get the best and brightest features of Android. ... To do that, we needed a moniker of our own."

With its Droid brand, Verizon has been able to develop handsets with a number of partners and cherry pick the best from each.

"It's the Verizon network that can bring the Droid name and all the innovation at Google," said Mr. Harrobin. "Samsung, Motorola, HTC -- all the different [manufacturers] compete to be named Droid."

Verizon Wireless agency McGarryBowen alludes to Droid's "Star Wars" connection by playing up science fiction and robot-laden imagery in ads for the new handsets. Regardless, that very intentional aim at young, male, early adopters doesn't seem to have alienated other demographics. "We needed to win [early adopters] or we'd never have won in other segments like women and older people," Mr. Harrobin said, adding that Verizon is seeing growth beyond just young males.

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