We are going through a phase of hardware replacement in our family at the moment. We have just bought our first Mac computer as a PC replacement (a Mac Mini) and Fiona has got a new iPhone. I still use a Blackberry for email, but I carry an iPhone as well which is due for replacement. It seems like I’ve been waiting for a long time now for an Android device that matches up to the iPhone, and given that the 4S isn’t much of an advance I’m thinking I will probably go for the new Google Galaxy Nexus (hopefully available this month). The convenience of iCloud with the new Mac Mini at home has had me a little tempted to stay with Apple, but it seems to me that Android is now firmly in the ascendency and it is smart to bet that it will improve much faster than Apple/iOS over the next twelve months.
- Samsung has now overtaken Apple to become the biggest single smartphone vendor (28m units sold in q3 vs 17m iPhones)
- Samsung and Motorola are very close to the iPhone in terms of design and performance
- Android now rivals iOS as a platform for developers, and will become more important if Android continues to grow faster than iOS
In summary – Android has now reached a scale where its network effects match that of Apple’s, and unless Apple does something remarkable it won’t be long before it slips into a clear overall second place. Blodget describes how that will work:
the better Android phones get, and the more market share Android gains, the more Android’s network effects will increase, and the more Apple’s leverage over the iPhone ecosystem will diminish. And that can only be bad news for Apple’s ability to continue to command exploding profits from iPhones, app developers, musicians, media companies, and others who now must pay it big distribution fees because they have no other choice.
As the history of the tech industry has demonstrated again and again, technology platform markets tend to standardize around a single dominant platform. Although several different platforms can co-exist while a market is developing, eventually a clear leader emerges. And as it does, the leader’s power and "network effects" grow, while the leverage of the smaller platforms diminishes.
For additional colour I recommend reading Confessions of an iPhone user who recently switched to Android.
Blodget also shows how the arguments that Apple fans have made against Android have one by one been overturned by events:
Initially, the argument was that Android phones sucked compared to the iPhone, which was at least a year or more ahead
Then, when Android phones improved and the gap closed, Apple fans pointed out that that the iOS platform was was still much bigger than Android and therefore much better for developers
Then, when Android became the smartphone market-share leader, Apple fans pointed out that Android phones were made by several different manufacturers and that Apple was still the biggest smartphone maker and that the App Store was still the best platform for developers
And so on…
This speaks volumes to me.
Despite all of the above, I don’t think the battle is over yet. Apple could come out with another killer device, or development of the Android code base might falter, but it seems to me that the multi-party Android ecosystem is now both stronger and more resilient and Apple/iOS.