Why Apple Trembles at the Feet of Android

June 22, 2011
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For a time, Apple was the one of the smartphone world’s darlings. Tough, sturdy, seemingly impenetrable, unique, well-designed. In fact, think of any “wow” adjective, and that has most likely been used to describe Apple already. For a time.

Then came Android, and Apple’s house of glass started to crack, with some parts already shattered.

There’s only one precise word to describe Android’s growth: rapid. It’s precisely the rapidity that makes Apple squirm restlessly. Four hundred thousand (400,000) daily activations of Android devices as of May this year is, to put it mildly, a feat. Thirty six million Android smartphones sold just this first quarter (according to Gartner)–that’s another feat, one that accounts for 36% of the market share. Symbian simply slipped down to second place (27.4%), while Apple–poor fruit–trailed at third with 16.8 percent.

Way back in 2008, Android was just a term for “an automaton that resembles a human being” (WordNet, 2006). Fast-forward to 2011, and the term has taken on a new definition: “an Apple-eating, Apple-crushing, Apple-biting automaton controlled by thousands of brain-equipped humans” (my definition–feel free to spread around under a CC-BY-SA license).

Three years was all Android took to rise to Symbian’s and Apple’s stature. For now, they are peers. For long, not–because Android will simply climb over the two, especially Apple. How did this Green Robot come to grow so rapidly that it scares Apple to kingdom-come? There are several reasons, but let me discuss three of the strongest ones here: freshness and novelty, price flexibility, and standing on the side of freedom of choice.

Freshness and Novelty

Pre-Android, Apple was looked up to by almost everyone as the industry’s “most innovative company.” Post-Android, the luster started to fade–and fast. Of course, there remain loyal followers of the Big Fruit, but many have converted to the Robot Cult. One possible reason for the shift in loyalty is Android’s speed in dishing out new stuff–frequently and as speedily as developers can. We’re not just talking here of software updates and upgrades (both the core OS and apps) but also of hardware components that also influence the direction of software development.

iPhone 5 is yet to come. It hasn’t appeared yet. Apple gave the world a preview of the iPhone 5’s upcoming treats–but only previews. From the time iPhone 4 was launched, up to the time iPhone 5 will rear its head, what will Android be doing? You guessed it. Android will continue to release–fast and furiously–new, fresh, novel, innovative updates to its operating system, with device manufacturers hot on the heels of the updates, scrambling to produce more powerful and faster hardware to keep up. Android will do that, while Apple is ripening its fruit.

There’s a reason the Android’s mascot is green, and there’s a reason apples are red (although Job’s Apple is chromish).

Google has been dressed down often for being hasty with updates to the Android platform. The Honeycomb release, for instance, has already reached version 3.2. It took less than a month for Honeycomb to go up from 3.1 to 3.2. What is haste for one is speed for another. Haste makes waste, it is true, and Google strikes while the iron is hot. But, where “waste” is, Google strikes to amend it. In the case of Android 3.2 Honeycomb, for instance, the latest and the last release of the Honeycomb series was necessary to stretch Android’s arms further, that it may embrace more screen sizes. Android 3.0 and 3.1 were designed with 10.1-inch screens in mind. Android 3.2 provides Honeycomb for 10.1-inch screens and 7-inch screens and 8.9-inch screens.

The wide and warm embrace of the Green Robot doesn’t end at screen sizes, too. The earlier Honeycombs were optimized for NVIDIA’s processors. Version 3.2 provides support for other processors, such as Qualcomm’s Snapdragons.

The more devices it can run on, the better. That’s a major goal of Android.

Price

The cheaper, the better. That’s almost everyone’s mantra. Money is simply something that not everyone can squander, save the opulent. But, then again, even affluent folks often step on the brakes before reaching for their wallets. The cost of smartphones is a very important factor in this game, and Android has a very big edge over Apple on this one.

Android has been seen on smartphones as cheap as US$99. Call them low-end. Their buyers won’t mind.

Android has been seen on smartphones as expensive as US$700. They’re the high-end ones, the ones that can often sit on the same shelf as an iPhone 4–without squirming or without blushing with embarrassment.

And, then, there are the Android smartphones that fall in between.

As far as price is concerned, Android has the whole spectrum covered. Apple only has its eyes on the wealthy crowd. Undoubtedly, Apple’s business philosophy is one grounded on the worship of money. Android’s is rooted in a humanistic ideology–technology for all levels of the socioeconomic strata. Money-worship is just incidental, completely optional, and entirely preferential.

Will Apple ever stoop down to the “beggar-price” level? I bet you my plump arse it won’t–except when it clears out its inventory when a new model (e.g., the iPhone 5) arrives, at which time you can expect iPhone 4 prices to plummet.

There’s a reason Android’s logo is plain and simple green. And, there’s a reason Apple’s logo is shiny and glittery–two words that rhyme with “money.”

Freedom of Choice

You want to buy a smartphone from Apple? Get the iPhone–because that’s the only smartphone you will ever get from Apple.

You want an Android smartphone? Well, lemme see:

  • Acer
  • Alcatel
  • Dell
  • HTC
  • Huawei
  • Kyocera
  • Lenovo
  • LG
  • Motorola
  • NEC Casio
  • Samsung
  • Sony Ericsson
  • ZTE

…to name a few of the bigwigs. There are others, of course. And, each one of them makes more than just one model. There are over a hundred varieties–all running various flavors of Android, whether stock/pristine or customized. Some are upgraded versions of earlier models, while others are entirely new models. What about Apple’s iPhone 5? Just an upgraded version of iPhone 4, of course.

What about Apple? Apple only has one smartphone–the iPhone. And, only one company makes the iPhone–Apple. There’s hardly room for choosing there. Somewhat a suffocating situation, don’t you think?

With Android, you are free to breathe and choose your smartphone responsibly. Is price your dealbreaker? Go look for the low-end models from this or that manufacturer. Got your eyes fixed on a high-end smartphone? Well, Android has several of those, too.

Is design the determining factor for your purchase of your smartphone replacement? Android gives you a marketplace full of variety, each model having magnetic appeal to various types of people having various tastes and preferences.

Is storage your deciding factor? Or is it the battery? Or the user interface? Or the camera? Or the 3D bells and whistles? The keyboard? The processor? The gaming capability? Whatever your most important buying point is, Android most likely has a smartphone model that will satisfy your thirst.

The Android world is a world where you can be you with your choice device. Apple’s garden is one where you have to be someone else just to accommodate the technology. And, that’s a whole world of difference.

And, if Apple and Android were religions, Apple would be a jealous, monotheistic deity, while Android would allow for the worship of Android-as-deity, with the customer’s brand choice as a sub-deity. (The customer’s carrier choice can also be worshipped as a sub-deity.)

In Sum

Android’s speedy freshness, flexible price range, and freedom of choice are the biggest reasons for the exodus from Apple towards Android’s land of milk, honey, yoghurt, donuts, eclairs, gingerbreads, cupcakes, and the promised ice cream sandwich. Android land has a big table for its feast of treats, and the table is abundant. Apple land, well, only has, er, apples. If cavities are going to be the fate for my teeth, I’d rather have them from eating sweet variety than just apple.

That’s not the end of the Android story, though. Android’s star is already brightly shining, but trust me, it’s still rising.

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