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If Android is so great, why are we still switching to Apple?

In the early days of the Android/iOS wars, people chose iPhones over Androids for one simple reason: Android was rubbish. It wasn’t the OS it is today, the hardware wasn’t up to Apple standards and there were hardly any apps for Android and tons for Apple. Now, Android is arguably better than Apple in many ways. So why are huge numbers of people still switching to Apple?

apple andy
Who's taking a bite out of whom? / © AndroidPIT

Android has the numbers. Apple has the money.

According to Apple’s Tim Cook, 30 percent of people buying iPhones in the last financial quarter were switching from Android. He obviously has a dog in this fight, so you can perhaps take his numbers with a pinch of salt, but you can’t say the same about the industry analyst firm Consumer Intelligence Research Partner, CIRP for short.

Its latest figures show that 26 percent of iPhone 6s customers were coming from Android. That’s a huge number, dwarfing the 12 percent of switchers who bought the iPhone 6 and comfortably ahead of the 23 percent who switched to the iPhone 5S.

That’s not all. The people who are switching are the ones who have the highest disposable incomes to spend not just on phones, but on apps and accessories and services, all the things that keep you locked into a platform’s ecosystem. It’s safe to say that most of those switchers aren’t likely to see the light and come back to Android anytime soon.

We’ve known for a long time that while Android outsells Apple by a huge margin, an even huger margin is Apple’s profit margin. Apple sells a fraction of what Android does, but it makes almost all of the smartphone industry profits. So not only is it making more money, it’s attracting the most valuable customers too.

What on earth is going on?

The battle is being won by software and services, not just hardware. / © androidauthority

There may be trouble ahead

Let’s have a little look at the PC industry. Toshiba, which has just announced that it hopes to sell off its PC business, is the latest in a long list of big-name tech firms who can’t make money from selling PCs anymore. The market is so crowded and so commoditized – and so damaged by the rise of mobile devices – that hardly anybody’s making any money.

In an excellent analysis by UK tech journalist Charles Arthur, the numbers are stark: the average selling price of PCs is plummeting, and the average profit per PC is plummeting too. If a firm can make 15 bucks on a US$500 PC, it’s doing pretty good. The numbers are so bad that Toshiba won’t be the last household name to bin its PC business.

Times are really hard for every PC builder bar one. Guess who it is.

While PC sales decline by around 10-12 percent per year, the market share of Macs is soaring, even though the cheapest Macs cost much, much more than equivalent PCs. Apple is selling more Macs than ever before.

At heart, a Mac isn’t dramatically different from a PC. It runs the same Intel chips, often slower versions than the ones rivals use. It runs the same RAM, has the same hard disks or SSDs, gets its displays from the same manufacturers. What makes a Mac different is partly the way it’s engineered and partly the way Apple runs its supply chain, but it’s mainly about the operating system, apps and the services that tie those things together. That, and shedloads of marketing.

Back in the phone business, iPhones aren’t dramatically different from Androids. Androids are often faster, more powerful, more impressive on paper. But Apple has iOS, apps and the services that tie those things together. That, and shedloads of marketing.

It’s no wonder that the Android business is looking a lot like the PC business.

Everything Apple does and every product it makes is designed to sell iPhones. / © Apple

Everybody hurts

The same commoditization that happened in PCs is happening in Android. In February, Android’s share of smartphone profits fell to just 11 percent – and that money isn’t being shared equally between manufacturers either.

Charles Arthur has analyzed smartphone numbers too, and the conclusions are horrific: informed estimates suggest that while Samsung is probably making about US$24 profit per phone, HTC is making US$1 profit and Lenovo / Motorola is losing US$3 on every handset it sells.

Arthur is no iPhone fanboy. “I think Android is a boon to the world; quite possibly it’s the best invention of this century so far,” he says, but notes that “for handset manufacturers, Android isn’t such a boon… there’s little opportunity even for high-end Android OEMs to invest and innovate, because it’s not profitable enough.

“Only Samsung is an exception, because it’s part of a gigantic conglomerate. All are weak in software, and there’s no sign of that changing.”

Remember, it’s not just about the hardware: it’s about the OS, the apps and the services that tie those things together. And a shedload of marketing.

Sadly it's Android firms who are really getting hit here. / © teccrunh

Android firms have to do better on those things, because if they don’t, exactly what’s happened in PCs to happen to Android phone manufacturers: household names pulling out of the market because they can’t make any money.

There are only so many scraps left to fight over once Apple and Samsung have taken the spoils, and for many firms there simply won’t be enough of those scraps to keep their bellies full.

I’m with Charles Arthur. Android is brilliant. I’m just not sure that it’s such a brilliant business to be in.

What do you think? Let us know below.


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  • John 10 months ago Link to comment

    I used to love Android,then the idiots came out with 5.1.1.
    I shudder to think what Marshmallow will be like.
    Sorry.not on my Note Edge ...... it's already screwed up enough from the 5.1.1 update.
    It seems the more Android progresses,the worse it gets!
    Google,get your heads out of your collective butts.

  • Joel Galli 10 months ago Link to comment

    Hands down, the 2 things my iphone friends have always envied on my Galaxy S3 and Galaxy S5 are the removable battery and the microSD card slot. Samsung eliminated them. I've got Galaxy friends who are coming up for their upgrades, and for the first time are considering iphones.

  • storm 10 months ago Link to comment

    The economics actually favor Android. Remember, Google gives away the OS. Their primary income stream is elsewhere and measured in search more than app purchases. So comparing mobile profits and including google is silly. And the comparisons don't include Google when they happen. They compare Apple and Samsung, Apple and HTC and so on.

    As a consumer a stat like Apple's is actually a deterrent. I don't want a phone or OS that costs more. I don't want to part of a system where I'm everything costs more and I'm spending more of my money in it. I want the same performance and lower or free. And it get it in Android on other hardware. I'm not loyal to a hardware manufacturer, nor do I want to be. I want to have the options the market economy provides. And the economy in the PC world and the Android world is very rewarding to me as a consumer.

    Apple can have the so-called "cream" of the mobile consumer. They're actually the least intelligent players in the market. Apple is making easy money, true, but it's not long term sustainable. They can't compete with low and no cost options in the long run.

    Apple's move with ad blockers is illustrative. They can see they're losing money to browser based transactions. So they're trying to get vendors to move to app based transactions where Apple gets to pick up 30% for nothing, including advertising revenue. It won't be long before the app's costs to the vendor show up in higher prices to the user who uses such apps.

    Meanwhile, the Android user can reap ever decreasing costs. And that's economics from the consumer side.

  • Bob visser 10 months ago Link to comment

    One of the reasons is that early Android devices where just terrible. A lot of my friends used to have Android phones but switch to Apple just cause the had shitty experiences with early Android phones.

    What I notice about people around me is that the want a phone that simply works. The don't care about apps like Google now, different launchers and stuff like that. The simply want a phone for stuff like whatsapp, Facebook, Twitter, browse on the Internet, navigation and make some decent pictures.

  • I have gone back and forth twice now from iPhone to Android all in 4 months time and now have a 6s plus after leaving a Nexus 6p. That was a wonderful phone. However, coming from iPhone, I was completely locked in to the ecosystem with a Mac, Apple TV and friends and family with iPhones (photo stream, iMessage, etc). Android has too many workarounds and inconsistencies. I think these reasons have a lot to do with why people don't leave iOS to Android or go back. Don't know for sure. But, I am bored with iPhone and I am still in the return period for this 6s plus. That Nexus is calling, but my wife would string me up........

  • Paolo 10 months ago Link to comment

    Here's the thing. Where I live, the iPhone is seen with more well off people, like owning it is a right of passage, that you "made it." Android phones are marketed towards people who don't have money to buy an iPhone, and say that they offer a "superior" experience to an iPhone, when in reality ONLY Samsung Galaxy's (almost no one even is aware of the Nexus class here) offer a truly competitive experience.

  • Luka 10 months ago Link to comment

    There is really a lot to be said here. Imagine if there was for example no Samsung. What would nowdays invetions be? How would the hardware be? Apple's "inventions" are mostly gimmicks. Not all, ofc, it has upped the game.
    But that's now getting close to fanboyism which isn't the point here at all (before anyone thinks I'm a Samsung fanboy, no! I like their hardware and have a S6, I almost regret it as it isn't enough for me. For me, Nexus is the best...)
    To get to the point... Google is the only one to be blamed here. They should really get into control. Not by making a useless OS like wear. Without skins Android would be poor. Like it or not. You choose it. The way it should be done is something Google tried before. Android Update Alliance (wherever it vanished). No OS updates? No licence. Done.
    And the fragmentation problem would be easily solved. Maybe there would be some economical losses for OEMs to build them regularly for 2 years. But Android would gain much. It would really be a win win situation in the long term. I bet at least a half of those switchers would come back, thus buying Android phones. Instead of their weird logic where it's like "let's not update this phone so they will buy a new one from us" That's stupid. Ofc they'll switch.
    Google, wake up!!

  • Mark G. 10 months ago Link to comment

    I would say that the biggest problem with Android is OS updates. I have a GS5 running Android 5.02, I know there is a better version available 5.1.1 or even better 6.0 . but I have to wait for Samsung to release their version which then goes to my phone carrier. EE are showing no signs of releasing the update anytime soon which sucks.

    Google should be solely responsible for the OS updates and release them to all compatible phones via the Google play store.

    If phone carriers wish to include extras or whatever then it should be separate from the main OS, they will then be responsible for their own little updates.

    Manufacturers and carriers should also be upfront with their intentions with updates, if a device was never going to be updated it should be said before I purchase it.

    Peace ✌

  • My company has always been exclusively iPhone. I managed to convince them to let me switch from iPhone 5S to a real phone about 18 months ago. I now have a Nexus 6P.

    Initially, they were sceptical citing everything from security to non-compatibility issues. However, now they are looking at the possibility of testing migrating users to Samsung S6, because of cost and reliability issues with the iPhones.

    But still, most of my friends use iPhones because that's what they're used to.

  • We ??? it's just you my dear Android zombie, if you know what's the real difference and advantages, you won't have the gutz to publish your useless article :)

  • mangesh 10 months ago Link to comment

    we dont include me atleast...and the switch is in the opposite way mostly

  • Who is we? People that want to brag about their gadgets? Chromebooks are beating macbooks at schools (50% marketshare) because of the price the service and the marketing and not FOSS GNU/Linux with no marketing that can be pre installed at similar hardware but not even brands that have those products as Dell sell it well, not MS WOS with big marketing and not OSX with even greater "cool" marketing.

    And people are able to do the SAME TASKS. There are 70 € Android phones that can do the same that 700 € phones (Android models included) only not so fast or not so cute.

  • The extortionate cost of Apple / Mac have always turned me off as well as having to learn another operating system Android much easier had several phones and tablets but used Microsoft desktop. Now retired so could have changed to Apple/Mac but their software was not compatible and as I write a lot I still used the desktop with Microsoft programmes now Microsoft have moved into the mobile market I am changing over to them I have a desktop 3tablets and 2 phones all with latest Microsoft O/S all syncronise so as I travel extensively all over the world it looks asbif I shall remain with Microsoft although I still have two Android phones and one tablet operational but I expect they will become redundant next year sometime.

  • Mark 10 months ago Link to comment

    Why are " We " switching to Apple. Who is this "We" is sure isn't me. It may be you but that's your problem. Definitely a useless article.

  • whose making a sub £100, smartphone/handheld mobile computer....that gives almost anyone in the world access to global communication and the internet. not apple....

  • Interesting but some doubts. I understand that for single Apple handsets, up to 1/4 of buyers come from Android powered handsets. Ok. Then a long discussion is made about how more profitable than iOS is. Ok. But no data are there about how many users switch from Apple to Android handsets... If you speak about apples, you have to compare them with apples, not carrots nor bananas. So, how many buyers are switching from iOS to Android?

    For the rest, I agree that the iOS ecosystem is better crafted and better maintained than the Android one. Also, os stability is another selling point for Apple: Want something to play with? ... then go for Android. Want something that works right out of the box?... then use iOS.

    iOS is still an os made for people who doesn't bother configuring and personalizing their software. With Android, as a user you are almost forced to deal with updates who drastically change the use, as well as with tons of customization options that are good for making the battery last more, for making the UI darker depending on the app, etc... ultimately, for setting up an inconsistent ecosystem.

    For instance, just think about the updated Google Search app, at the core of each Android handset. With the renewed "icon" they also dropped the Material Guidelines for UI that pushed on other app software houses. This is just garbage behavior and, as a heavy Android user, I fear that this is just symptomatic of a company that is loosing grasp on the users and focusing on business (Yahoo-like). At least, with it's huge marketing investment, Apple is somehow forced not to lose its face with its clients. Hope I'm wrong.

  • In android application development, orientation is the deciding factors for presenting the layout in a row wise or a column wise fashion. Set orientations are used for setting the values and values can either is horizontal or vertical.

  • I have been thinking of switching to apple since 2012 , but every new iteration of sammy grabbed my heart. Right now i am using a Note4 downgrading from S6 Edge because of lack of accessories and affordable screen guards. I guess note 5 or note 6 will work for me next years summer. But i have a weird feeling that i might buy a iPhone 6s . I know you all will say Dude you cant use the freaking easy USB OTG , guys i own a TAB s 8.4 which works like breeze and will serve just fine for all my ANROIDish needs. And my Bae is also upgrading to iphone this valentines ( you guessed it right, billed in m name :-p ) . I think i am not afraid to switch, its like i might never look back again to my beloved android.
    Important fact to consider - here in India , if you have a problem in your iPhone in the middle of the night , you just cant apple toll free number as it only works in day timings unlike Samsung 24*7.
    Thanks for reading , its my passion to write .

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