This piece is primarily a compilation of comments & observations by me on a social media network, in response to a post of the subject. Some additional links, images and facts have been included to round off the comments & observations made earlier.
The smartphone revolution got kickstarted really when Apple came out with its first iPhone running on a O.S. it named iOS. The first iPad followed soon after and the history of mobile devices changed radically thereafter. Android, at that point in time was just another Google acquisition as far back as 2005, which had developed an open-source O.S. for mobile phones but had failed to find too many takers. As a matter of fact, the smartphone revolution was still some years away.
Flash forward to the present scenario, where, as far as market shares are concerned, Android commands a share of about 85% globally, leaving iOS to be a niche player and reducing Windows to being virtually no player at all with a paltry market share of 2.5%. A good part of iOS’ global market share is courtesy the U.S. which still remains the largest single country market for smartphones globally and where, though Android occupies pole position with 51.5%, iOS is not too far behind with 42.4% market share. So, while Android-based smartphones rule the roost globally, Apple remains very much an American phenomena still & since they don’t have the kind of fragmentation Android has had, over the years, many developers in the U.S. still prefer developing their app on the iOS platform first.
While the reasons for this can be many, it’s worthwhile looking back at the history of it all. Firstly, Android being open source & free built up the perception that it’s a cheap product. Secondly, Android couldn’t find any major takers initially since the smartphone hardware, as we know it today hadn’t quite evolved yet and Nokia, which was the dominant player in feature phones during the pre-smartphone era, wasn’t keen on taking on anything beyond its own S40, Maemo, Meego & Symbian. Consequently, when the iPhone / iOS first made its appearance, it had a virtual free run for a while in the smartphone market. Hence, in the U.S. market, they had a headstart in terms of market share & later, the number of Apps in the Apple store, which were responsible largely for the iPhone really taking off.
The early adopters of Android, primarily Samsung, HTC & LG, had few options in terms of O.S. since the iOS operated in a closed environment and since Apple was in no mood to license it to any third party. While Apple had beautifully positioned itself at the top end of the market, the Korean, Taiwanese, Japanese & Chinese manufacturers who wanted to foray into the smartphone market, found Android particularly convenient since it was open-source and free.
Lastly, as you may have noticed, none of the major companies. producing Android based smartphones – Samsung, LG, HTC, Sony & now even Motorola / Lenovo – are American companies. so possibly some good old xenophobia & national pride has been at work in the preference for iPhones by a fairly sizeable section of the U.S. smartphone market. Many Americans, who can afford it, would rather patronize Apple than any of these Korean, Taiwanese, Japanese or Chinese manufacturers.
As has been rightly pointed out, Android smartphones have largely failed to displace Apple’s firm grip at the top end of the smartphone pyramid. This is also evident from the fact that the iPhone continues to bring in nearly two-thirds of Apple’s profits even now, leading to Apple’s market capitalization remaining impressive despite the flagging sales of iPad tablets & Macs. It must be said though, that while Apple is no great innovator when it comes to software, in iOS, most basic functions & utilities come shrink-wrapped which can be comforting and reassuring for the average customer who is not quite tech-savvy.
The Nexus 6 from Google, manufactured by Motorola/ Lenovo, is Google’s first attempt to break into the top-end of the smartphone pyramid. Also, Motorola/ Lenovo is possibly trying to make some decent money & cut down its losses with this particular product. Though the Nexus 6’s hardware specs together with Android 5.0, (Lollipop) beats the iPhone 6 Plus hardware & iOS8 hands down, it is doubtful whether their pricing strategy for the Nexus 6 will work, particularly at a time when prices of Android phones are generally on a downward path. Pricing is essentially an outcome of strategy, branding & product positioning and it remains to be seen whether Google is able to make the top-end of the market perceive that the Nexus 6 is an all round superior product to the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus at a price which is still lower than theirs.
For those interested in the gory details of the two different products referenced here, take the jump to the reviews for each of them that you see below.