Can the iPhone Fight Off the Androids?

by Chris Howard Sep 17, 2008

Compatibility comes in three flavors. Let's call them Windows, Linux, and OS X.

In relational database language, these three models are one-to-many, many-to-many, and one-to-one.

Windows is the one OS maker across many PC makers. Linux is many OS makers across many PC makers. And Apple is one OS maker with one PC maker.

All three models have had some level of success. Windows (and before it DOS) has been able to dominate for 25 years. But OS X (and before it Mac OS) has been able to survive against the megalatoid for the same period where all other one-to-ones failed. And Linux has been able to make a significant impression over the last 15 years or so and establish its own foothold.

Which model is best, though? For 20 years the Windows model has been the choice of consumers. This has allowed them to buy almost any PC knowing they could run one familiar OS. As I like to say (and hashing a perfectly good axiom), familiarity breeds content.

I, for example, have migrated to the Google world, using Google docs, Google calendar, and Google mail. All three are probably inferior to other offerings; however, no other provider gives me a package that suits my needs as well as the Google apps do. Sounds scarily like 1995 and the Windows-Office argument.

Apple is working its shiny butt of trying to establish that same familiarity - and thus content - through the iPod and iTunes, and now the iPhone.

But is Android the DOS/Windows of phones? Already we suspect it is going to be inferior to the iPhone's OS, which immediately gives it something in common with DOS/Windows in its battle with MacOS.

It is also, in its current form, a one-to-many model, although not with one megalatoid company controlling it.

Will we in five or ten years look at the phone market and see the one-to-many model dominating, with many phones running one OS? The time is ripe for Android, as it was for DOS/Windows in the '80s when many micro computer (that's what we called them back in the olden days) manufacturers had their own proprietary systems.

And Android has an advantage that DOS/Windows never did - Android is a collaborative development. Slower to react, but can garner wider acceptance with more evangelists.

However, Android could yet become the many-to-many, Linux-like, model. It's quite probable we will see many flavors of Android. So if the Windows model doesn't work, Google can go the Linux model.

How will the iPhone stack up against either of these Android development scenarios?

I'm sensing dangerous echoes of 1984. Game changing product released; vendor is the only manufacturer; competitor releases inferior system open to all manufacturers, uniting them as a single force against the better product.

How can 2008 not be like 1984?

Firstly, expect Apple to expand the range, as it did with the iPod. Four distinct flavors of iPod are currently available: shuffle, nano, classic and touch.

Diversifying its iPhone lineup will help appeal to a wider audience, but being Apple, it won't overdo it. Every other mobile maker has too many models to count. Apple will use this to its advantage, with a streamlined, non-confusing inventory.

The iPhone, as a phone alone, is a pleasure to use. Many people would be happy to buy it even if that's all it did - the iPhone mini. Others might only want the phone and calendar - the iPhone nano.

But the feeling still lingers that if Nokia, Samsung, Ericsson, Motorala, et al get serious about Android, the iPhone could never become anything more than a small time player that pushes the design envelope but gets copied by the market leader.

The term smartphone is rather misrepresentative of what the iPhone is. Over at ComputerWorld, it reports that Mikael Nerde, head of the accessory and developer program at Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications AB, said that although the iPhone now competes in the "smart phone" market, it has symbolically jumped a notch above that group. "All cell phones are smart today anyway," he said.

I've argued this since I first realized it's a computer, not a phone. This renders many comparisons to existing smartphone market share misleading. Smartphones are phones with computerish functionality. The iPhone is a computer with phone functionality. Calling it a phone seems as crazy as calling a computer with a modem and phone software a phone.

Apple has created a market that needs a name. Maybe we should we call it micro-PCs. But Android, more than Blackberry or Windows, threatens to steal that market away.

Diversifying its iPhone range is the most obvious move for Apple to protect its market. What iPhone variants do you want to see? And what else do you think Apple has to do to maintain its lead in this new micro-PC market?


  • I didn’t think they could support a trimmed down iPhone because you need the whole widget to make it really work (screen size, storage, cpu, etc.) This is because I believed that the iPod software would die and the touch/iphone software would take over. It now appears that Apple is happy with both, having updated the standard software and hardware with the Nano. So, now I get it!

    The nano screen and interface (maybe even with a slide out keyboard). Add a camera, SMS, and MMS and you have a killer interface for a phone with no need for a data plan. They could later include an email client and work with AT&T;for a low cost unlimited email package add on. This could still sync with mobile me (apple gets annual revenue), connect to iTunes for music and video and all sell for under $200 (which AT&T;could eat with a 2 year contract).

    iPhone Nano! It all makes sense now.

    Doug Petrosky had this to say on Sep 17, 2008 Posts: 26
  • “The iPhone is a computer with phone functionality.”

    It is if you like your computers locked up so tight that you can get your applications from exactly one store, owned by the same company that makes the phone, the OS for the phone, and gets to decide for you what you can buy and what you can’t.  Oh, and they can take any app you buy and kill it anytime they want for any reason.

    I think Android’s success is going to come down to a balance of interface and features.  If they can get the UI right and offer a more open marketplace of apps, in addition to the wide variety of hardware, they could really do well.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Sep 17, 2008 Posts: 2220
  • The Android will be on multiple, diverse, cellphone forms.
    As such, it will be diluting itself from the start.
    Developers will have to develop for the many different forms of Android.
    Cell phone manufacturers will want to distinguish themselves from other Android products. Thus they will customize Android further.  This will further dilute Andriod.
    Android will then become like multiple versions of Linux.  Applications will have to be branched onto several different versions for each version of Android.
    This will complicate application installation and the customer experience.

    Compare this to the grand-unified experience that customers have with the iPhone.

    The iPhone is a smooth, easy to use, high-quality product that stands head and shoulders above the mob.

    Remember that marketshare is not the goal of the iPhone. Best of breed and making profit are the goals.  And do this it does better than any other smarter than smartphone.

    There is a lot of room in the cellphone market for everyone.  But the iPhone will always be the most lusted after, highest quality product, that attracts long-lines of customers weeks after the introduction.

    Those who want the best will get the iPhone. Period.

    Those who can’t afford it will get a cheaper copy.

    James Katt had this to say on Sep 17, 2008 Posts: 11
  • “Remember that marketshare is not the goal of the iPhone.”

    Maybe you’re right, James. Maybe it’s just us Apple-ites that care about majority market-share.

    Tho I’m sure Apple does have some significant market-share goal, I’m sure they don’t want to be single-digit with the iPhone.

    Chris Howard had this to say on Sep 18, 2008 Posts: 1209
  • “Maybe you’re right, James.”

    He may be, but I doubt it.  Jobs made a point about market share when he announced the iPhone.  And not a Jobs keynote goes by that he doesn’t mention marketshare and/or sales figures for their products.  They care.  They might keep their expectations in check, but they certainly care.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Sep 18, 2008 Posts: 2220
  • Jobs made a bold goal of capturing 1 percent of the total cellular phone market with the iPhone.  This was ballsy, brash and very Jobs.

    However, Jobs will always emphasize that Apple will always aim to simply make the best product it can.  When it does so, people will come.

    Having lived through more than 50 deathnotices about Apple, being a stockholder (i.e. part-owner of Apple), and seeing now Michael Dell dissed Apple years ago, the other lesson that Jobs brought to Apple is that Apple has to make a profit.

    The Cell Phone market is so large and diverse, it will be extremely difficult for any high-end, high-cost product such as the iPhone to capture a large share of the market.  There are too many poor people in the world.  But this means also that there is a lot of room for everyone.

    One-percent of the Cell Phone Market, however, is HUGE.  As soon as I saw Jobs show the iPhone,  I knew this one-percent had the potential to double the size of Apple.  The iPhone brings in a HUGE profit per phone to Apple.  And its halo effect on music sales, applications sales, accessories sales, iPod and Mac sales, etc. just brings in more profit to Apple. Since the iPhone alone brings in around $400 profit for Apple, each iPhone is like selling another Mac.  Not only that, it will sell even more than the Macs. 

    It is interesting that the word, Podcast, has become the un-official name of serial audio and video works.  This itself is an advertisement for Apple when it is used in other players.

    The iPhone will easily fight off Android.  There is room for both.  And the iPhone will be the more attractive one - particularly when they are both at the same price - as will the first version of the Android phone comes out. 

    At $199 for the new GPhone, why would someone choose it over the much superior iPhone and its Ecosystem?

    And one last point:  The strongest weapon the iPhone has against any other competitor is its ECOSYSTEM.  The iPhone comes with the App Store with thousands of easy to use apps and growing, the iTunes store for music and video which are easy to buy and download directly to the iPHone, the thousands of accessories to customize your iPhone, the cars with iPod specific connectors, the Mac and iPod related hardware,  etc. etc.  Compare this integrated environment to what the Android phones will have - HARDLY NOTHING. 

    Who do you want to be with?  The prettiest, most popular and cool girl in class, who will also hook you up with her friends so you now have a network of friends and are yourself cool - or the loner odd looking girl who may have trackmarks up her arms?  The choice is obvious.

    James Katt had this to say on Sep 18, 2008 Posts: 11
  • “At $199 for the new GPhone, why would someone choose it over the much superior iPhone and its Ecosystem?”

    If the date rate plan is cheaper and the phone lives up to what I’ve seen of it so far, then I’d opt for it over the iPhone.  As Apple fanatics are fond of pointing out, it’s about the TCO, not just the upfront cost.

    “The iPhone comes with the App Store with thousands of easy to use apps and growing, the iTunes store for music and video which are easy to buy and download directly to the iPHone, the thousands of accessories to customize your iPhone, the cars with iPod specific connectors, the Mac and iPod related hardware, etc. etc.  Compare this integrated environment to what the Android phones will have - HARDLY NOTHING.”

    Yet.  The phone’s not even out yet.  The accessories will come, just like they do with almost every other device out there.

    As for the ecosystem, it’s not exactly difficult to imagine how Google might improve on the idea of ONE store that you can buy apps from, controlled by ONE company, that decides for you which apps you should be able to install, and ONE company that can decide at any time to kill any app on your phone for any reason.

    Gee, how could we improve on THAT?

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Sep 19, 2008 Posts: 2220
  • James, people don’t want the best product. They want the cheapest but best value.

    That’s why I suspect we’re going to see 1984 all over again.

    There’ll be more apps for Androids within three to six months than for the iPhone.

    The ecosystem is misleading. For example, who needs specific connectors if you’ve got bluetooth or USB?

    And the iPhone ecosystem is only 12 mths or so old. So it has very little headstart on the Androids.

    When you see the amazing development happening on a restricted and limited device, the iPhone, just imagine how amazing it will be on an unrestricted and unlimited device?

    And I’d certainly consider getting an Android phone. I use Google apps, not a MobileMe, so aren’t tethered to the iPhone in that regard.

    Sometimes we forget who these are from. It’s not Microsoft. We don’t have to automatically hate everything that is not from Apple. That’s usually a sign of insecurity.

    The iPhone is a truly sensational device, much better than i expected, and all the momentum is currently with it. So it’s not going to be easy to take its crown, but Google is doing all the right things with the Android to make it possible.

    Chris Howard had this to say on Sep 19, 2008 Posts: 1209
  • @James K.

    “Developers will have to develop for the many different forms of Android.”

    As far as I know, there’s only one. Different carriers can, and I’m sure will, customize the interface, have their own apps, etc, but the core will remain the same. There is an incentive to have the apps from the Android Market working on the different Android-based hones.

    Android will also be available on different carriers. This gives them exposure to more potential customers. That’s a good thing.

    I’m going with Android for sure. I don’t want to develop and spend countless hours working on an app only to find it wasn’t up to Apple’s standards or it’s too close to an app they have or will release (

    Don’t get me wrong, I think the iPhone is a great phone and is unquestionably among the best available. That being said, it is also quite restrictive of what can be done with it. I understand the need for Apple to want to give customers the best experience. This is fine for most customers, but for us ‘power users,’ this won’t float. It’s sad to need to jailbreak a phone to realize it’s true power…too bad that won’t happen anytime soon. Now Android enters with no restrictions.

    Only time will tell what will happen.

    James Valero had this to say on Sep 19, 2008 Posts: 1
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