On the iPhone vs Android
If you are an android/apple fanboy do not read this post, read it if you care about some intelligent breakdown of the smartphone market as it is today.
So I finally got rid of my ageing iPhone 3G(almost 4 years old) a couple weeks back for a brand new iPhone 5. Yes it was damn expensive for what is essentially a phone, and a lot of people came up to me and said, you could have easily got two Nexus 4s for that price!
Whilst being mathematically true, there is something wrong with those numbers, they don’t add up, when I try to measure its value.
Before you read ahead, if you are not already fuming with fanboyism on the either side, here’s something you should know. Apple at its heart is a Hardware Company that makes most of its money when it’s products are sold at huge margins, while Google is a Software Company that makes most of its money on Advertising, selling hardware at subsidized or break even prices.
So coming back to the original discussion on the iPhone vs Android, here’s something that I’ve observed over the past few years, as more and more people have started to use Smartphones.
A lot of iPhone/iPad users I know, including myself pay for an ecosystem. A lot of Android users I know pay for what is essentially something that satisfies their needs right then & there.
I’ve never used Android myself, so I might be a little biased here, but the one thing I keep hearing always is the longevity of these devices. Smartphones are expensive, which means that you are not going to be upgrading these every two years. One of the biggest problems in that ecosystem is that you stop receiving software updates as time goes by. Barring the Nexus series this is pretty much the story of all Android Devices.
Apple on the other hand still provides iOS6 to a phone that is a little more than 3 years old. That sort of an upgrade path is unheard of in the Smartphone industry today.
So when I buy an iPhone/iPad I know for sure that these devices will be of value and relevance to me for atleast a few years. Barring the Nexus family, I don’t see that happening in the Android Ecosystem.
The next thing that I see real value in is the ecosystem. Or the delightful integration of the different parts that makes it much more valuable than the some of its parts.
It’s fairly well known and public knowledge that the iOS experience while sometimes crippled and restrictive is one of the easiest to use for an average person. I once said this “iPhones/iPads are Mom friendly devices”. My mom can’t figure out how to send emails or do a skype call on the PC, but she can easily figure that out on the iPad. When I said this to a person, he plainly retorted back saying, “But we are developers, we don’t need Mom friendly devices”.
And this brings me to my next point, beautiful/functional software on elegant hardware is worth paying for. The hardware today from the Android OEM manufactures is surely well designed but the software experiences are still not there yet!
For some of the minor UX annoyances read this post : http://www.androidpolice.com/2012/09/18/ux-things-i-hate-about-android/
And everytime I show that link to someone, they begin ranting about how maps on the iPhone 5 (iOS6) suck big time. Yes they do, and everyone knows that. Heck even the CEO of the worlds most valuable company acknowledged it. [http://www.apple.com/letter-from-tim-cook-on-maps/]
That story is now widely read, and just yesterday Google released the new maps application for iOS6. And playing with the app for a few minutes made it very obvious why Google was kicked out of the iOS Ecosystem. Google now almost forces you into signing into your Google account to use the app. If you are wondering why, the answer is pretty straightforward to collect data about your searches and location to provide advertisements to you.
I did that, and then buried deep inside the app was a way to disable the data collection. But there was something that I noticed on a friends phone. While being logged out of his account on his PC, he did a Google search and that showed up in his search history on both the PC and the iPhone instantly. If this is not creepy enough, I don’t know what is.
Google at heart is an advertising company and it’s not that I hate them. I just don’t like them mining all my data for slapping advertising on my face everywhere I go.
Earlier in the post, I talked about two fundamentally business models that Google and Apple are pursuing. Here’s how this breaks down.
Apple makes about 300$ on every iPhone sold, while Google makes 0$ while giving away Android for free to the OEMs. Just by looking at these numbers, you’d surely call Apple greedy and exploiting its users.
Now surely Google is not as charitable as it seems like. They try to make about 10$ per device sold on search/advertising. So they are essentially playing the volume game here.
These two models are essentially the classic business models of the yesteryear’s Sell Cheap in Large Quantities, and Sell Expensive in Small Quantities. Which is why I said this basically boils down to which model you prefer? I prefer paying up front so that my data is not used to sell advertisements to me. I think at the end of the day this is all that matters.
There’s one last thing, that I want to touch upon, and that is the developer interest in the two platforms. For a long time Android did not have a thriving App Ecosystem. It’s much better now with the Google Play Store, but there’s a small problem here.
Statistics show that Top 200 Paid Apps in the iOS App Store grossed $700M in just Q4, 2011, while Android did $210M in the whole of 2011. But when you look at marketshare, Android has more than 70% of the Smartphone market, and iOS has a little more than 20%. It’s pretty obvious that iOS users are buying more apps, and are generally more engaged in the platform than their friends in the Android World.
If you are an App Developer / Startup you’d obviously build for a platform that is more engaged, and is ready to pay for apps that add value. Which sort of explains why almost all of the major apps today first appear in the iOS world before moving onto Android.
The other reason is obviously the stickiness of the iOS ecosystem. I’ve tons of apps that I use, all wonderfully syncing with my Mac at home, iPad and iPhone on the not so good iCloud. If you are building an app today, you have the entire ecosystem to plug into. That advantage is a huge thing for Apple.
Here’s something that I just read today. A Samsung Exec uses Apple Products as well and he thinks that same thing too. The Ecosystem matters. http://techcrunch.com/2012/12/13/samsung-exec-admits-to-using-apple-products-calls-idevice-ecosystem-sticky/
To wrap up, I think it’s great that Android and iOS are involved in neck to neck competition. At the moment Google is winning the marketshare game, Apple is winning the profits game. Apple is getting better at making better cloud services like Google, and Google is getting better at industrial design and User Experiences and Ecosystems.
At the end of the day it’s us consumers who are winning! Next time you pick you Android/iOS stop complaining about the price/design, and understand which ecosystem you are pluging into? An ad supported one, or a one that potentially is expensive / restrictive.
Chime away your thougts in the comments section!