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Does Android really beat the iPhone in, erm, everything?

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(happygeek)
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News reports suggest that March has been a good month for lovers of, and developers for, the Android operating system in pretty much every regard. That good news comes at the expense of the Apple iPhone and iOS we are led to believe, which appears to be losing the fight against Android in a number of areas. But looking behind the headlines, just how accurate is this notion of Android beats Apple in everything?

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Tesco, the second largest retailer in the world by profit after Walmart, has revealed that it is now selling more Android-powered handsets than iPhones for the first time. The revelation, relating to sales of handsets through the Tesco Mobile service (a joint venture between Tesco and the O2 carrier) in the UK, is a total reversal of the market a year ago. In the run up to Christmas, iPhones were outselling Android handsets by two to one at Tesco Mobile, but by the end of January 2011 those numbers had levelled out and during February Android had surged past the iPhone.

That should not come as too much of a surprise, to be fair. After all, Tesco Mobile currently only offers the iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4 compared to dozens and dozens of various Android powered handset options. So that one metric alone just suggests that if you keep a tight proprietary hold on your mobile OS then it will ultimately stand no chance, in terms of numbers of units sold, against an OS that is available on multiple devices produced by many different handset manufacturers. The iPhone has driven the smartphone market as far as desirability and consumer aspiration have been concerned, but in taking the commercial decision to remain firmly at the high end of the market in terms of pricing Apple has allowed the Android competition to flood the profitable middle market with great success. Consumers who have been priced out of the iPhone boom are discovering that Android offers them a very similar user experience at a fraction of the cost. The figures remain, however, an interesting trend indicator suggesting that Apple cannot remain complacent in terms of the consumer smartphone marketplace. Rumors that Apple may be working on a smaller, cheaper version of the iPhone could mark an understanding of the need to stem the Android flood.

One area where Apple and the iPhone has always had the edge over Android is that of the App Store. With in excess of 10 billion downloads, and rising fast, the demand for iPhone apps is not in question. However, demand for developers of Android applications most certainly is. In fact, according to one recent report more companies are currently looking for developers with Android skills than iOS . The report based its conclusions on there being more open positions for Android developers than iPhone developers at Dice.com, 987 compared to 970 as at March 1st to be precise. Again, it counts as being an interesting metric and certainly shows that Android app development is a growth area right now. But does it spell D.O.O.M and G.L.O.O.M for Apple and iPhone app development? Erm, N.O.P.E is the obvious answer. For a start, the figures quoted in that report do not appear to have counted searches for development jobs relating to 'iPad' or even 'iOS' which would probably have swung things way back into Apple supremacy territory I imagine.

The report admits that, with there being more than twice as many iPhone apps as Android ones yet Android handset sales now going through the roof, anyone developing a new iPhone or iPad app is likely going to be hiring an Android developer to work alongside that development. Apple only really needs to start worrying, I would suggest, when there are more Android apps than iOS ones and that's unlikely to be for quite a while yet.

Finally, let's move to the news that apparently IT professionals are more interested in Android than iPhone . This time the news story hangs off of the results of survey by e-learning and training software developers SkillSoft which determined that IT professionals looking for information and support now search less for iPhone and more for Android. Again, I'm not actually sure that this signals anything other than coders need more help with Android app development than they do with iOS app development. It could be tied into the rising popularity of the Android platform courtesy of the sales of consumer handsets, forcing iOS developers into learning news skills of course. This is especially true of the smaller development houses which might often be more accurately described as development bedrooms, one man bands looking to port an iPhone app across to the Android platform and finding themselves somewhat bewildered by the one size does not fit all handsets approach. If anything, this is good news for Apple which, for all the negatives of a walled garden approach to app development, does have an advantage in making the development process itself relatively easy.

Personally I'd have to conclude that Android is, obviously, a threat to Apple and iOS (and RIM/Blackberry for that matter) but nothing I've read in the news this month makes me think that it is winning the smartphone war. Perhaps the most sensible reporting comes from Amy Gahran for CNN who, in a story revealing that Android smartphones have captured 29% of the US market compared to 27% a piece for the iPhone and BlackBerry, did at least point out that these figures while comparing apples with blackberries most certainly did not really compare apples with apples. Gahran states that "Android is an operating system, and there's considerable diversity among the manufacturers, models, features, and general user experience available in that category" as well as determining that both RIM and Apple are the real winners as they both create and sell smartphones with their respective operating systems.

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Davey Winder

I'm a hacker turned writer and consultant, specialising in IT security. I've been a freelance word punk for over 20 years and along the way I have seen 23 of my books published, produced and presented programmes for TV and radio, picked up a bunch of awards and continue being a contributing editor with PC Pro - the best selling IT magazine in the UK .

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RabidCB
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Market share is a metric Google is primarily concerned with, they are an advertisement company. Apple does not chase market share, they chase profit share. In the PC industry, Apple makes more profit than Dell and HP combined and could purchase each company 10X over. In the smartphone market, Apple makes more profit than all the handset makers combined. Market share is purley for bragging rights only and means nothing to the bottom line. Moto and HTC do not get to share their profits and could care less what the market share of Android is. Chasing the market share metric is a race to the bottom. Apple could choose to sell cheap plastic box PC if they wanted to and increase their market share, but as Steve has said, they choose to leave that market to Dell and HP. If you are going to compare iOS and Android, compare them with the metric that their companies are chasing. I don't know why market share has become the focus on so many articles, including this one, when it means nothing to a company if they can't make a profit. I have an idea, how bout comparing Apple, HTC and Moto phones, since that is where the competition is. Google makes nothing off the use of Android, they make their money selling user data to advertisers.

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happygeek
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I'm actually not disagreeing with you, in fact quite the opposite. This article looks at market share because that's what the news stories it is referring to are concentrating on.

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martmart
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Davey, I agree. The current meme of "Android winning everything" is not based in reality.

No, Android - the operating system - is not winning.

Android hasn't won any of the most important metrics and if you look at the iOS platform as a whole vs the whole Android platform, the latter hasn't necessarily even "won" the unit sales race. This is because smartphone sales per quarter are only part of the story. The far more important numbers for developers, advertisers, investors and consumers are *total* unit sales of each platform, overall installed base, software and peripheral hardware market share, developer mindshare and developer income.

*Unit Sales Q4 2010* (source: Canalys)
- 32.7 million Android smartphones and tablets (tablets like the Galaxy tab and Dell streak were counted in these numbers because they all have cell phone hardware).
- 33 million iOS devices (16 million iPhones, 10 million iPod touches, 7 million iPads)
Note that Android numbers are inflated by inclusion of the Tapas and OMS forks of Android (which aren't compatible with Android or running Google apps or services) running on millions of Chinese smartphones.

*Installed base*
- "There will be an installed base of 140 million Android portable devices, including smartphones and tablets, by the end of 2011" according to IMS Research.
- iOS installed base will be at least 250 million by the end of 2011 if current iOS sales rates stay the same.
However, iOS sales rates have been doubling every year so this figure is enormously conservative. (The iOS installed base as at Dec 2010 = 160 million with the vast majority of those added in the last 2 years.)

Of course unit sales and installed base are completely useless unless they flow over into other areas like software, hardware peripherals, ad income, manufacturer profit share etc. Just look at Nokia where despite Symbian's overwhelming dominance of unit sales and installed base, they have completely failed by all the other important metrics.

So let's now look at these other important measures of success for a platform:

*App Store Revenue 2009 - 2010*
(source: IHS):
- iOS App Store grew from $769 million to $1.782 billion = $1.013 billion increase
- Android Marketplace grew from $11 million to $102 million = $91 million increase
So annual Android developer income is a meagre 6% of iOS with an annual rate of increase only 9% as large as iOS. The gap between the two is 1,000% and getting far larger every year.

*App numbers 2009 - 2010*
(source: Distimo)
- iOS Apps grew from 120,000 to 350,000 = 230,000 increase
- Android Apps grew from 20,000 to 130,000 = 118,000 increase (not including ringtones, wallpapers and soundscapes)
So the annual increase in app numbers was greater for iOS by 180% compared to Android. The gap between the two is increasing each year with the iOS store growing over three times as fast as Android. Also, approx 45% of Android apps are spamware according to Appbrain so the real Android total is far less.

*Advertising income per user*
(source: Mobclix)
Mobclix's Jan 2011 stats demonstrate that in the Advertising game, iPhone users are far more valuable than Android users.
In the Games category, the average iPhone user brought in more than double the advertising revenue per month compared to the average Android user, a third more income in the entertainment category and 30% more in the utilities category.
Even on Google's home turf - advertising - iOS beats Android.

*Phone Manufacturer Profit Share*
(source: Asymco)
Despite only having a 4% share of the entire cell phone market, Apple captured 51% (up from 48% last year) of the profit share of the entire cell phone industry compared to Motorola on 1%, Samsung on 2%, LG on -2% and Nokia on 17%.

As such, while Android is doing well, it is years away from passing the installed base of Apple's iOS, is only neck and neck in terms of current quarterly unit sales and is failing badly in terms of app ecosystem, revenue and manufacturer profit share.

-Mart

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happygeek
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Well played sir! :)

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z00t
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interesting article.. however i'm a poor university student and can't afford either.

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puggsly
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These one off stats are interesting in showing potential direction but not much more. As soon as android 2.0 shipped it was obvious that Google was going to make a solid product that many would jump on and it was likely that it would be the larger unit force in this industry eventually. The real question is are we headed to equilibrium or a serious unit shipment advantage for Android in the coming year? What sort of difference did a Verizon iPhone make and how huge will US sales be of the iPhone 5 with both major carriers having access to the device? How much market share can Apple keep in the tablet space this year and how quickly will Apple react with the iPod Touch to keep their momentum in the hand held market for kids.

I agree that Apple is all about profit, and in the past chasing the low end didn't make sense, but with the ecosystem they have in place they could make more in iTunes/AppStore sales than they do on hardware in the coming years. This drove Apple to make low profit devices like the shuffle and Nano for music. Will it do the same for phones, tablets, and gaming systems? Will Apple cut hardware profit on products like AppleTV to drive up installed base, expecting to get it back in iTunes sales?

What ever happens, it appears that it is Apple's game to win or loose, and the current competition just keeps them in check for now. At least that's how I see it.

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crunchie
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I have the iphone4 and am thinking of buying the HTC Desire A9191.
Good move or bad?

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peter_budo
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I have the iphone4 and am thinking of buying the HTC Desire A9191.
Good move or bad?

Not many folks would understand that you talking about HTC Desire HD ;)
Never had iPhone, my last phone was HTC Hero and before that string of Sony Ericsson phones. Personally I do like this phone, much better performance then Hero, large improvement to user interface and the way you use it and interact with device, it may look bulky to some, but for me it is perfect fit.
My only downside to it at the moment is issue with SMS notifications. With upgrade to 2.2.1 HTC messed up something so often I receive SMS but there is no notification sound or icon. I have to go into messages to see if there was something. Hopefully this get sorted with update to 2.3 that someone leaked should be sometimes in summer

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sam.udo
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no matter what Andriod is dominating the mobile market and they must continue to

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peter_budo
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no matter what Andriod is dominating the mobile market and they must continue to

One sided opinion, probably based on limited knowledge of market/technologies...

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iamspartan
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Android is just starting right now and apple had just started years ago. I think, they're quite different and there's a big gap between them.

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jingda
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Yeah, i agree with sam.udo. I will recommend android apps as most of them are free while apple apps most of them require money. About your title, it depends android does not really beat apple in everything but most. In terms of which one is cheaper, it will be android but apple apps are better. so it depends whether you will choose cheap apps or better quality apps.

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crunchie
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Yeah, i agree with sam.udo. I will recommend android apps as most of them are free while apple apps most of them require money. About your title, it depends android does not really beat apple in everything but most. In terms of which one is cheaper, it will be android but apple apps are better. so it depends whether you will choose cheap apps or better quality apps.

Are you speaking from experience jingda? I am looking to buy an Android phone.

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jingda
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Well, i possessed one android phones and one iphone. If you want to use your phone for basic purpose or gaming purpose or just to have fun i would recommend you the android phones. Most of the apps are free so you can just go to android market and download any thing you want. But first you might have a google account on your phone and must be connected to the internet. Beware downloading too much apps will suck your phone data dried, delete those you do not want. well now android is very popular and if you wan to keep out the modern pace i would recommend you the android phone. Iphone is not very useful to me as i only used it to watch movies. Iphone graphics are better than android. Try android if you had never, you might like the experience. Something to tell you the android icon is more cuter than the ios icon:D

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jingda
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Android now has less apps than ios, but more developers seem to favour android than ios, is because android system is easy to use while apple is more complex and takes a longer time. Crunchie, you may want to go and google and search for what android phone you want. I am now using a sony ericson X8. It belongs to the xperia family and it is nice to use, it is android system and currently have a lot of good reviews and rating about the phone. It is a tochscreen phone and you can turn it into landscape view by turning it another direction. Hope you get the phone you want crunchie. Bye. Something is wrong sometimes i post i can't see my avatar. Weird:-/

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crunchie
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Avatar is dependent on where you post, I believe. My avatar is missing here too.
I have an iphone 4 now and was wanting to compare it to say an HTC Desire HD A9191

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jingda
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Try HTC wildfire. HTC is a taiwan based phone brand and you can't trust taiwan phone models, it is just too risky. I have heard their touch sensitivity is very poor compare to android phone. I still can't see my avatar. I am contradicting to myself. Well, i personally don't like HTC phone but my friends use HTC wildfire say it is good so i recommend it to you

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jingda
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Android is just starting right now and apple had just started years ago. I think, they're quite different and there's a big gap between them.

Get your facts right next time:-O. Android has started a long time ago while iphone has just release like two years ago. If you are referring to other apple products like macbook, it has been a long long time ago, there are new macbook version almost every 1 to 1 and a half years. I don't want to give you a negative reputation as i think you deserved a second chance. Just reminding you again, if you are not sure of something go and do some research first before posting. :(

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peter_budo
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@jingda lets put it right the facts.
Android Inc. founded in 2003; Google acquired Android Inc. in August, 2005; November 5, 2007 the Open Handset Alliance; The first commercially available phone to run the Android operating system was the HTC Dream ( or often known as T-Mobile G1), released on 22 October 2008

The first iPhone was unveiled on January 9, 2007, and released on June 29, 2007, how long it was in development we wouldn't know, but considering that Andrew Rubin been working previously for Apple and already in 1989 they attempted and failed to develop device like iPhone or Android then we can only conclude that they started in same time

If I may I would vote against HTC Wildfire as it is one of their smallest Android devices (minimized version of Desire). HTC Desire HD is good choice, but now I would be already tempted by HTC Desire S or HTC Incredible S ;)

PS: Avatars are disabled here together with signatures, sort of signature link spammers prevention

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