Android FTW

lynnewallenstein/Flickr

Voices


My iPhone- and Mac-wielding friend from the U.S. had been eager to make the jump to Android. She was willing to defect from Apple to join in on the Xiaomi hype, so I purchased a Mi3 for her.

After one week, I nudged her for feedback, and her response shocked me: “I’m going to get the iPhone 6 when it comes out. Android is too complicated.” Her feedback hints at the core of why Apple’s operating system, despite iOS fatigue setting in, continues to hold its ground in the U.S. while the rest of the world has embraced Android.

Speculation suggests that Apple’s closed ecosystem is slowly losing to Android on the back of Android’s commanding 78.1 percent global market share, according to the IDC. In the global market, iOS accounts for just 17.6 percent. However these same metrics within the U.S. market size up a stronger competitor: iOS accounts for 41.6 percent of the U.S. market, with a 1.2 percent gain in Q4 2013 compared to Android’s 51.5 percent share.

Of course, Apple isn’t going anywhere. But during Apple’s Q1 2014 earnings call, the Wall Street Journal managed to get Tim Cook to divulge something about Apple’s struggles with the U.S. market. “North America was a challenge. We had no growth,” Cook said.

This struggle is an opportunity for Android to run away with the U.S. market.

Price no longer drives sex appeal

For a long time, many have argued that an elitist agenda motivated smartphone users to purchase iOS instead of Android. IOS has been a premium device, despite its minimalistic features and lack of customizability, which the U.S. has embraced.

However, the argument suggesting that the elite only buy Apple is eroding. Smartphones are aggressively subsidized in the U.S. by carriers, and iOS is pitted against high-end competitors boasting similar pricing and superior hardware from LG, Samsung, HTC, Huawei, Nokia and others. The aura of “exclusivity” the iPhone once offered because of its high price is no longer Android’s problem.

The U.S. still doesn’t want a la carte for now

The issue is with Android’s customizability — its double-edged sword. Although Android has much to offer in the form of phablet-sized screens, top-tier hardware specs, choices of apps to customize your OS, forked versions of Android, and a wide spectrum of price points to suit buyers of different budgets, not everyone in the U.S. seems to be convinced that they want variety and customizability.

Ask an iOS user about Android, and many would argue that it isn’t as user-friendly, sleek and bug-free as iOS. You’ll also get the occasional input that Android phones don’t have the weighty “iPhone feel” in the user’s hands.

This mentality is even transparent among the types of apps that we’ve seen succeed in the U.S., such as QuizUp, WhatsApp, Instagram and Mailbox. App developers looking to break into the U.S. must design their apps to be straightforward, with a sleek user-interface and limited customizable features.

Think of the dynamic this way. WeChat supports both English and Mandarin versions of the same app, but the latter version is chock-full of features and options, just the way Chinese users like it; the former is stripped-down.

Android’s climb into the U.S. market begins

With the combination of game-changing, albeit customizable, Android mobile devices entering the market, and with technology increasingly intertwined with our lives, a couple of factors in play will contribute to Android’s chance at running away with the U.S. mobile-device market share.

Smartphone owners today are far more tech-savvy than they were a few years ago. Apple wouldn’t have bet on a brand-new design for iOS 7 without being confident that its users were savvy enough to navigate iOS without its skeuomorphic design. Now, with a heightened awareness of the tech behind a smartphone, Android’s customizability will become increasingly attractive to the growing number tech-savvy smartphone users, among which could be ex-iOS users.

In parallel, while Apple convinced consumers to buy into a brand that happened to be sold at a premium, emerging Android hardware manufacturers from the East, such as Xiaomi, Zoppo, OnePlus and others are managing to replicate the fanaticism Apple’s users once had. In contrast to Apple, these new companies are growing fanbases with smartphones that retail for half or even a quarter of the cost of a new iPhone, and that have specs rivaling the market’s high-end smartphones.

It’s only a matter of time before these budding hardware manufacturers using Android will break into the U.S. smartphone market and set off a war for U.S. users between iOS and Android.

Si Shen is the co-founder and CEO of PapayaMobile, a social gaming network with more than 127 million gamers, and the parent company of AppFlood, the largest global mobile RTB network out of China. PapayaMobile is headquartered in Beijing, with offices in London and San Francisco. Reach her @sishen.



12 comments
kevindoylejones
kevindoylejones

You never address the primary objection; Android is too complicated.I was on iphone. then Android, now back to Iphone, for just that reason. Android developers do not seem intuitive. The last straw was when they added the option to google the eight people I call the most. Yes you could do it, but why would you want to? no insight into the average user. Bad system, not learning more about people, but learning more about features you could install if you did not understand people.

DED
DED

 If "the rest of the world has embraced Android" and the U.S. isn't seeing growth, then where did Apple sell its additional 6 million iPhones this quarter?


Japan, where the installed base of iPhones is now over 50%, and where Apple's percentage of new sales is hitting above 70% of smartphones?


How about China, where 80% of premium smartphones are iPhones?


This is so poorly written and rife with inaccuracy I can't believe it is on Re/Code. 

Eldernorm
Eldernorm

"while the rest of the world has embraced Android."  


Hmmmm, I wonder if by that, she means buying not so smart phones made by small, no-name chinese makers.??


Is there an android mfg company or just hundreds of companies all making different variants of phones each using different versions of android software, customized differently???


I have NO problem with people buying a cheaper machine, or getting a BOGO free phone so when the first one breaks, you have a spare.   But trying to take credit for selling the most smart and sorta-smart phones in the world, is just a sad sell.  


Looking at facts, Samsung ships a lot of phones,  sells ????? many.  They don't say.   However, reports I have seen indicate that the iPhone 5c sells more than any one model by samsung, or Microsoft, Blackberry, and HTC combined.  Each quarter. 


Facts.  With out them its just a "i want to sell you a..... " blog. 


My opinion.  Plus a few facts. LOL

gprovida
gprovida

Apple has never had a majority of "smart phones" and in US it has been gaining share not merely treading water. Apple has been gradually establishing carrier presence around the world which delayed it's presence, especially in Europe and China. When it establishes presence it gradually gains share.

Regarding why people buy Apple is complex, but the general agreement is the Apple devices and Eco system is simpler, better, safer, etc., and Apple devices have a quality and finish that eludes others.

This does not mean Apple will have a majority in all or even any markets, but it will have a strong and most importantly highly profitable presence. This model is well represented in PC market, simply look at profit earned and sales growth against enormous pressures that are killing the PC vendors and I suspect will play out in the mobile space. In fact, for other than SAMSUNG are already in major crisis.

If the Chinese companies get under full steam they will likely seriously erode SAMSUNG and have little effect on Apple. Just like the PC market.

yesi79
yesi79

I've owned both an Android and iPhone for years and considered switching entirely to Android after the iOS7 release because of the bad design.  BUT what kept me from switching to Android entirely was the lack of an iTunes equivalent for Android.  For those not familiar with iPhones, iTunes allows users to easily sync data from a user's computer to phone which include music via playlists, all photos based on albums, back up phone data and organize/sync apps; all in one single app.  All you have to do is plug in your phone, or simply have your phone sync via wi-fi automatically and you're done.  I was curious if such an experience existed on Android, and after polling several Android users, and doing several searches on line, I heard the same thing; there are a several apps that do what iTunes does, but not one single app that does it all. Furthermore, I kept hearing that you don't need iTunes because you can simply "drag-and-drop files".  And that's the rub of it, the last thing I want to do is spend time dragging-and-dropping files.   I find it strange to expect user's accustomed to the ease of use of the iTunes/iOS world to expect to be satisfied with hunting for apps that may offer similar capabilities for Android.  I think current iOS users, myself included, will not consider Android until there is a similar iTunes to iOS seamless experience.

Beautyspin
Beautyspin

The only reason iPhone has a very good market share in the US is "Career subsidies". Take that out and it will collapse like it has every where. Are you trying to tell us that US population is dumber than the rest of the world which has figured out how to use Android?

jabrams
jabrams

@DED You do realize that Apple can sell more phones in a quarter, but still see the market shrinking if it under performs relative to the market.  Right?  Apple sold close to 44 million smartphones last quarter.  But it's market share dropped over 2% down to 15.3%.  By contrast, Samsung sold close to 89 million smartphones - almost 20 million more that the same time last year.  Yet it's market share dropped as well by 1%.  That's because the rest of the Android market has better phones and has improved their market share.  

So no.  This is not a poorly written article.  Apple is slipping and has been for 3 years now while continuing to gouge its customers and make insane profits.  The problem is that the party is getting over and it's just going to get tougher and tougher for them to exert the same pressure while making deals with carriers as they are likely to revolt - especially if price subsidies drop and we all end up paying the actual prices for the phones accompanied with a lower service charge per month.  Not happening any time soon in the US.  But it will happen.

Eldernorm
Eldernorm

@gprovida   A good point.  Android is an os type and not a phone.  People keep saying that android will bury Apple.   What does that even mean???


Will HTC sell the most phones in the world?   How about those hundreds of chinese mom and pop mfgers.???   


Samsung SHIPS a lot of os mobile devices but ships them where???  To the discount house???


The point here is simple.  Apple is making about 75% of the world PROFIT in smart phone sales.   Apple is making the money.  Pure and simple.   


Now, cook the books any way you would like for the advertising. 

Just saying.

jabrams
jabrams

 @yesi79 There were many reasons why I switched from iDevices to Android.  And iTunes was one very prominent one.  It's an execrable piece of absolute c**p.  It just got worse and worse over the years, getting more and more bloated without fixing any of the serious problems it had.  Quite an amazing turn since it was iTunes 10 years ago which I found was the better partner of the iPod than the hardware. 


Since I never wanted to use anything like iTunes, I never really looked for a replacement.  But yo may want to check out MusicBee (http://getmusicbee.com/) or DoubleTwist (http://www.doubletwist.com/desktop/).  I have used neither so can't comment on how good they are.


Apart from photos, why would I want to sync with a PC? That too a specific PC.  I don't know which version of iOS added syncing to the cloud, but it's been on Android since version 1.  My contacts, mail, keepass (with dropbox) database, notes etc. all sync to the cloud.  I could sycn photos as well.  But I don't want to.  I use Google Play Music which is simply 100 times better than iTunes (the app).  It's been a while since I have used iOS so don't know if this is fixed yet, but it always chaffed me that I couldn't add songs to a playlist when I was listening on the iPod.  I have to go home, launch iTunes, search for the song and add it to a Playlist and then sycn with the device.  WTF!


There is nothing seamless about iTunes.  What's seamless is cloud syncing in the background.

Eldernorm
Eldernorm

@yesi79   Totally agree.   The android hardware quality is increasing.  The software still sucks and changes EVERY phone.   Not a good starting point. 


Just saying.

Eldernorm
Eldernorm

@Beautyspin   While "carrier" (not career as in job) subsidies do help sell a phone.  If the US carriers would drop use prices, I would consider buying the phone outright.  


However, in the USA, carriers are super greedy and keep usage prices very high, there by making subsidies needed.  

Many people sell their used phones for a good price and end up paying nothing for their next NEW phone. 


jabrams
jabrams

@Eldernorm @BeautyspinYou are paying $2500-$3000 over 2 years for  a subsidized phone.  I have been subsidizing iPhone users for years now since my relatively cheaper (for the carrier) Android devices are still priced at $200 as the iPhone for which the carriers are paying more to Apple.  If we had a transparent pricing policy in the US, things could get pretty bad for Apple.  T-Mobile is getting there.  But still not there.  I'm still paying the same amount whether I bring my own phone or whether I'm getting a phone on their 0% 20 month financing plan.  I should be paying a lot less.  And when that happens, a $350 Nexus or a Moto X or a $300 OnePlus are going to put downward pressure not just on Apple, but on Samsung and HTC as well.  Good Luck trying to sell phones for twice the price then.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 288,982 other followers