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How Android Successfully Battled The iPhone

Eric McBride
20

Before I go any further, I would like to make one thing very clear: This isn’t an Apple/iPhone bashing article. This isn’t a rant or a “the fall of the iPhone” piece, nor is it me trying to say that Apple is finished. Instead, this article is based on a very clear observation: The iPhone has peaked in terms of popularity, and while Android has played a big part in this, Apple also played a role with the release of the iPhone 5. But how did Android successfully put a dent in the the success of the most popular smartphone in the world? 

What was missing this time around?

Back in 2007, Apple released something revolutionary. They released a smartphone concept that literally took the tech industry, and consumers alike, by storm. The touch screen, the apps, the software, the usability, and the sleek design of the first iPhone caught like wildfire, and started a trend that would for remain unrivaled for years to come. While the original concept for such a device wasn’t originally created by Apple, it was something that they undoubtedly perfected, and with the amount of marketing they threw behind it, it’s no wonder that the device has achieved such massive success.

The newest version of the iPhone was recently released, and even though it’s already selling like crazy, something was missing this year during the unveiling event. Something was absent this time around, and although many people watching the event may have felt that, it’s very hard to directly put your finger on what exactly that “something” was. But after watching it a few times now, I have finally figured out a way to describe what that “something” is, and I can describe in 4 words what I found to be missing: the magical Apple moment.

Now for some, perhaps that magical moment was when Apple announced a slightly bigger screen, or the introduction of LTE. But when you really think about it, those aren’t magical moments, but rather features that Apple had no choice but to add. Those 2 “features” are simply nothing rare anymore, and more and more consumers are expecting their smartphones to come with bigger screens and faster data connectivity. So where was the magicial moment?

Apple's previous magicial moments

As an Android user (and a previous iPhone 4 and iPad owner), there was always a feature that I witnessed at every iPhone unveiling that literally made me say “now that is freakin cool”. Whether a hardware or software based feature, there was always something that I noticed about it that I could truly praise.

With the original iPhone it was the entire product as a whole that grabbed my immediate attention. With the iPhone 3G it was multiple software features and the App Store improvements. With the iPhone 3GS it was the camera and some of the voice control features. With the iPhone 4 it was the speed, the overall performance, the new design, the fingerprint resistant coating on the display and the back, and the amazing camera. With the 4S (which is where I began to felt the iPhone slowly aging), it was Siri, the improved hardware and performance, and the once again amazing camera. With the iPhone 5 “it” was...well...kind of absent. But why?

Android's role

Android had a big role to play here. Android phones with multiple display sizes became quite the norm in 2011, and LTE is slowly no longer being viewed as a feature, but as a requirement for many smartphone users. Samsung and HTC were quick to serve up bigger screen sizes along with LTE, and with the success of the Galaxy S2, S3, and Galaxy Note (I'm confident the Note 2 will do just as well), some iPhone users started to long for a bigger screen and some serious processing power. At the Apple event this year, they were actually showing game demos as if they were features, and talking about a new row of icons as if it was truly a big deal. While that and the other new features of the iPhone 5 will be more than enough for many, it’s certainly not the innovative product that Apple brought back in 2007.

That being said, the only thing Android needed to do is what it's already continually done: evolve quickly. Apple, until now, has never been forced to evolve quickly. With Android moving so quickly, it seems that they may no longer have a choice. 

Lets be honest: Steve Jobs did it better

For me, the absence of Steve Jobs played a major role in how I personally felt about this event. In the past, watching Steve on stage was always half the fun, and witnessing him “sell” the product to the public was always a sight to behold. I don’t know what the iPhone 5 might have brought to the table if Steve would still be with us, but I have a feeling that he might have pushed harder for a magical feature, and that his hatred of Android would have fueled that.

When Steve Jobs hit the stage, I felt as if I was looking directly at Apple and a man who was deeply involved with the product he was unveiling. At Apple's unveiling of the iPhone 5, I felt I was watching Apple representatives trying desperately to recreate something that Steve Jobs had naturally. I have never agreed and saw eye to eye with Steve Jobs on a number of things, but for me personally, Apple without Steve Jobs is like comparing the Chicago Bulls without Michael Jordan: it simply isn't the same. 

Why Android particuarly needed the iPhone 5

To put it simply, the “changes” brought to the iPhone 5 couldn’t have came at a worse time. This iPhone needed to be truly magical and different. It needed that “WOW” factor more than ever. It needed NFC to compete with Beam. It needed a new feature(s) that the public didn’t expect. It needed to show us why it’s the most popular smartphone in the world. It needed to make Android fans (like myselrf) say "WOW" as it's done in the past. But instead of all this, the iPhone 5 did exactly what Android needed it to do at a critical time: be a lot more of mostly the same old thing.

Android now has a hell of an opportunity here. It is evolving at such a fast pace that I honestly believe it’s caught Apple off guard. Android is showing there are markets for devices with 5.5 inch screens (which is something Steve Jobs most likely would have never agreed with). With the release of ICS and Jelly Bean, it’s demonstrating that Android devices can very reliably perform, and that features like Google Now can actually function just as well or better than anything ever showcased on the iPhone.

Conclusion

Make no mistake...the iPhone will sell, and it will sell WELL.  It always has and it always will. But in terms of dominance, the iPhone has reached its peak. Android however, is already dominating it in terms of marketshare, and is making big dents in Apple sales, but in something Apple has always relied on with every iPhone release: populartiy. Apple isn’t a sinking ship, or a failing company that will ever need to worry about money, but simply a company that created such an amazing product at a time where little to no competition existed, all while failing to grasp how quickly its creation would accelerate the evolution of smartphones.

I truly hope that Apple will blow me out of the water with the next iPhone release, and I'm already sure the iPhone 5S/iPhone 6 will be a sure fire hit. But if they want to keep the reputation they have held in the smartphone market for almost 6 years, they will certainly need to bring a lot more than a slightly bigger screen, new row of icons, and improved voice functionality in the next iPhone. While I'm quite sure that fans of Apple products will remain loyal to the company, I'm also quite sure that their loyality won't remain forever if Apple brings so little to the table again in 2013. 

Picture credits: farm3.staticflickr.com

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Comments

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  • Dvoraak Sep 17, 2012 Link

    Nice article Eric. I might nitpick a few points in it but much of the Android vs iOS debate and analysis is largely subjective anyway.

    Apparently it's going to take more than a poor showing by Apple to affect it's fan base. By all accounts (and speed of pre-orders) the iPhone 5 is going to fly off the shelves just like every other model has.... and what's Samsung's reply to it? Look at our hardware! I'm tired of trying to explain to people why hardware matters so little to iPhone's buyers but the proof is in the sales. THE HARDWARE DOESN'T MATTER. Find a new sales pitch.

    I believe many of the problems when trying to convert iOS users to the Android philosophy were caused when Android was first released. They were caused by people like me, tech junkies who loved iPhone but had a greater love for experiencing new gadgets. The problem came because we were already used to something that was brilliant, intuitive and offered a fluid, seamless user experience with very few flaws. Early Android was doomed to fail with us. Every hitch, hiccup, forced close, stutter, lag and crash infuriated us.... and we spread the gospel of iOS. That gospel still persists. What's the most common response an iPhone buyer will give when confronted with the power of Android? "I want something that works" or "Android phone's don't have the same quality".
    I caused that.... and others like me.

    I honestly believe the only way you're gonna sway the iOS masses is to point out how flawless some later versions of Android devices have become. But how is Samsung or Moto or XYZ going to make that argument without admitting how rough the early versions were? Nobody wants to admit they weren't as good as an iPhone in the past, so nobody can talk about what really matters to the Apple faithful. It's all about screen size, processor, RAM and features and the Apple fans don't care. In their minds iPhone's work and Androids don't. Until Android is ready to tackle that issue head on Apple will keep dominating.

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  • Eric McBride Sep 17, 2012 Link

    @Dvoraak - THAT is a VERY important point I left out of the article.

    I completely agree with you about pushing the hardware as a feature. Most consumers simply wont care. What Samsung is doing right (in most cases) is marketing. If they continue down that road (and improve), good things can happen.

    And yeah...the more Android devices gain in popularity, the more public the features and improvements will become known, which will play a huge role.

    Very good points you mentioned there. Apologies for not including those.

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    Nick N. Sep 17, 2012 Link

    Eric, I think you underestimate that extra row of icons. For iPhone users, that extra screen size will be a BIG DEAL because many iPhone users are not really aware that there are...*gasp*...other smartphones out there. For iPhone users, the iPhone 5 WILL be "revolutionary" - FOR THEM. For the rest of the world, of course, the iPhone 5 is a huge yawming "meh".

    I think the iPhone has passed it's peak in terms of tech prowess but not in terms of popularity. I think Apple will continue to release an incremental new version every year, and they will continue to sell like hotcakes. The "drip feed" technique has worked wonders for Apple so far, I see no reason why it won't continue to work for the foreseeable future. Keeping your customers on tenterhooks, releasing small morsels once a year, making every tiny improvement seem like manna from heaven is a cruel but effective way of maintaining a customer base.

    Apple doesn't really need a "wow" factor any more, not like they used to. The existing customer base is big enough to keep the merry-go-round churning along for several more years. The iPhone will become the most boring, least innovative phone in the world. But it will still sell.

    Apple has always deliberately set itself apart from the rest of the industry in an elitist, arrogant, proprietary, closed way. Loyal Apple customers truly do not care what the rest of the industry is doing or how fast it might be moving ahead. Apple has truly brainwashed its customers and that's the *primary* reason for Apple's success.

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  • Eric McBride Sep 17, 2012 Link

    @Nick - Another great point. To iPhone users who have used the phone for the past years, that screen size could indeed by the "magic moment" many were waiting on.

    In regards to the WOW factor not being needed, I agree that it's not NEEDED, but I do believe that lack of the magic could eventually leave iPhone users curious. The drip feed technique you mentioned is an awesome way of stating it, and it seems to work for Apple. But with the way smartphones are evolving so quickly, can they really continue to rely on this technique?

    As I stated in the article, I totally agree with what you say about the iPhone continuing to sell like fire. That being said, I do think that while it will stay the most popular smartphone for a time to come, that their popularity has peaked, meaning that on paper, another company could snatch it from them.

    To do that is naturally easier said than actually done, but I know that a small small percentage of iPhone owners have started to get a lot more curious about Android phones, especially the Galaxy S3.

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  • Dvoraak Sep 17, 2012 Link

    @Eric - Yeah Samsung's marketing is good. Except for that comparison ad they just ran. If they keep innovating attention grabbing features though, eventually even the hardcore Apple fans may notice.

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  • Eric McBride Sep 17, 2012 Link

    Yeah man..that comparison ad they made was not only a shot in the completely wrong direction, but just downright stupid. That's definitely not the way to do it.

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  • ljhaye Sep 18, 2012 Link

    Innovation is how the hell does the iPhone A6 processor with ONLY TWO CORES smoke the S3 Exynos quad core processor according to geek benchmark. score 1601 vs. 1560.

    The answer is that they are no longer using A9, A15 Cortexes from ARM but have designed and built their own core similar to what Qualcomm does with is Krait system. No one else is doing this in the industry! Imagine this monster with 4 cores (if you can't, I can its a benchmark score of 3204 with each core able to score 800.5 according to geek benchmark)

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  • Glostermeteor Sep 18, 2012 Link

    I think for me owning both an iPad and Android devices, what will do it for Samsung is the relentless marketing AS well as the hardware, the reason why early androids were poor was because their hardware was poor. I liked the fact that I watched the iPhone 5 release online but the ads playing before it were for the Galaxy S 3. Also I think the myth about Apples faultless devices is just that a myth, and those like me who have both ecosystems can compare. My iPad 2 crashes apps just as often as my android devices, and each iteration of android has got better and better. I think where Apple wins however is their app ecosystem and how there are far less free apps on the market, most Apple users WILL have had to spend money to get the apps that they want so they're then far less likely to switch to Android and lose the money they have spent.

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  • Patrick R. Sep 18, 2012 Link

    In my opinion, these OS wars are too late in the game to make traditional marketing or development approaches.

    When a person buys a phone or tablet, be it an iPhone or Android device, they buy into an ecosystem. I am not talking about simply itunes or playstore here. This extends to all the accessories available. Any average owner would have invested in a number of docks, speakers or mounts especially those who use their phones and tablets as pmps etc. An average user may have a few hundred or maybe a thousand dollars worth of accessories lying around the house, im the car or office

    The difference between iOS and Android owners are, i think - this is based on observation only - iOS users tend to buy device specific accessories ie. those that connect to a device through the proprietary dock comnector. Android users might tend to be a little more generic - HDMI, USBs, the 3.5mm jack, Bluetooth or Wifi. I am sure that the switching made by apple to the lightning connector will have minimal impact and early iphone 5 adopters would hapilly pay 30 or 50 dollars for the adapter that will allow their spanking new gadgets play with their "old school" accessories. Maybe it is time for Android OEMs to pay apple for the license to the old and new dock connectors and produce a micro usb to apple connector (although I doubt apple will agree to this as this would defeat the very purpose of those proprietary connectors - to tie you down to iOS).

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  • Dvoraak Sep 18, 2012 Link

    That's a really good point Patrick. When I buy the GN2 there's definitely going to be some ecosystem shock having to start from scratch and giving up all my iPhone apps. On top of that, if I like the Note well enough, I'm going to be seriously looking at how Samsung can improve my electronic experience in other ways..... like possibly replacing the HDTV I use as a monitor with a Samsung that's integrated with Samsung handsets.

    Life would be so much cheaper if I wasn't so easily turned on by flashing lights.

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  • Patrick R. Sep 19, 2012 Link

    Haha yeah Dvoraak, the pretty flashing lights that turn us on easily add a few grand to our annual budgets. I am planning to get a Samsung Smart TV - the one with voice and hand movement recognition (no need for remotes) and is all-share compatible (no need for players). Demo'd it for half an hour at our local Samsung store, I wanted to take home the damned demo unit with me.

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  • Dvoraak Sep 19, 2012 Link

    I haven't seen that one yet but thanks. I appreciate you giving me directions to an even pricier model than I'd been considering :(

    But, seriously..... All voice and hand and no remotes! How could I possibly live without that!

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  • Eric McBride Sep 19, 2012 Link

    @ ljhaye - I personally can't wait to see the Exynos 5250 come out. That chip is going to be a BOOOOSSSSSSSSSSSS!

    @Glostermeteor - Same for me! I have owned iPHones and iPads, and it blows my mind that people think they never crash. They actually do a lot more than most people like to admit!

    @Patrick - Good point there about accessories. They do make a hell of a difference and have a big influence on lots of buyers!

    @Dvoraak - LOL - Reminds me of that scene in Back to the Future 2 when Marty was playing the video game in front of the kids:

    "You have to use your hands"?

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  • CJ Brown Sep 20, 2012 Link

    Great article Eric -

    After reading what WIRED had to say, I believe APPLE has gotten itself into a situation where APPLE Cult Consumers are going to complain if they decide to keep their iPhone 5 but want to switch carriers (only this time guess what? you can't do that now!)

    Due to 4G LTE fragmentation, Apple has had to make three different models of the iPhone 5 (the iPhone 4S was a dual GSM / CDMA device, meaning one model for all carriers). This means the LTE-enabled iPhone 5 comes in two separate GSM models and one CDMA model (& now consumers will have fewer choices when switching carriers, because that LTE access will be limited when traveling abroad) ....

    The three iPhone 5 models include: GSM model A1428 that supports LTE Bands 4 and 17; GSM model A1429 that supports LTE Bands 1, 3, and 5; and CDMA model A1429 that supports LTE Bands 1, 3, 5, 13, and 25.

    This means an iPhone 5 user who wanted to jump from, say, AT&T to Verizon or vice versa, would have to buy a new handset, (AT&T runs a GSM network and Verizon is CDMA). Where owners of GSM handsets previously enjoyed wide compatibility with foreign networks, LTE fragmentation means that AT&T customers using an iPhone 5 in Europe (for example) won’t be able to take advantage of LTE speeds while abroad (they'll get kicked down to the 3G network., but APPLE isn't telling their Cult Followers this, because they don't want them to know, right?)

    The GSM A1428 model appears to be made specifically for AT&T (the only carrier that uses both LTE Bands 4 and 17), which will also support T-Mobile’s U.S. LTE network (along with several Canadian networks), but don’t expect any LTE service outside of North America (currently, no carriers in other countries use Bands 4 or 17). Even though GSM networks are more common worldwide, this iPhone 5 model is not a global phone (because Apple has opted to make a second GSM model for other countries). Model A1429 supports the three more common LTE Bands in places like Asia and Europe (but none will work in North America).

    The CDMA phone is more of a global device (because it supports the same three LTE bands as the non-U.S. GSM phone, as well as the two main bands used by U.S. carriers Verizon and Sprint). Another benefit to the CDMA phone is that it supports GSM / EDGE radio frequencies (which the GSM only phones do not support CDMA frequencies). Yes, that GSM support is limited to international use for stateside customers (in fact? all three iPhone 5 LTE will offer no support for a large portion of Western Europe, which uses LTE Band 7)

    Anyone want to compare what Android Smart Phones offer as a Smart Phone that can be used Stateside & in other Countries simultaneously? My DINC worked fine in Canada, Mexico (& in the UK when I had temporary service placed on its 3G Network when visiting family) ...

    C J

    http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2012/09/iphone5-lte-model/

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  • CJ Brown Sep 20, 2012 Link

    p.s.

    there is now an adapter for the iPhone 5 which will allow you to port it into those accessories built for the previous models (they cost about $20 - lol - makes me glad this DINC has the universal usb cable) ...

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  • Eric McBride Sep 20, 2012 Link

    @CJ - Oh yeah man...Apple fragmentation existed before, and it's about to get worse. Gotta say though...love how Apple markets their accessories. They must make an absolute killing on adapters and extras!

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  • CJ Brown Sep 20, 2012 Link

    @Eric -

    You know that adapter is going to be the 1st item Apple Cult Consumers will purchase when getting an iPhone 5 (I <3 how Apple expects someone to buy a smart phone for $400, then pay another $20 to $30 more just so they can keep their iPhone4 - 4s accessories without having to purchase new ones made for the iPhone5) ...

    I'm learning most "No Contract" Android Smart Phones are a 4G - 3G (which means you can activate them outside of North America to a 3G service), and this is what I was expecting the iPhone 5 to be (next to battery life? I wonder how the fragmentation is going to appeal to the Apple Cult Consumers?) ....

    I also noticed in the Yahoo Tech News poll asking "Would You Purchase The iPhone5"? About 35% said YES, 40% said NO and 25% were Undecided (compared to 2 years ago when 60% were willing to purchase an iPhone4s). One has to factor the current economy, because people are not going to purchase a new Smart Phone if they can not afford to ....

    C J

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  • Eric McBride Sep 20, 2012 Link

    Do you have a link to that poll CJ? I would love to have a look!

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  • CJ Brown Sep 20, 2012 Link

    Eric -

    I was reading this article when a drop down menu with a poll to vote in appeared (yahoo often has polls in its tech news section, they come & go rather quickly, but I yahoo tech news noticed that there's less interest in iPhone5 then there was for iPhone4s with Consumers) ....

    C J

    http://news.yahoo.com/samsung-says-add-iphone-5-court-case-140509637.html

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  • Eric McBride Sep 21, 2012 Link

    @CJ - Thanks for sharing this! Gonna have a read right now :-D

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