Android a classic disruptive play vs iPhone

By December 7, 2010 4 Comments

You may well have seen that yesterday Google announced the latest version of the Android platform (rev 2.3) which is called Gingerbread, and they also announced the release of the Nexus S – the follow up to the Google phone Nexus One.


It seems to me that Google are executing brilliantly on a text book disruption of the iPhone’s market position.  As per Clayton Christenson’s Innovator’s Dilemma, a disruptive product is one which attacks a market by being better on one dimension and not competing at all on what is considered the most important dimension by the incumbent.  Early customers are those who value the dimension where they are better.  Then, as volumes rise the attacker starts to become good enough for more and more of the market on the dimension on which they initially didn’t compete, and they come to dominate the market.

At launch Android was much better on price and open-ness, but didn’t even try and compete with the iPhone on hardware/sleek design and shrugged off concerns about splintering of the OS and the lack of an integrated app store.  Since launch adoption of Android has been accelerating rapidly (as per the above chart) and sales of Android phones passed sales of the iPhone in May.

Phones running Android are still not as good as the iPhone – but the gap is closing.  Android fans Mike Arrington and Jason Kincaid gave a glowing review of the Nexus S on Techcrunch, but stopped short of saying it was better than the iPhone – but it is getting close.  They say the hardware isn’t quite as slick, the screen resolution isn’t quite as good, and text input scores 6/10 compared to the iPhone’s 8/10 – but on the plus side the Nexus S works better as a phone and has much better integration with Google’s apps.

Prediction season is almost upon us and here is one from me: it won’t be long before we see an Android phone that is generally regarded as the equal of the iPhone.  Will it be in 2012?  I’m going to sit on the fence and say there is a 50-50 chance.

Note I am not predicting the end of the iPhone, merely that it will lose it’s position of dominance in the market.  I still carry an iPhone and I think will remain an important device for some time to come.

Update: offline availability of Google Maps and navigation in Android could be a killer feature that persuades many to switch away from the iPhone.

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