This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. OK
opinion 138 Shares 27 comments

Apple won the battle – will Android or Amazon win the war?

We all know the story: Apple makes most of the money from smartphones and Android has most of the market share, so Apple’s probably won that particular battle. But a new front is opening up, and Apple’s lagging hopelessly behind Android and Amazon. Is this a war it can’t win?

google assitent io
Phones are becoming the hubs of our entire lives. / © Google

A phone isn’t a phone, and that’s important

Your phone isn’t a phone. It’s a computer with a phone app inside it – and for more and more of us, it’s become our primary computing device. Sure, you’ll do stuff on your PC, or on your Mac, or on your tablet. But you do much more on your phone. It’s your communications hub, your personal assistant, your sat-nav, your camera, your pretty much everything. And as we move into the internet of things era, with everything connecting to everything else and your phone at the centre, it’s going to become even more important.

If you’ll pardon the dreadful LOTR pun, your phone will be the one ring to rule them all.

google home
The battle is on to control smart homes and the Internet of Things. / © Google

Meet the new war, a bit more important than the old war

The ongoing move to mobile devices is causing another shift in technology: instead of running stand-alone software, we’re using apps – and those apps are usually connecting to services rather than running solo. We stream our TV and our music, play massively multiplayer online games and communicate via WhatsApp or WeChat.

Many of those services don’t care what platform they’re on. Netflix is Netflix whether you’re watching it on an Android tablet, an iPhone or a Smart TV. WhatsApp is identical across platforms. YouTube is YouTube on the web, on a tablet or on a connected Blu-Ray player.

A $200 Android can deliver the same services as a $749 iPhone

When a $200 Android can deliver the same services as a $749 iPhone, you need to have something special to offer if you’re going to keep shifting expensive hardware. And when it comes to services, Apple doesn’t. Its Messages platform is Apple-only, dwarfed by the likes of WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger. Its Maps are still a bit flaky. The current iteration of Apple Music, a hastily rejigged Beats Music, is hopeless.

The Apple TV suffers from a woeful lack of non-US content and what seems to be a permanently delayed streaming TV service. Siri, Apple’s Google Now, doesn’t work with many things and is often huffy. And HomeKit, Apple’s service for the smart home, has been around for two years without many people noticing. Where Google and Amazon have more than 100 home automation partnerships in place, Apple has fewer than 20.

Apple’s solution? Be more like Android.

AndroidPIT android N vs iOS 10
A lot of iOS 10 will look familiar to Android users. A lot of Android N will look familiar to iOS users. / © AndroidPIT

If you can’t beat ‘em, copy ‘em

If you tuned into Apple’s WWDC event this week you’ll have felt a major sense of deja vu. iOS is getting a more interactive lock screen, just like Android; a better photos app that resembles something beginning with “G” and ending with “oogle Photos”; a version of Apple Music that works pretty much like Google Play Music; some distinctly Google Now-ish features for finding points of interest; Raise to Wake, which Android has had since 1972… you get the idea. And that’s fine, because there’s a long tradition of iOS and Android copying each other’s best ideas. But that’s not the most interesting thing.

The most interesting thing is what Apple’s doing to Maps, Messages and Siri. It’s opening them up.

By opening Maps, Messages and Siri to third party developers, publishing APIs they can use to create their own apps and extensions, Apple is losing and winning at the same time. It’s a win because the more things that use a platform, the more attractive that platform becomes - but it’s a loss because Apple is losing some of its control. Siri currently connects to a carefully selected collection of internet services and Apple’s own apps. From later this year, it’ll be able to connect to anything. You can also be sure that whatever apps end up building on the Messages platform, they’ll be very un-Apple.

It’s a bold move for a company known for its control freakery, but it’s a necessary one: Google Now on Tap, Amazon’s Alexa, Google Maps and Nest are kicking Apple’s backside in personal digital assistants, useful map data and home automation. By keeping its platforms closed Apple hasn’t been able to benefit from the same enormous amounts of data that Google or Amazon have, and that means it’s fallen behind and will keep falling further if it doesn’t do something dramatic. And dramatic is a pretty good description of Apple’s new, more open approach.

Will it work?

androidpit nexus 5 now on tap hero 02
Siri seemed impressive, but Google Now actually delivers on its promises. / © ANDROIDPIT

Predictions are hard. Particularly ones about the future

Apple doesn’t need to win the war to be successful: as long as it keep selling its phones it’ll be happy. The days of rocket-powered iPhone growth are gone, but as markets become saturated Apple knows that if it can make its services more appealing it can make big bucks from those too. And don’t forget Apple Pay, the one service Apple has really done well compared to Google: later this year it hits the web and is likely to do everything the ill-fated Google Wallet didn’t.

Google isn’t really in the hardware business: it just wants everybody to use its stuff so it can harvest all that data and feed it to its learning machines while targeting ads. So far that approach has been extraordinarily successful, and there’s no reason why it won’t stay that way as the smart home and internet of things add yet more data collection points to Google’s empire.

The days of rocket-powered iPhone growth are gone

But Google’s main rival might not be Apple any more. More and more it looks like it’s Amazon. Amazon’s Prime already has music and movies, with a Spotify-style streaming music service imminent. Amazon has a really decent home automation hub in the shape of Echo, which already interacts with 1,200 different apps. Amazon provides the infrastructure for some of the web’s biggest properties, and analyses almost as much data as Google does. And in Jeff Bezos, Amazon has a man who wants complete world domination and has the money to help him achieve it.

What do you think? Is Google set to dominate the next wave of computing, with Amazon as its bitter rival? Or does Apple’s huge cash mountain and marketing machine give it an excellent chance of retaking its lead? Let us know in the comments.

Readers' favorite comments

  • Mark 4 months ago

    I think there are several factors in why the IPhone is losing ground.
    1) The in cool phone to own and status symbol are wearing off the IPhone.
    2) There are just to many other good options on the market.
    3) Every IPhone looks like the last IPhone ( except size ) they have gotten boring.
    4) Their closed operating system.
    5) The economy around the world is struggling not as many people are buying the top end phones any more.
    All these factor spell doom for Apple unless they step up their game. What I see from the leaks on the IPhone 7 they are not doing it. Bye bye IPhone and good riddance!!

  • storm 4 months ago

    Apple only comes on my radar when someone else talks about them. And then it's rarely an apple positive conversation.


Write new comment:
  • Apple is at a crossroads. The market for smartphones has become saturated. Many competitors have entered the market. Some of these offer really decent products at 1/3 the price of an Apple product. Apple is going to have a very hard time continuing to "grow" their top line sales and bottom line profits. And they have already begun to "cut" the quality of their customer service to maintain the profits. Take a look at their stock price over the last year. And it's going to go lower.

  • Dean L. 4 months ago Link to comment

    I used to use an Android phone but when I couldn't get OS updates for it after about a year and a half and it kept crashing and needed to be restarted is when I switched to iOS And iPhone. Rarely have I had to restart and crashing is even more rare. I'm not saying it's perfect, but there's something to be said about stability and getting OS updates. Am I interested in an Android phone, yes. But I'm still on the fence when I hear and see reports about possibly only getting OS updates for around two years.

    • Dave S. 3 months ago Link to comment

      Many Android phones keep getting third-party updates in the form of custom ROMs. If you're willing to learn how to unlock and root your phone, it makes the Android exprience better in many other ways, too.

  • ljhaye 4 months ago Link to comment

    Everyone in tech knows that Apple has won the war because they have skimmed the majority of the best customers from around the world. In the reality of business the best customers are those most willing to pay for hardware, software, and services. Apple has done so by a wide margin for example Apple Music already has 15 million PAYING SUBSCRIBERS. Not to mention that their App Store had already paid out $50 billion to developers. They are the number one seller of both digital music and movies. Don't get me started on the success of iMessage. These example have nothing to do with their hardware sales. Their services business did over $20billion last year with a 20% growth rate, for comparison Facebook did $18billion as a company last year and Facebook is a service.

    Just as Android is considered an ecosystem so is Apple's iOS and that ecosystem allows them to sell watches and iPad; no android OEM is doing that because the android community for all of their mouth refuses to support the android ecosystem financially. Look no further than Samsung using Tizen in their watch and smart home products. Even Google values iOS customers more than android because they make three times the money from them than they do from their own android customers. Which is ridiculous when you consider that iOS only has 15% market share vs android's 80%+.

    Outside of smartphones I don't see how Google or Amazon are going to be able to compete for the best customers because new tech requires customers willing to pay for great services in addition to sophisticated tech. The canary in the coal mine is Nest and it's continuously falling revenue. Apple's lock in is a virtuous cycle that makes its customers more willing to pay for new tech than google or Amazon. Do not forget the importance of having retail stores to demonstrate and troubleshoot new technologies as a way to garner and keep lucrative customers. The Apple stores do this in spades, not Amazon and not Google .

    • Rex K. 3 months ago Link to comment

      As people grow tired of high priced phones and they are commoditized, Android is in a much better space as they already have low, medium and high priced SmartPhones. Apple has lots of appealing features but the very thing that you like about them can limit Apple until they commoditize their services which will bring their prices down. So maybe in that way they'll have won as well.

    • Mike 3 months ago Link to comment

      Remember IBM, big blue, the only game in town, they failed to keep up and where are they now. You paid a premium price for IBM, like Apple, but in the end they got eaten by their competitors. Apple is being trounced in many areas by Android and if you think people will keep on buying Apple because they are Apple, remember IBM

  • CJ Brown 4 months ago Link to comment

    As long as there are Apple Fanboys and Fangirls buying overpriced smartphones & tablets & laptops & desktops .... the Company will not cease. But -- Apple post Steve Jobs -- is no longer leading via innovation (the best that Apple can do is file patent complaints in court until that stops working, then copy the best features their competitors offer!)

    As Consumers, our needs have changed (since we no longer require only a laptop, or desktop), and we're finding that smartphones and tablets can do the same thing on a more mobile level (I'm still waiting on a 17-inch to 20-inch Chromebook, and possibly a Chrome all in one that can port to a flat screen!)

    We also don't have to be loyal to a brand name, or manufacturing company, nor surrender to overpaying for Consumer Electronics. Android wins on almost every level except for OS updates (I'm all for Google publicly shaming those manufacturers and service providers who cause such a lag for OS updates!)

  • What I find truly amazing is how so many of the Apple fanboys are so ignorant of the banking industry and the technology involved in retail payments, that they think that Apple Pay is (or could be) a payments processing system in its own right, and it's going to take over the world; when the reality is, Apple Pay is just one more "mobile" interface to the world's banks' credit card payments system. And, Apple Pay runs only on new iPhones, a fraction of the only ~15% of the world's smartphone market that Apple iOS has. And, banks in Australia and Canada have resisted paying Apple a fee for that limited market. Regardless, if Apple wants to better market its new iPhones on the back of the banks' existing payments system, Apple should instead be paying the banks a fee ...

    Because the banks won't be paying Samsung (or Google) a fee for allowing Samsung/Android Pay it is likely that all banks will allow Samsung/Android Pay; whereas, Apple wants a fee from the banks for the banks gifting Apple the opportunity to better promote their new iPhones on the back of the banks' existing retail payments system, and that is why not all banks are interested in Apple Pay ...

    Mobile Payments? Who cares anyway? Not even the Apple faithful, apparently. In the US, only ~5% of those Apple users that have had the opportunity to use Apple Pay, have done so; and on the latest Black Friday, the number was down to 2.7% (the figure is even less currently for payments via all Android OS phones, (including the clunky PayPal Mobile). Apple's iOS (all models) represents only ~14% of the world's smartphones compared to Android's ~83%. So, 5% of 14% puts Apple Pay's share of retail payments at <1%—LOL ...

    The reality is, Apple needs the retail banks to monitize Apple Pay; the banks don’t need Apple or Apple Pay …

    Apple Pay—still a proprietary solution to a payments problem that does not exist …

  • Apple has always been a copycat. But their superior marketing engine and spin by Steve Jobs obfuscated that for their faithful followers. Their faithful also used to point out how Microsoft didn't innovate but just bought up companies and IP but Apple has always done that as well, but again, they tune out that kind of information. Apple's success is due to their ability to get people to believe that they offer something special and better, and luckily for them there are enough people who believe that and it keeps Apple afloat, at least it did during the Mac vs PC years.

    • I forgot to add that with Apple the bottom line is that it's really their marketing and branding that keeps them going and gets them customers. Their devious marketing cons customers into thinking that Apple is innovative and superior but they're really not.

  • I hate to be "that guy" but, Apple will always be followed by the iSheep and consumers who don't care much to personlize or make the phone your own. So on that note, I believe Apple will still make more money because an iPhone is a "status thing" to own, more so with teenagers.

    But that doesn't mean that Android isn't gonna surpass that one day. We're on a good direction. Getting stronger and better!

  • I am an android user. Ik want a phone not bigger than 4 inch. Which constructor has a solution. Only Apple. So I Will be forced to pay a lot of money for a descent 4 inch phone

  • I use to be an Apple user, but i am making the switch over to Android slowly. The reason i am making the switch is because Apple it seems like every other week there is a software update and i do not like that and there is no side loading apps which i find convenient (the only apple product i an keeping is my ipod touch 4th generation i have had that since it first came out and i only have music and audiobooks on it from my music and book collection) so android has won me over

    • I-Dzign 4 months ago Link to comment

      I couldn't agree more. I used to a stout Apple customer and wouldn't even consider anything else, but Google won me over with its iOS apps and friends constantly talking about how customizable Android was. So when I found a refurbished Nexus 7 I decided to get it and try Android. Not only was I surprised how easy it was to jump into Android but I eventually bought a refurbished Nexus 5 and later the Nexus 5X and completely stop using my iPhone 6. So in that regard Apple won the battle but both Amazon and Google are winning and will continue to win the war because Apple's services can't even come close to what they offer. Even with the new things coming in iOS 10 Apple is far behind Google and Amazon.

    • most of the android users are anoyed by NOT getting updates and you complain about them....

  • Recently I read the BEST 5 ANDROID APPS 2016

    *Moderator's note: comment edited due to violation of community terms.

  • whenever i read here abt apple all time is bad about apple.....i m nt a lover of ios or apple but i like few things abt apple their ram management is more thn perfect .......their phone are more stable and long lasting thn androids....iphone 5 still get ios 10 bcos dont forget it is 4 year old phone....there is no legs in even 4s......first make a phone that can be long lasting like apple...........
    can perform like apple in less ram....increasing ram is not a solution for 10 aps on android it will slow down in performence but apple does nt........makong a garbage in 200 dollers is of no use

Show all comments

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. More info

Got it!