I don’t have any more of a granular view into the cellular handset market than the next guy, but what I do have is what I consider to be the average user understanding and desire. After all, I’m one of the average users and so my expectations and decision making processes are likely to be similar to everyone else’s. I’m also one of the Android users that switched to iOS (Apple iPhone) during the last quarter and from that perspective I can comment on what I believe the latest NPD figures represent.
First, over a period of time I became unsatisfied with “Android”. Mainly because of the horrendous battery life I experienced with my HTC EVO. To this day I can’t tell you how much of that was a result of poor power management in Android and how much of it was apps. But regardless, by the end of my Android experience I had pretty much stripped out virtually all of my apps and still found I couldn’t utilize my EVO for more than 2-3 hours (depending on specific use) before I drained my battery. I became extremely discouraged with the phone and after reading a plethora of similar user experiences on a range of other Android powered handsets I came to the conclusion that Android likely wasn’t going to fare so well when I looked to purchase a new handset.
Secondly, the Android app market is as equally horrendous as the power management issue is. There’s definitely something to be said about Apple’s restrictive management of the iOS app market, yet comparatively I think it fares rather well against the Android market which has no central management what so ever. Anyone can create and list an Android app, which has lead to magnitudes of useless chaff and poor quality app availability in that market. I found that wading through the Android app market to find actually useful apps to be a time consuming affair that quickly grew old with me.
And lastly, the lack of timely Android updates was something I was extremely unhappy with. As smart phones are nothing more glorified than hand held computing devices, security is as important on those as they are on any laptop or desktop computer. Yet despite Google’s continued Android development, the carriers have little to no self interest in keeping existing handsets updated. After all, that would cost them a significant amount of time and money to do. But it’s not only the security aspect that perplexed me as updates also bring new features that I was missing out on. If an Android user wants to maintain the latest updates on their phone they likely would have to root their phone and update it on their own.
Contrast that with the iPhone user experience. I’ve experienced a 200% to 300% increase in battery life on my iPhone 4S, and consequently I’m able to do much more with it than I ever was able to do with my HTC EVO. I can continuously use my iPhone 4S for 5-6 hours (web browsing, email, misc app use, etc) before I need to recharge, but even if I don’t I still have a significant amount of standby time left before the phone dies. The iOS app market is of a much higher quality in my opinion. Apple has a completely different management strategy with their app market, and so it’s generally easier from an end user perspective to find quality apps than it is with the Android app market. And most importantly, because Apple controls the operating system, and the delivery of the OS is unthethered from any carrier, users don’t experience the same lack of updates they generally do with Android.
I’m going to skip the handset hardware entirely. The hardware aspect of this discussion isn’t of importance, and speaking aesthetically, to each his own. The hardware element is perhaps the most level part of the playing field between the two competitors which only illustrates how bad the Android marketing is.
One additional comment. Have you noticed that Carrier commercials marketing the next great Android handset almost never mention any feature of the operating system? Instead those commercials almost entirely rely on glitzy marketing techniques that highlight the handset itself from a distance. iPhone commercials by comparison speak to features of the operating system as often as they highlight the handset itself. How often have we seen the iPhone commercials that demonstrate the use of Siri? Or how often have we seen iPhone commercials demonstrating the functionality of the camera system, or iMessage, or iTunes? This issue in and of itself has to be one of the prime issues driving sales of Android handsets down. Potential customers don’t need to imagine how they could use the iPhone as it’s often demonstrated directly to them. Potential Android customers aren’t afforded the same opportunity. NPD’s figures reflect what I had already known intrinsically. Android as a concept is fantastic, and as a technophile it’s a concept that I am deeply in tune with. But as a consumer, it’s a concept that has many issues and those issues come with pretty steep dollar costs.