October 6, 2010, 5:39 PM

It’s iPhone vs. Android in the battle for longevity

Katie Evans

Managing Editor, International Research

Well ladies and gentleman, it’s official. I’m a Mac-head. Until last week I could be considered a mere Apple owner with my 15-inch MacBook Pro (which I fondly refer to as the Silver Fox.). But a few weeks ago I took a deeper bite into the Apple world with my gleaming pride and joy, an iPhone 4.

I now commute to work with a certain swagger, and walk among the hip. This self-esteem boost is itself completely worth the $199 in my eyes. A bonus, however, is that I can do more stuff while in transit. Stuff that might have cost money, such as read the New York Times while away from my computer on the train. That would have cost me a paper subscription before.  I can also save money while shopping. I can download a bar code scanning app, scan a product bar code in a store and search the web for a better price. And I can save my behind too, for example, by ordering flowers in seconds for my mom on Mother’s Day via an iPhone app.

Beyond Internet access slowing (sometimes to a crawl) during prime 3G network times such as commuting hours—and I would venture most smartphones on 3G experience this—I’m content.

Until my job started making me think. It made me think about the Android.

Just today I wrote a story on recent research from mobile web measurement firm comScore Inc.  showing Google Inc.’s Android operating system taking market share from its rivals. Research In Motion’s BlackBerry subscriber base fell 4.1 percentage points for the three months ending in August compared with the previous three-month period. Apple fell 0.2 percentage points, Microsoft 2.4 and Palm 0.2. Google’s Android operating system however rose 6.6 percentage points to hit 19.6% of smartphone subscriber market share.

Then this news hit my inbox. Nearly three-quarters—72%—of  application developers feel that the Android operating system is best positioned to power web-enabled mobile devices in the future. Just 25% of developers said the same for Apple’s iOS operating system, according to a survey of 2,400 app developers conducted in September by Appcelerator Inc., an app developer, and research firm International Data Corp.

Developers also favor Android for the future. 59% favor Android’s long-term outlook versus 35% choosing Apple’s iOS. The findings from the September survey widen the margin favoring Google’s Android from June survey results that had Android favored by 54% and Apple by 40%.  And when it comes to capabilities, 57% of app developers think the Android operating system has more capabilities than the Apple iOS (36%).

But perhaps more importantly, is the overwhelming feeling that the Android operating system is the more open platform for development (85%) than Apple’s iOS (6%).

I can’t help but wonder: Will Apple’s exclusivity hinder its progress?

Perhaps I made the wrong choice in going with an iPhone operating system that can only be embedded in Apple devices rather than choosing Google’s Android, which can work with many equipment manufacturers. Are smartphone shoppers starting to choose Android because it offers them choices in both mobile carrier and device? Will developers gravitate to Android where they can innovate on a more open, flexible and widely available platform? Even scarier to me, is this already starting to happen?

As for right now, I’m extremely content with my Apple pick. But the recent research worries me. Anyone out there care to take a stab at predicting the future? Or, even better, put my worries to rest?

Comments | 3 Responses

  • Katie, your research and self-enlightening review is quite profound. I would have to say that as an owner of both a Blackberry and iPhone I have been wondering (and pondering) the same. I can safely state that I have information that will enlighten “all” here. The mobile handheld device war will not be simply won by who can or will produce the best APP and on, or by which platform. Our mobile-telecom race (feud) can and will be won by the first tech-player who adopts the readily available (patent pending) application that provides Biometric Security for “any” handheld device(s). Here’s the deal; we are inundated daily with App’s, Offers, Coupon, Deals, Snap Tags and so-on. Our handheld devices require a method (beyond PIN’s) to safely and securely log-on and into App’s and proceed with mobile payment. Fingerprint security and biometric identification is an absolute given need for our greatly expanding mobile purchasing behaviors. The financial institutions are dabbling, but to no avail. There are players (one specifically) that can and will provide an APPLE, ANDROID, PALM or BLACKBERRY with this technology. Katie, the numbers (%’s) you state, will change exponentially – DOWN for the carrier and, or platform that missed the boat. My bet is on Google to take the lead here. “SLEEP WELL iPhone and Blackberry…Oops, Sorry, You too Palm.”

  • Don't you fret, Katie. You're still among the coolest of the cool with your iPhone 4. The thing people forget is that Apple is arguably the most innovative player in mobile technology. Apple inevitably will come out with a new model next year, I bet called the 4G, and it will contain features that no one has even thought of and operate at the fastest speeds known to man. And keep in mind that closed operating system trumps Android in a big way--security. NOTHING can be downloaded onto an iPhone except for apps that have gone through the rigorous screening of Apple. As a result, you don't have to worry about spyware and malware and the like. Android is a completely open system--and open to every bit of nastiness on the web. And keep this in mind about the market penetration of Android. You're talking *operating system* market share, not *device* market share. Android is available on numerous pieces of hardware, Apple's iOS4 only on three (the iPhone, iPod Touch and the iPad). When you look at what individual device (not operating system) dominates, an Android device or an iOS4 device, it's the iPhone, the kingpin of the smartphone world. As for the surveys, app developers are naturally going to be more enthusiastic about an open system versus a closed system. It's the consumer enthusiasm retailers and others should be concerned with. And who are the most enthusiastic smartphone owners? It's the iPhone owners, of course! Why is that important? Because that enthusiasm spills over into every activity you can do with a smartphone, including shopping. Android will likely come to dominate the smartphone *operating system* market share because it can be made available on so many devices by so many manufacturers. But that doesn't mean the iPhone will shine any less brightly.

  • I think there is room for both. It seems to me that Apple makes their money on selling specialties, on selling to people that WANT the next cool thing. They understand the importance of innovation because once a specialty is discovered by the commoditizers it begins to lose its value. Innovation drives their ability to come up with the next thing that puts them back at the beginning of the curve with another new specialty that people want and snap up at a high rate. For example, Apple came out with the iphone and a few years later, once the commoditizers had entered the smart phone fray, Apple then came out with the iPad and reset their own curve. On the other hand, the commoditizers tend not to innovate. MSFT, Intel, HP, and Dell all fit this, at least in my mind. The beige box bunch. They are more conservative and plodding, but equally as successful as the innovators like Apple. They just do it in a different way. Once an innovator shows that a market exists, the commoditizers gear up and invade this new space with a myriad of copycat devices with commodity price points that appeal to the masses who have a "need". Innovators, on the other hand, have price points that work for people with a "want". Apple makes their money dollars at a time selling to the "want"-based crowd. The beige box bunch makes their money pennies at a time selling to the "need"-based crowd. So Katie, I think you and both commenters are largely right. This is a Wild West market place with several buying mentalities present in that market place that are vastly different from each other. The market is open enough and big enough that both types of producers can make at least some money from the wide spectrum of buyers who are in the market - some looking for needs and some looking for wants. I think the future has room for both for quite some time to come. thx Jeff Bach PS - From a developer's point of view, I see the myriad of devices in the Android marketplace as an impediment. For example, from a testing standpoint (just using simple numbers that are not necessarily correct) - 3 form factors x 3 processors x 3 operating systems x 3 os versions equals beaucoup testing, managing lots of different versions, and worrying about customer service needing to be experts on numerous different issues. Whereas Apple's style is quite different and much simpler.

Sign In to Make a Comment

Comments are moderated by Internet Retailer and can be removed.

Not a member? Signup for free today!

Recent Posts from this Blog


Jason Squardo / Mobile Commerce

Five tips for achieving high mobile search rankings

Searches on mobile devices will soon exceed those on computers, Google says. Retailers that keep ...


Gregory Kennedy / Mobile Commerce

Recommendations for creating compelling mobile ads

All advertising must be compelling to work. And in the constrained environment of a mobile ...


Jim Erickson / E-Commerce

The battle for dominance of China's Internet econony

Why are two Chinese heavyweights, Alibaba and Tencent, spending millions subsidizing cab fares? The taxi-hailing ...


Ralph Dangelmaier / Mobile Commerce

The forgotten problem in mobile shopping carts: payments

Conversion rates fell on mobile devices, while increasing on desktops during the last holiday season. ...