I was reading an article on Engadget this morning about ATT sending messages to their users that are illegally tethering their iPhones. Most of the comments were anger at ATT, “How dare they prevent me from using their services illegally!” but there was one that caught my attention. It referenced the fact that because ATT was so shitty and expensive, some other wireless company was going to swoop in and steal their users by providing a more affordable, better tethering plan.
They compared it to what Android did to iOS. Some other big provider who would have done the same thing will step in and capitalize on the people’s indignation just like Android capitalized on people’s disappointment over Apple’s closed model.
Sure, lots of people hate Apple’s closed model. It’s bad for geeks. We can’t tinker with things like we can on our desktop computers. You know who doesn’t hate it? Everyone else. Apple’s model is perfect for the general consumer. They make it easy to install apps. They make it easy to put music on the phone. They basically make using an iPhone fun and easy. People don’t care about “open”. They care about shiny.
The smartphone wars are not about operating systems. They’re about phones. Of course Android is going to have a bigger market share. There are over 100 Android devices you can buy. There are 6 iOS devices. The fact that iOS is even in the running shows how good of a job Apple has done with it.
Regular people don’t look at specs. They don’t think or know about how much money Apple takes from developers. They don’t realize there is a review process where Apple can arbitrarily block apps from being in the App Store. What they know is that their iPhone can play Angry Birds and that whatever they want to do “there’s an app for that.” My sister-in-law recently got an EVO 4G, but after about a week, she took it back and went to Verizon and got an iPhone. You know why she switched? Because she couldn’t get service with Sprint in her house. That’s why regular people buy phones. It doesn’t have anything to do with tethering or openness. I asked her which phone she liked better, she told me the iPhone because it was easier to use and she loved playing with Instagram.
I think what people reading Engadget often forget is that we are not regular people. I know my worldview is warped because the things I read and the people I hang out with are not normal. I live in a bubble where everyone is tech savvy (I’m a software engineer) and keeps up with the latest and greatest gizmos and gadgets. The rest of the world doesn’t care about the same stuff we do and that’s fine.
Android is not going to beat iOS in the consumer world anytime soon. The cultures of the two companies are too different. Google is a hardcore engineering company. They want to solve the most interesting problems and build the most powerful products. Apple, while certainly not lacking in the engineering department, has a culture of design first. They attack problems differently and solve them in a way that is best for the consumer. With that said, I think Google is doing something great with Android. They’re bringing smartphones to everyone. Apple is never going to target the guy that is only going to buy a 15 dollar pay as you go phone. Just like BMW isn’t trying to sell to Joe Schmoe that lives in Detroit and works on an assembly line.