Debunking the Sheep: Part 3

Today’s myth has brought up quite a stir in the community recently. The Android vs iPhone war is bringing a lot of people back to the Mac vs PC wars of the 90′s. So what’s the myth today? The ol’ “it’s one device vs a million” cover.

“Of course android has a greater market share. If I gave away a bunch of phones for free it’d sell better than the iPhone too even if they were crap. You’re comparing a phone to an OS, that’s not fair. How many android phones are beating the iPhone. Zero. Developers would rather develop for one phone than a hundred that are so severely fragmented that half the apps don’t work. Also, Google makes NOTHING on their phones. Apple makes a killing on the iPhone…” (goes on to make nerd jokes and the whole “all Android users still live with their mothers” thing)

It’s beautiful isn’t it? While yes, both of these parties have these people, the fact that the competition is so good that these people exist is great for business. While it’s easier to see competition helping in Android than iOS (only because Android is updated more frequently), both parties should be thankful for the other. Without this kind of competition our phones wouldn’t be half as good! Enough drooling over the free market…

You’re comparing a phone to an OS, that’s not fair.”

I see this comment a lot, and honestly, I’m really confused why the hard core Apple supporters continue to use this. Yes, iOS is only on one mobile device (technically more if you count the fact that the iPhone 3G is still being sold). Yes, it is true that if you include iPods and the iPad iOS probably has a greater user base than Android. But that’s not what this war is about (at least yet…Tablet wars are definitely in the future). This war is about which company can put more phones in people’s hands. We (as in the Android community) are not comparing a phone to an OS, we’re comparing a mobile OS to another mobile OS. It’s Apple’s choice to only sell one device. It’s a great thing for their bottom line and right on par with the company’s brilliant business strategy. However, the fact that Android phones are now selling faster than iOS phones (note, iOS phones, not “the iPhone”) means that the market is shifting to Android and away from iOS….Which brings me to my next point:

Developers would rather develop for one phone than a hundred”

This is false, and precisely why market share is important. Think about it this way: You’re selling girl scout cookies. You have the option to sell to one neighborhood that is admittedly, much more prone to buying your cookies. Or you have the option to sell on a county level. Which would you pick? Anyone with an understanding of economics would pick the latter. The larger your market, the more opportunities you have to make money. This is why developers think Android will be the best to develop for. It’s the same thing Apple did to RIM. Why would anyone choose to make an app for Blackberry when they can make it for iOS and have an audience that’s many times larger. If you look at it from a third party point of view, those companies will back the OS that has the most users. It’s exactly what happened during Mac vs PC. Only now (with Apple’s impressive growth in Mac sales) are programs being developed for both (here’s to hoping Engineering software will soon be brought to my Macbook Pro!). It’s a vicious cycle. If you fall behind in market share companies stop developing for you. If they stop developing for you, you lose customers (market share). The cycle continues and continues. It’s what happened to Apple computers in the 90′s, it’s what’s happening to Palm and Blackberry now, and it’s what happened to the PSP in its early scraps against the DS. Do I think this will happen to iOS? Absolutely not. iOS is too good and has too large of a user base to be pushed out of existence. However, it should worry the iPhone crowd that as Android continues to dominate you may have to worry about whether Andoid apps will be ported to iOS instead of the other way around.

“…so severely fragmented that half the apps don’t work”

There are two ways to answer this. First, I could make the point that most apps require 2.1 or higher, and 80% of Android users have at least 2.1. Secondly, I could bring up the notion that most of the people who REALLY care about their phone aren’t on the few that are running something under 2.x. The small share of Android users that are obsessed with their OS probably own the latest and greatest Android phone. Does my mom care that she has 2.1 on her phone? No. I don’t even think she knows what that is, let alone when she’ll be upgraded. The fact of the matter is is that the majority of the market won’t care if they have an older OS than the person sitting next to them as long as their phones work. Will older phones be useless eventually? Yeah, I can’t argue that the few people that are still running 1.5 are probably running into a lot of problems. However, the amount of people upset with their 1.5 phone aren’t even CLOSE to the people who have an iPhone 3G and are upset with how iOS 4 crippled their phone. It is important to note that not ALL iPhone 3G’s are slowed to a crawl with iOS 4, but the product was widespread enough that Apple is still offering fixes and updates to help out. 4.3 is MUCH better than 4.0, but a lot of 3G users still say that the problem is getting better, but not fixed (this only caught my attention because one of my good friends has the iPhone 3G problem and sent me this funny video to explain to me why she was praying that the iPhone 5 comes soon). I’m not pointing fingers, I’m pointing out that EVERY technology company has this problem; it’s just pointed out with Android more often because of how quickly it upgrades. Is it a “bigger problem” on Android than on iOS? Yeah. But it’s not half as bad as anti-Android enthusiast claim it to be, and whatever OS camp you reside in has the same problems.

Also, Google makes NOTHING on their phones. Apple makes a killing on the iPhone.”

This statement is true. Apple makes a lot of money on their phone sales, Google makes next to nothing (if not nothing) on the their phone sales. However, unless your bottom line depends on Apple’s, this means nothing in this debate; but that’s for another time. The fact of the matter is is that these are just different approaches at making money. Apple’s business strategy is probably the best of any company out there right now; I can’t think of another company (except maybe Nintentdo) that is having more fun rolling around in their money. They make a lot of it. Google isn’t exactly hurting though. While Apple banks its earnings on the immediate sale, Google looks more long term (and even if you like Apple’s strategy better, you have to admit Google as a company knows what it’s doing…how often do you use Yahoo search?). They know if they put the device in your hands, you’ll buy apps, you’ll search, you’ll hit ads, you’ll use Google appliances, etc. Apple takes the “less devices, more money per” approach and Google takes the “more devices, less money per” approach. Both work in their own right. Apple has been doing it for years and they’ll continue to be immensely successful at it. They’ve never given a crap if Macs beat PCs in sales. They could be selling one Mac for every 400 PCs for all they care, as long as that one Mac is still pulling in as much money (and probably more) than the 400 PCs. Same with iOS. Apple users are so excited to have been the top dog in OS for once. They fail to realize that that’s not Apple’s business strategy. iOS will more than likely not be the most used OS in the mobile world at the end of the day, but who cares? Apple will still make a killing on the large market they still have. If you don’t believe me look at video game companies. Nintendo is the only company that makes money off selling its consoles. They make money on every DS and Wii they sell. They’ve been around for years, clearly their strategy works. Microsoft and Sony (Sony especially) take HUGE hits when they sell a console. Before costs were reduced, Sony took some $100 loss for every PS3 sold. They banked on making money once the device was in the consumers hands. They’d buy games and other services to negate that loss and eventually turn a profit. Both Sony and Microsoft are still around, so clearly their business strategy works. Just because you don’t agree with a business strategy doesn’t mean it isn’t successful. Tell either Apple or Google that they need to rethink their business strategy and they’ll walk away laughing.

Closing Thoughts

Anybody can take facts and spin them towards their preference. The original quote was taken from someone who took facts about Android/Apple and spun them towards Apple. I took the same facts and spun them towards Android. The fact of the matter is is that neither of these companies are in any danger of being phased out. Android has a lot of work to do before it truly passes iOS as the preferred OS, but at the same time iOS has a lot of catching up to do to be able to compete with the innovation of Android. This is how competition works. Now, as a consumer, sit back and reap the benefits; whichever device you prefer.

Part 1, iTunes

Part 2, Multitasking

» See more articles by Andrew Greenfield


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  • http://www.myspace.com/the_engine_of_death Mike

    Good way of putting it. People like what they like, for whatever reasons. I have thought of buying an iphone when it came to my carrier, but i’ve owned a Droid 1 and like the way its customizable b/c of android. Something about apple just gets me in a negative way and not sure why. Maybe its my lean toward support of the little guy. I almost think of it as being a cheat if i switch now. haha. I would like to own an iphone for a little while at least to test it out but the whole setting my allegiance with android prolly will prevent me from buying one. Also being able to participant in root functions with my phone and my Nook color made me a bigger fan of android. You are what you are i guess. I like to pick a path and stick with it. How bout you all?

  • noah

    Engineering software (Auto CAD) has been brought to Mac OS X (and iPad and iPhone for that matter). [http://in.reuters.com/article/2010/08/31/urnidgns852573c40069388000257790000cef1f-idUS224070510520100831]

    86% of developers think fragmentation is a problem [http://in.reuters.com/article/2010/08/31/urnidgns852573c40069388000257790000cef1f-idUS224070510520100831].

    If I can read about an app on a blog like this and not be able to find it in the market cause my phone isn’t supported, I’d say it’s a problem. This isn’t just related to the version of Android they have. If you check out the Gameloft games, you’ll see they have different versions depending on which exact model you have. Then there’s app like Netflix which require you to have a phone that has certain DRM hardware built-in.

    You’ve mentioned market share here a bit, buy you did not mention Symbian. Symbian phones, mostly by Nokia, have the largest market share worldwide. That is, when you’re counting devices and not dollars. Apple is the second largest company in the world, with most of the money coming from their mobile products. Apple makes $4 profit for every $1 an Android OEM makes [http://reviews.cnet.com/8301-19736_7-20039240-251.html].

    When it comes to PCs, Apple is the #3 or 4 manufacturer by units sold, but the #1 by dollar amount made.

    I still like the Google business model because it basically results in them giving away services for free. I bought my first Android phone specifically because I love Google as a company and want to support them. But when they hand out an operating system for free to manufacturers, and no one is really holding the responsibility for the end-user experience, it has consequences.

  • NerdArmy

    You’re no better than the ‘sheep’ you claim to be ‘debunking’.

    Your reasoning is based on assumptions, you dismiss the massive advantage Apple already has in the success of its app store, and you try to gloss over the fragmentation problem with a meaningless comparison with selling cookies!

    I have an Android phone (desire, rooted, modded), an iPad and a Windows PC – I’m no fanboy before you start to claim that I am. I can tell you straight away that the mobile OSs are VERY similar, and that Android is far more flexible if that’s what you want. But the quality and range of Apps available on IOS devices is far superior, and it really IS because developers can’t afford to make sure their apps run on 10 different Galaxy S’s or a Desire, Wildfire, Desire HD, Hero or whatever. You’ll never see a game like Infinity Blade for Android, which stretches the ipad hardware to the limit, simply because it will perform so differently on a Galaxy S to a Desire, and would never run on a Wildfire etc.

    Android looks set to become the dominant OS in terms of sales of devices, but until some sanity can be forced upon the likes of samsung and htc (hint – stop releasing new versions of the your devices, support the ones you have already) then developers are going to stick with what they know.

  • NerdArmy

    Great point be noah there about the user experience. Apple makes money from the device AND the apps you run on it.
    Samsung or HTC make money on the device, and that it. Its not in their interest to support your old set, because they’d rather sell you a new one. That’s why Sony users are stuck on 1.6, or why Samsung, Archos and HTC are releasing Android 2.2 tablets that don’t even come with market support until you hack them!

  • http://anything-android.blogspot.com/ Philip Balvanz

    Great post. I personally like Android because of the low initial cost. It allows people that didn’t have access to a smart phone due to financial reasons the ability to move up. In comparison the overall cost of owning an Android phone can be substantially lower than the iPhone. iPhone plans range from $55-$120 a month with data limits on most plans. Compare that to a Virgin Mobile Android phone for $25-$60 a month with unlimited text and data on all plans. I have a brief overview of Virgin Mobile and their phones on my blog… http://anything-android.blogspot.com/2011/03/low-cost-android-phone-service-virgin.html

    Keep the iSheeps coming!

  • http://talkandroid.com Andrew Greenfield

    Noah: trust me, I’m WELL aware that Auto CAD was recently released for Mac. Our class threw a party lol. Still waiting on Inventor and a few others, but I’m definitely happy they’re finally supporting Mac Engineers.
    On another note, I did see the chart with developers you showed me. I’m not saying fragmentation isn’t a problem (it is), but rather that it’s not going to kill the OS. While fragmentation is a concern, a lot of developers are still looking into developing for Android. Surveys continue to show that while devs find developing for iOS easier, they understand that Android is just as important now, and will be more important in the future.

    I did discount Symbian because these posts are geared more towards the “iPhone vs Android” demographic.
    While I actually prefer Apple’s business strategy to Google’s, I think in this day and age Google will “win.”

  • http://talkandroid.com Andrew Greenfield

    NerdArmy: Have you looked at Gameloft’s lineup of games? Trust me, there are several games that can push your device to its limit.
    And of course the App store has a greater variety of quality games, it’s been around longer! That’s the same as me saying “Look, Windows Phone 7 has less games than Android.” Of course it does, developers haven’t REALLY started developing for it. There is no question that the App Store has better quality apps than the Market. But it’s also had more than twice as long to develop them.

  • Polo79

    @nerd

    “I can tell you straight away that the mobile OSs are VERY similar”

    Reat of post ignored due to author’s ignorance.

  • Polo79

    @nerd again.

    I know its easy to forget but you might try using the menu button on your android.

  • noah

    The founder of Epic Games today has ruled-out game development for Android citing fragmentation. [ http://gizmodo.com/#!5789093/the-near+future-of-mobile-gaming-is-going-to-be-pretty-epic ]

    Ouch.

    Apparently about multi-tasking: “We need X amount of memory available. Sometimes it works, sometimes you have to shut down other apps or reboot your phone. It’s a massive problem.”

    “When a consumer gets the phone and they wanna play a game that uses our technology, it’s got to be a consistent experience, and we can’t guarantee that [on Android]. That’s what held us off of Android”

    “If you took the underlying NGP hardware and shipped Android on it, you’d find far far less performance on Android. Let’s say you took an NGP phone and made four versions of it. Each one would give you a different amount of memory and performance based on the crap [the carriers] put on their phone.”

    Care to “debunk” it?

  • http://talkandroid.com Andrew Greenfield

    Debunk what? That some developers don’t want to develop for Android? That’s a true statement. Would you feel any different if I brought in articles about developers who don’t want to develop for iOS? Believe it or not, after working on an app for weeks and having your app pulled or rejected from the app store is probably pretty irritating. A lot of them are also displeased with the royalties they have to pay Apple.
    Again, both sides have the issue. Android’s is definitely a little worse, but believe me, there are a lot of developers not happy with both sides.

  • http://encyclopediadramatica.com/zaiger zaiger

    My name’s Noah and I feel good about myself by complaining on the Internet.

  • Greg

    Wow Noah. He writes an article that at times argued FOR Apple (to the point where I was starting to get annoyed), was pretty unbiased the whole time, and you STILL try to bring him down. Should this article be pulled too because it disagrees with something you said? I’m glad you can quote ONE negative article against android for a point not even brought up in the article. I’m expecting him to quote YOU one of these days for these articles for the useless drivel that comes from your mouth.

  • AspectRation

    Hello Andrew. First off I want to say this article was really well done. It is very hard to visit either of these sites without getting some useless rant from one fanbase (look at DED from Appleinsider). This post has helped me believe that there are at least some sane writers out there.
    And ignore some of the comments above. They’re the people that are embarrassing the company they like, not you.

  • http://talkandroid.com Andrew Greenfield

    It’s fine Greg. He brings up good points :)