Thursday, September 9, 2010

Why Would Anyone Choose Android over iPhone?

MG Siegler over at TechCrunch has a pretty stupid article in which he follows up on another silly article in which he rhetorically wondered out loud if the reason why Android was overtaking the iPhone in market share was because of AT&T exclusivity for the iPhone.

In that first article, he wrote:

While I obviously understand that people have different tastes, I can’t see how you can objectively say that the overall experience of using an Android phone isn’t worse than using an iPhone.

In response to this, people then proceeded to give reasons other than AT&T that the Android experience is better than the iPhone. In the second article, he picks what he perceives as the primary reason: openness. He then proceeds to say that the idea that Android is more open than the iPhone is "a load of crap".

His justification? Recent demo models of Android phones he has received come with a bunch of pre-installed apps he doesn't want.

There's also this:

From what we’re hearing, Verizon is also planning to launch this store on their Android phones as well in the future. Obviously, this store would be pre-installed, and it would likely be more prominently displayed than Android’s own Market for apps.

Um, V Cast is already included on Verizon phones, as a channel in the Android Market alongside existing ones. I guess it's possible that Verizon would replace the official Android Market with their own, but I highly doubt it. I don't think Siegler has a clue what he's talking about here.

Then he talks about how certain models of Android phones don't allow the installation of non-market apps. Then he talks about how tethering is not available via the native support for it in 2.2. Hint: You can buy EasyTether and tether away to your hearts content.

Then he goes on to bash the carriers for not updating Android to the most current OS version fast enough. Look, I wish every Android phone was running 2.2, but here's the situation: Android devices are coming out at a breakneck speed, with bigger and better specs all the time. Older devices (and we're just talking 6-12 months old) often don't have the hardware hefty enough to run the latest version of Android optimally. There's a trade-off here. You can either have rapid innovation and a certain amount of buyer's remorse when the phone you bought 6 months ago is eclipsed by the newest phone with much better specs, or we can just slow down the pace of innovation so better devices only come out once a year or so. Which would you prefer? I'll take the rapid innovation, personally. As a dev it makes compatibility a bigger problem, and as a consumer you may feel like you're getting left in the dust, but I'd take than any day over a much slower pace of increasing specs.

Realistically compare this to the PC market. If you buy the newest PC, within a relatively short amount of time it will no longer be the best and brightest. You can upgrade the OS and hardware yourself (though your average consumer won't), but you certainly don't get automatic updates to an entirely new version for free, mediated by your ISP. I think it is reasonably for the average Android user to expect 1-2 full version upgrades in the lifetime of their device.

Anyway, back to one core question: Is Android more open? Of course it is.

You can tether on Android, without rooting, either by being on a support OS/carrier, or buying a tethering app (which would never make it onto the iTunes market). Steve Jobs derisively talked about a "porn store" on Android, and guess what? A lot of people like porn. If you don't want Apple to be your nanny when it comes to app content, you might just prefer an Android device. It is simply an irrefutable fact that in terms of functionality and content of apps, Android allows a wider range than the iPhone. No one in their right mind would dispute this, and it is a far more sensible metric of openness than any that Siegler gives.

So what about the other big question originally raised by Siegler: Why would anyone in their right mind choose an Android phone over an iPhone?

Here are a few:

1) Choice. The iPhone only has a few models, and only one newest model. With Android, besides having your choice of carrier, you also have your choice of hardware. Do you want a hardware keyboard? Do you want a huge display? A small one? Is the camera especially important to you? The point is that with Android you have a vast array of choices in terms of specs, features, and price, and that spectrum is only getting larger.

2) Price. You can get a budget Android phone or go for top-of-the-line. Not everyone wants to fork out the max amount for the best available phone. In this respect, Android has a huge edge that is analogous to the PC market. Some consumers prefer to trade features and specs for a bit of money in savings.

3) Google. Yes, the iPhone allows some Google apps to run (but apparently not others, such as Google Voice). If you are already an avid user of Google's web-based services, you just might want the tight integration with things like GMail and Google Calender that the Android environment provides.

These are three big ones off the top of my head. There are others, such as the liberal Android Market return policy that is very consumer-friendly. But look, the iPhone is a great device, very well designed and very user friendly. But it is not perfect, and it is currently no longer the objectively best smartphone on the market. In terms of specs and functionality, the newest Android devices, such as the Evo and Droid X are better. The gap has closed, and the scary thing for Apple is that soon there will be Android devices that are clearly superior to the iPhone in virtually every respect. Android innovation is not on a yearly schedule like the iPhone. By this holiday season, there will be new Android devices with specs that outperform the iPhone in every category. Android 3.0 (Gingerbread) will be released this year as well, along with the improved Android Market with over-the-air purchases and installs and integration with Google's new music service. Apple apologists can currently continue to make arguments that the iPhone is at or near the top of the heap, but very, very soon that argument will simply be made obsolete by the steady march of better and better Android devices.

So while there are already good reasons to prefer an Android device over an iPhone, right now to a large degree it is personal preference. Over the next 6 months that will no longer be the case and the chasm will widen. The iPhone won't fall away, but it will be relegated to a much smaller market share, just as in the PC market. And I'm sure guys like Siegler will be whining louder than ever.

No comments:

Post a Comment