My excitement about Android is like a roller coaster ride. We were one of the companies that applied for Android challenge in 2008 and were very excited about Mobile First designed brand new OS, but after it took more than a year to actually get first Android device on the market and those first devices looked and worked/looked pretty bad compared to iPhone I cooled down on Android completely. These days I have some new thoughts. Even though Android OS still have some big challenges like hardware and screen size fragmentation there are few things that look promising.
I think it could happen that iPhone might quickly start loosing its advantage over Android. To be clear at the moment I see iPhone as a market leader and not buying any of those numbers about iPhone market share vs Android market share as an argument. iPhone is currently wining all important aspects like user engagement, AppStore revenue, quality of apps, amount of money that developers are making etc, etc…
Here are few reasons why this might change:
1. Hardware advantage is disappearing
For years Apple was ahead everyone else when it comes to hardware, most of the Android devices looked cheap and unpolished, definitely not something that you wanted to use with joy or to impress your friends.
But for example new Samsung Galaxy S3 is a different story. It looks very modern and fresh and is a very well done piece of hardware. Nokia Lumia (Win 8, though) is also solid looking device. Those two devices show that it is not just Apple any more that can produce high end hardware. As I discussed in one of my previous blog posts Apple hardware inovations are not that exciting for end users as they used to be few years ago and other hardware manufacturers are quickly catching up.
Think different, yes, but with Android
There is also an angle where iPhone at some point was a cool new device that made you look different. It was statement. I’m not sure if that is the argument these days. Do you really want to have exactly the same device as everyone else? Where is excitement in that or why would same old, same old iPhone be a topic of discussion while you are sitting at the bar with friends. ‘Social’ advantage of iPhone is gone. Everyone saw it, everyone has it and it is not that cool anymore.
2. Simplicity of iPhone UI is not an advantage any more
When first iPhone got out it was amazing how simple an easy to use it was. Four year old kids were able to use it. Remember all those phones before iPhone and how you had to read the manual to actually start using it. It was terrible. And than came iPhone, with its simple, limited and therefore very easy to use UI. Not sure if that is the advantage any more. Why?
Everyone is a tech geek today
Recently I sat down with my friend who is a medical doctor and always had the cheapest feature phone on him to used it for calls only. He didn’t even use email and still don’t have a Facebook account, he is very different from most people I hang out with. But just few weeks ago he bought new Android phone. All of the sudden he started asking me questions about mobile operating systems, Android vs iOS, Windows, data packages etc. I was shocked him asking me all that stuff and where all of the sudden he came up with all those informations. Also I’ve seen some of my family members that just a year ago opened Facebook accounts, people that were never interested in technology, commenting the acquisition of Instagram and opening up Instagram accounts to check it out. News about the acquisition reached them before they even heard about Instagram from friends. That tells me that technology have gone completely mainstream and absolutely everyone is into it deep.
With above in mind I believe average user is no more satisfied with limited and simple device and UI. They are ready to take on new, bit more complex UX, more features and flexibility. Android had that angle from start and appealed more to geeks, than ‘normal’ people. So if today everyone is becoming a geek, that might make Android more appealing to the masses than iPhone. Maybe users are ready for home screen widgets, few more hardware buttons, maybe they want to customize their home screen layouts and such.
3. Android is becoming more appealing to developers
High end and more expensive android devices mean users with higher buying power and that means more money for Android developers. Lot of developers got burned in early days of Android and move on to iPhone because they weren’t able to monetize their apps easier. With Google Wallet and Carrier payments that is changing for better. If first two assumptions above are correct than Android is gaining advantage here as well.
iTunes AppStore process is a frustration for most of the developers and it looks like Apple has no plans to back up. Enough said.
Google is committed to HTML5/js technology and time of HTML5 apps is definitely coming. Even if you decide to go native Java language you have much more developers out there that can start coding Java Android apps than ObjectiveC developers.
I even heard from one developer that for them is so much easier to develop and push Android apps live to the Google Play and iterate than doing the same for iPhone, that they decided to do Android first in order to test the UX/UI and fine tune the app, before they publish anything to the AppStore.
What do you think? Android has much bigger market share in numbers but it many peoples eyes (including mine) iPhone is still a leader. How soon we will see Android starting to really threaten and tap into iPhone customer base?