iPhone vs Everyone else

Apple, by market cap, is the largest company on Earth. Yet its products are not market share dominant. Not by a long shot.

When comparing Apple’s iPhone to any other phone, I want to kill the argument in its entirety. In other words, you cannot compare an iPhone to any other phone on the market, (specifically Android devices) or vica versa.

Why? Well because it would be like comparing the Millennium Falcon to the Starship Enterprise (I’m currently reading “Ready Player One”, I couldn’t resist). Both are undeniably cool, both are legendary fictional spaceships with equally heroic captains. But one is a smuggler’s ship and the other a reconnaissance ship. Any attempt at comparison is futile as the two ships serve vastly different purposes. Geek mode off…

Does any Android based phone compete with Apple?

Current global mobile OS market share has Android at 81% and iOS at 13% with Windows and Other sharing the spoils. When looking at developed markets, the difference is less pronounced and iOS market share jumps to around the 30% to 40% mark at the cost of Android. In developing markets the opposite is true, Android dominates at the 95% mark and all the other OS’s make up the rest. Of course the only reason for this is that Apple products are expensive versus Android products which are much more affordable.

The kicker here is that Apple, the sole manufacturer of iOS products, has 13% global market share, while many other manufacturers combined that produce Android devices make up the 81%. In fact, 14 different manufacturers make up the bulk of Android device shipments led by Samsung, LG and Xiaomi. Samsung has a global smart phone market share of around 25% with LG and Xiaomi about 5.5% each. But do they compete with Apple?

The answer is they don’t. Android device manufacturers, mostly, compete with each other. Xiaomi is taking market share from Samsung and, if any, very little from Apple. Why Xiaomi, or even Samsung’s, high-end handsets are compared to the iPhone is beyond me. Various reports over the last 6 months have indicated very clearly that Samsung, specifically, is losing to Xiaomi on the lower end of the market. In my opinion LG, Sony and Samsung are chasing the wrong bus. Xiaomi has hit is spot on, build a powerful handset with Android at its core and sell it as cheap as possible. That takes market share away from other Android handset manufacturers, but not from Apple. The Japanese and South Korean giants are trying to take market share from Apple while upstarts like Xiaomi saw the gap and are now eating their Android counterparts’ combined lunch.

Whenever a new premium Android handset is announced, it inevitably gets compared to the latest iPhone. I can promise you that the vast majority of iPhone users don’t even notice the announcement or comparison. How can you compare the latest Galaxy, Experia Z or G-model phones to an iPhone? You can’t. It’s like comparing the launch of Volkswagen’s top-of-the-range Jetta to the new Mercedes C-class or BMW 3-series. They don’t compete in the same markets and speak to different consumers.

Does any Android based phone compete with Apple? In my opinion, no. Here are a few reasons why:

  • Integration, the iPhone is the entry point for many consumers into the Apple ecosystem. From the iPhone, Apple tries to up sell you to the iPad, iMac, MacBook and Mac Pro ranges. Once you own an iPhone and one of the other devices, you can integrate your workflow across these devices with surprising ease, whether that be professional or personal use. The biggest difference here is that no other manufacturer (with the exception of Microsoft, though they are struggling in the mobile and tablet space) can offer the kind of hardware and software continuity that Apple can which puts their customers at ease and has a significant positive impact on the user experience.
  • Ecosystem, probably the biggest factor that sets Apple apart is its hardware-software-content ecosystem. iOS and OS X have moved closer together over the last few years which eases users into the rest of the hardware ecosystem, and once in the ecosystem, you can purchase apps, music, movies, TV shows and books all available across all your devices. Amazon has tried to enter this space with their Fire range of devices and Amazon Prime, but the device sales have been abysmal. Microsoft, again, is the only other player than can truly compete here but their range of smart phones and tablets have yet to catch on with consumers, even though they still dominate the laptop and desktop computing markets. Windows 10 could be Microsoft’s biggest play yet and if they can pull it off, will become Apples biggest competitor.
  • Price and performance. Yes, you’re going to be paying a premium for Apple products and yes the raw performance of the components within Apple’s devices aren’t as powerful as many high-end Android devices, the secret sauce is that Apple is able to optimise its software for the hardware that they themselves design, thus ensuring an incomparable experience because Apple tightly controls every element.
  • Brand. The fluffy element in the argument but probably the one that has the biggest impact. Apple’s customers are fiercely loyal and very few abandon their aluminium devices. This is also, in part, because if you love the iOS experience, you can only get it from Apple (Microsoft will have a similar advantage if it can make Windows 10 successful across devices). Even though Samsung has leapt Apple in the brand affinity rankings, Samsung is the one losing market share to an unknown entity in its largest market, purely because this previously unknown is a local player. Apple continues to sell more iPhone’s every year and slowly grows its user base. While Apple does want to be successful in emerging markets like India and China, they are after a much different market than their Android competitors based on the price of Apple’s devices.

In the end, the choice of device will depend on personal preference, technical proficiency, affordability and integration into your daily life. I don’t see Tim Cook worrying about the Android manufacturers, I do think he’s keeping a very close eye on Mr Nadella.

So either go Solo or, go boldly where no one has gone before. Sorry…