In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Apple’s Phil Schiller who leads the marketing efforts for the brand went on the offensive against Android and its eco-system. Among the many criticisms that he had against Android, the interesting ones were fragmentation, poor user experience and lower value. “Android is often given as a free replacement for a feature phone and the experience isn’t as good as an iPhone.” he said, and added “When you take an Android device out of the box, you have to sign up to nine accounts with different vendors to get the experience iOS comes with,”…”They don’t work seamlessly together.”
Customers don’t relate to that
While the points that he makes are worth looking at, they are also mostly irrelevant to most Android potential customer. The Android fragmentation may be a real issue for developers who can struggle to reach a 100% compatibility with their apps, but most now only target the most popular Android devices. Android customers who buy one of those don’t really need to worry, and with all the handsets that we have tested or played with at Ubergizmo, we have yet to bump into any compatibility problems.
Sure, structurally, Android as a whole is much more fragmented than iOS which gets faster OS updates, but it also provides more choices to the consumers and that’s why it has become so popular. In any case, half of the Android phones sold in the USA comes from one vendor -Samsung- so the compatibility problem isn’t so bad in reality, even if the OS updates can remain a sore topic of discussion for some users.
Android: “cheap free phones” or best-in-class hardware? Both
To the point that Android handsets are “free replacement for feature phones”, there are two ways to look at it: First, even a cheap Android phone is an awesome replacement for a feature phone, there’s no question about it. Secondly, Android currently has the most powerful hardware and best-in-class displays and battery capacity. Regardless of how you slice it, this is something that cannot be taken away from the Android platform: it does spur innovation faster than any other platform, including Apple’s.
Market share doesn’t matter today, but it shapes tomorrow
The final point is that Apple doesn’t think that market share is “that” important. From a business perspective, they are right: at the end of the day, profits is what matters, and Apple has been doing very well. In fact they still lead in terms of gross margins, and net profits. However, market share does have long-term effects, like developer support, which means “quality of apps” to end users. This is not really something that matters today, but it’s also wrong to minimize the importance of market share data because it will matter tomorrow.
Apple needs to build a big phone, period.
The pressure is mounting on Apple to address their “Samsung problem” by building a bigger phone, or two phones. I think that the latter is the real solution. Because the iPhone has been held back by the “one-handed phone dogma“, Apple has left the door wide open for Samsung to attract customers with superior screen size and feature set. But now things are clear: everybody who said that big smartphones would not sell were dead wrong, and if anything, they will get even bigger in 2013. If anything, the fact that Apple still says that the iPhone 5’s display is “still the best display of any smartphone” is worrisome. It’s good, but Apple clearly needs to address the large phone market.
What do you think? Should Apple stick to tweaking its products, or should it introduce something more radical to counter the rise of Samsung and Android?