3 Ways Apple Can Trounce the Droids

by Hadley Stern Jul 06, 2010

I can understand and respect Steve Job's frustration with Android. Many a person has observed that everything is all sped up these days, and to Job's the Android story must look a lot like what happened with Windows, only on fast-forward. Apple innovates, another company comes along and basically copies everything (badly, but with some innovations) and then starts to take market share. Apple does all the very hard work, making an actual touch phone device, hammering a carrier to actually innovate (visual voicemail, a data plan that makes sense, etc) and paves the way in the marketplace for the app store model (sorry, Windows Mobile, you don't count), only to see Google come along and, well, do pretty much exactly the same thing.

So what on earth is Apple to do? This time it has a few structural advantages—the main one being that the mobile market is so huge it probably won't have one winner. But still, the fight is on. So, without further ado I present three ways Apple can fight the Google iPhone, aka, Android.

1. Multiple Carriers in the United States

This is key and probably the most important of all (hence it is first!). In other countries there is no carrier competition. Part of the pain Americans have had to pay for the iPhone's existence is the deal Apple had to cut with AT&T, in this case the one carrier with the vision to see the opportunity of the iPhone. I, like many millions was the customer of another carrier (Verizon, for me since 1996) when I switched over to the iPhone. Even for me, someone who could see the iPhone revolution for what it was, switching was a big deal. And so it is for many other millions who will not switch over to AT&T for a number of reasons. Carrier coverage is a local issue, and in many places other carriers are simply better. Apple must make the iPhone easily available for anyone where they are.


The first carrier Apple needs to start with is Verizon Wireless. Maybe its because I'm on the east coast, but the number of people who will never get the iPhone because they will never switch from Verizon is huge. Verizon's coverage in New England is better, with fewer dropped calls and a faster network. Apple needs to realize a ViPhone.

2. Free Phones

Android sales have blossomed of late, and a piece of that puzzle relates to one of the older tricks in cell phone marketing, buy 1 get 1 free. Of course, in this case you are getting "free" monthly fees and a ghastly early-termination fee once you realize the iPhone is a better device. But times are tough, very tough, and in the era of every member of the family having a phone getting one for free is too enticing (especially when you add in the carrier issue above). Apple needs to start subsidizing the iPhone with similar offers and keeping an eye on the prize, long-term customers and buyers of services and application on the Apple platform.

3. Innovation

Google derived 97 percent of its revenue in 2009 from paid search. Google didn't even develop the Android operating system, it acquired it. Google doesn't make any hardware, even its own phone is made by HTC. Google's opportunity with the Android has come entirely at the software layer, with hardware being a commodity, and in most cases a poor copy of the iPhone. Do a comparison, for example, of the touchscreen between the iPhone and Android devices and the iPhone is more responsive and accurate. The iPhone is the original, the Android is the copy—a knockoff.

The challenge is that it is very easy and quick these days to copy, as evidenced by the inevitable copies for the actual iPhone (as opposed to the less direct-copy Droid) that appear from China days after the iPhone appears.

This is an area where Apple has the upper hand. It does not copy, it invents. Multi-touch touch screen phone? Invent it. Easy-to-develop for SDK and an open distribution model within an App store? Invent it. Accelerameter in a mobile device? Invent it. The point here is that it took years for a viable competitor to emerge after the iPhone because it took years to copy the platform innovations.

Apple's strongest advantage over any of the devices out there is transformative innovation; whether in software, hardware, services, or a combination of all three. I have no doubt that, as we speak, Apple is hard at work at the next leaps in technology that will keep companies like Google on the chase.

What do you think?




  • “In other countries there is no carrier competition.”

    ?????? Urgh?  Which countries would those be?  In most “other countries” the cell phone market is way more developed than the US with far more competition.  Not sure you researched this article adequately…

    Paul Howland had this to say on Jul 08, 2010 Posts: 38
  • Tim, you are way off topic.

    I’m glad we don’t have the one vendor lock-in here in Canada. I don’t have an iPhone yet, but iPhone4 looks very compelling. I’m currently with Roger’s but Bell and Telus have better coverage, so we shall see. Although my sentiments towards Telus mirror the author’s own toward AT&T;. Of course, the darn thing has to get here first!

    Babblefish had this to say on Jul 08, 2010 Posts: 7
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