So Does Apple Have to Beat Android?

September 24th, 2014

In those very old days when Apple didn’t seem long for this world, the media would generally remark on how Apple lost the PC wars and it was really time to pack it in. Instead, Apple simply persevered, and ultimately grabbed the most profitable portion of the market. Rather than selling tens of millions of PC boxes with little or no profit, four or five million per quarter with high profits made more sense.

As some of you recall, when Microsoft made a $150 million investment in Apple in 1997, Steve Jobs remarked that the PC wars were over. Microsoft won. But Macs continued to get better and more popular and, in recent years, have grown ahead of the PC market. These days, Microsoft dominates a dying industry. So Apple won by losing I suppose.

Now in recent years, you have been reminded again and again how Android dominates the mobile handset universe, and the iPhone is losing steam. But it’s not that Android earns most of the profits. Google gives it away, and only earns money from targeted ads. It’s not that the Android handset makers are rolling in cash either. Only Samsung seems to earn a decent profit from handset sales, and sales and profits are depressed over what they use to be.

Seems that Samsung is being hit on the low end by even lower-cost handset makers flooding the market, particularly in Asia, and at the high-end by Apple.

What is actually happening is that Apple continues to report iPhone sales growth and high profit margins. That’s hardly something that can be regarded as losing. Most of the growth in the Android market is at the low end, an area where Apple just won’t compete, except for models that are free with the typical wireless contract. Otherwise, iPhones aren’t very cheap, nor are they likely to be.

But when the media attempts to come up with what they regard as valid reasons for Android dominance, and what Apple must do to compete, they end up playing the fool. So there’s a recent article in a certain business publication that complains about iPhone battery life. It doesn’t matter that longevity is mostly competitive, except for a few models with very thick batteries. Worse, the comparison rated the capacity of the battery in an iPhone rather than the actual time between charges under normal use. It was all about the usual foolish emphasis on specs.

If you wanted to just use specs, you’d fail to notice that the A8 processor in the iPhone 6 series must be slower than the processors used in most other high-end smartphones. But the benchmarks continue to demonstrate that the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus are at or near the top in most every test category.

Over the years, the critics also insisted that Apple must add NFC, larger displays, and whatever features you can find in the typical checkbox.

Sure, Apple did finally decide to use NFC, but did so in a way that encompasses a full mobile payment system that includes a number of key partners. So you have the credit card companies, banks and retailers making it possible to use Apple Pay beginning in October. If Apple just added a chip without thinking through the consequences, it would present the same situation that existed with Android, where Google’s mobile wallet feature just went nowhere.

When Apple adds a feature, at least they try to make it work. Not always successfully at first, and few would regard Siri as perfect. At least it was labeled a beta for a long time as it matured.

Consider the larger displays. Samsung and other companies were delighted to diss Apple for sticking with a 4-inch display. The critics did as well, but perhaps didn’t consider the consequences of building a larger handset. Perhaps Apple should have gotten into the game earlier, but I suspect at least some customers would find even the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 to be a tad too large for their tastes. The 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus phablet, if you can find one, may look real great until you try to put it in your pocket or purse, or attempt to hold it with one hand.

Still, there’s a market for the larger iPhone that Apple needed to fill, even if there are usability concerns. Having done so, the reviewers report that the displays on the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are among the best on the market. So maybe Apple’s logic in holding off made sense. Whether sales were lost is a question mark, but that argument will no longer apply. Clearly the new models are quite successful out of the starting gate, so there’s not much to complain about.

Now it’s also true that a new Google OS, Android L, sporting an updated, or more refined, user interface, new runtime, enhanced notifications and improved power efficiencies, is coming later this year. Or at least that’s what’s claimed. Google is currently offering an L Developer Preview that appears to support just two models from the Nexus family.

In any case, however well the iPhone 6 does this year, it will never be good enough, they will tell you, to halt the Android avalanche. But does it even matter?

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11 Responses to “So Does Apple Have to Beat Android?”

  1. Jase says:

    Gene, is the bending issue on the iPhone 6 plus going to become an issue for Apple?

  2. Jase says:

    i agree Gene, although I have to admit that these reports make me a little more reticent to become an early adopter of the 6 plus. Apparently many large and thin Android phones also receive complaints about bending. I would never worry about my iPhone 5S bending. It feels solid. But I would also never put any phone in my back pocket. That seems nuts to me.

    • @Jase, It comes across as someone saying, “let’s see if I can bend it,” and, yes, they can. That’s true with any of these large phones when you abuse them. But if this spreads, welcome to “BendGate.” Wonder if the opposition is fueling any of this?


  3. Jase says:

    I don’t think that it is a conspiracy by Samsung or Google or whatever, but I do think that Apple is a magnet for hyperbole and exaggeration and positive and negative attention compared to all other competitors. I could imagine Android-based phones having bending issues or an antenna issue or some other issues that are much more severe than the iPhone, but receiving little to no coverage online or in the media. And sometimes there really is an underlying issue, such as the antennagate issue, even if it can be argued that the issue was overblown.

    • @Jase, I think AntennaGate was overblown, way overblown. It was pretty clear that the problems that allegedly afflicted the iPhone 4 were typical of mobile handsets in general, although you might have to hold them somewhat differently to trigger such effects.


  4. DaveD says:

    No. The most important goal for Apple is to provide the best overall user experience. The quality of the fit and finish of a product, a top-performing operating system, and a solid customer support. A company that stay focused on the future, producing a better product, and makes money.

    Like all Google services, I see Android as primarily a data mining tool mimicking as a desirable Apple mobile products. Give it away for free so Google can keep updating the dossier of the hundred of millions of users.

    About the battery issue with iOS 8, where have I seen that before? Let me see… Oh yeah, iOS 7, iOS 6, iOS 5, etc.

    About “bendgate,” where have I seen that before? Let me see… Oh yeah, cracked screen on iPod nano, iPod touch, iPhone from placement in a certain back pocket.

  5. Jase says:

    If the bending issue becomes a legitimate worry for people who keep their phones in their front or rear pockets, then a protective case would be the countermeasure. The worst case scenario for Apple would be to give out free cases, like they did with antenna-gate.

  6. TZ says:

    Don’t forget the original iPod Nano and the horrific, end of the world scratches on the display. OMG!!!
    I have one right here, and yes lots of superficial scratches. My boss at that very same time bought a standard iPod, and after a few months bore just as many scratches as my Nano.
    I don’t get the selective hysteria surrounding Apple products.

  7. TZ says:

    This may also be deliberate FUD.

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