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Cutting Through Android Hype

The International Business Times recently ran an article entitled “5 Reasons Why Android Phones Will Stand Tall Against iPhone 5.” The article doesn’t present any new theories, but it does aggregate many of the top anti-Apple talking points—talking points which generally crumble under further scrutiny.

Hardware Choices: Some users prefer a big smartphone while others may prefer a smaller and portable device. A few others want a phone with high-resolution camera lens and all the multimedia functionality support. And certain consumers don’t want to pay for the extra stuff what they don’t want. There are users who want a smartphone with a nice physical keyboard, specifically for comfortable data entry.

With Android products, the users can choose a phone based all these above mentioned points. However, with Apple products, you have a few choices. In fact, with iPhone, there are really only two choices to make when buying the product – one is storage and the other is connectivity, which even Android phones do better than iPhone. Moreover, iPhone 5 is expected to come only in two models whereas there are over hundreds of Android phones out there to meet different needs.

This is perhaps the most legitimate point in the Android vs. Apple debate. Android devices come with more hardware choices. However, this has a downside. With the iPhone, if you’re within your two-year contract, your phone will run whatever you buy in the app store. With Android, it’s hit or miss. Developers know this, and it may explain why nearly every major app comes to the iPhone first—if it reaches Android at all. (The Hulu app is a perfect example; it took a long time to hit Android, and only worked on a few phones).

Software flexibility: With iOS, there is a very limited tweaking and customization possibility. If you want to do something that is not within the boundaries Apple has set for iOS, then you have no luck.

Apple’s closed system can’t win against an open system, especially in a market changing as rapidly as the smartphone market.

In short, nerds care, and no one else does. Of all the people I know, only a few would have the desire—or the knowledge—to “tweak” their system. If open-source were inherently “better,” we’d all be using linux.

Faster Pace: The production of Android phones is really fast. In fact, smartphone consumers want something new and needs of data hungry consumers are almost unsatisfying. Most of the users are driven by new, flashy and fashionable products. Apple introduces just one smartphone per year whereas Android phones keep coming out every now and then.

Apple is at a disadvantage, because its release cycle can’t keep up with the many release cycles of competitors.

A faster release cycle won’t have major impact as long as the 2-year contract remains standard. With one new device per year, once you’re in the cycle there will always be a new iPhone when your contract renews, and the hardware will remain competitive.

Pricing: Android phones give you more options to fit your budget. When a new iPhone is launched, it is priced exorbitantly and is pretty much out of reach for most consumers. …. Many powerful Android smartphones are available for less than $100.

There are Android phones available for less than under $100, but these aren’t the new, “powerful” models. Cheap models tend to have cheaper hardware. Cheaper hardware means more apps that won’t work. Further, this criticism is splitting hairs with an arbitrary price point. The iPhone 3GS is still available at AT&T for $99, and $120 will land you a new iPhone 4 from Verizon. Given that iPhones have shattered sales records at both AT&T and Verizon, it looks like the iPhone is easier to reach than any other smartphone.

Accessibility: The Android-powered smartphones are available from several different devices manufacturers like HTC, Motorola and Samsung. They are also available with a choice of carriers and different plans to suit different users’ needs.

The iPhone is available from both of the two largest US carriers and it’s expected to be available from Sprint in the near future. I’ve noted before that iPhone exclusivity probably hurt Apple and guaranteed Android’s success, but now that the iPhone is no longer locked to AT&T, the criticism seems stale.

Finally, I could never get away with ignoring marketshare. Many Android fans will point out that more Android handsets are being sold and activated than iPhones. For starters, this statistic is automatically skewed given that it compares an operating system with a particular product. iOS also powers the iPod touch and iPad. I don’t know how many iPods Apple has sold, but I do know the iPad is crushing Android in the tablet market. Further, there are “over hundreds” [sic] of Android phones competing against two iPhone models. At the phone level, the iPhone reigns supreme.

Beyond these technical differences, we must account for market differences. Apple’s consumer base downloads more apps and is more likely to pay for them. As such, given that apps designed for the iPhone actually work on every current iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad and that iPhone users actually buy apps, the market for the iPhone could be more lucrative even though there are fewer iPhones than Android devices. At the end of the day, developers still have to pay the mortgage.

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