I met an Android fan over the weekend - nice guy with a math degree. We got along fine :) I brought up the topic of Android vs. iOS and we had a good talk. Two of his main points were the following:
- Apple, one company, does not have the manpower or budget to innovate as fast as a group of large companies, like Samsung, as well as a group of eager open source developers.
- Given the above, he predicted very soon Android is going to outpace iOS in terms of an innovative consumer experience. He compared the current smartphone market to the consumer computer market of the mid-to-late-nineties, a market Apple almost lost entirely.
Let’s deal with the first point.
I don’t think that anyone could call Apple non-innovative. The company has introduced so many new markets - not just products, but markets - over the last decade that we can discount the claim that they can’t innovate. They currently worth more than the Great Wall of China, but we know that money can’t buy innovation and we’ve all seen how large, innovate companies can fall into a slouch. So maybe Apple will fall behind in the race to innovate against Android makers. Let’s consider the second point.
Even if a single developer, or company, or even Google has some sort of revolutionary idea and actually develops, the code has to be merged into the mainline trunk, tested, sent out to hardware manufacturers who will diddle with it, then sent to carriers who infamously diddle with the handset software, adding their own apps to the consumer’s detriment. Any innovation in the Android space is likely to be squashed under the weight of its own size and segmentation. Apple can innovate more easily because it can keep secrets and it can direct their vision more, well, directly.
The future of the smartphone industry doesn’t matter because the handsets available today determine consumer purchases.
Android has come a long way. The very best, very latest Android phones offer a hardware experience that is comparable to that of a current generation iPhone. To me, Android handset’s software still lacks polish and the kind of high-quality user experience that I’ve come to expect from using my iPhone 4. My contract with Telus runs out in 20 months, so Android has that long to catch up.