While Apple have been banking their cash and rolling out new iPhones, new iOS upgrades and selling billions of apps, the marketplace for smartphones is in turmoil. The johnny-come-latelies in the major guise of Android, but also the new Windows 7 OS, are aiming their sights at Cupertino. From all accounts, Android is taking big steps, especially in the USA, where sales of all devices are said to be higher than those of the iPhone. Meanwhile, BlackBerry is still in the running despite the underwhelming reaction to its latest smartphone.
Only this week, though, I have realised from various tech site postings that all is not straightforward with Android. Apparently, the very openness of the platform has allowed various carriers to add on their own “embellishments” to the OS and, even, to introduce their own inferior app stores. So when OS updates come along consumers have to wait for their own particular carrier to get their act together.
This is reminiscent of the bad old days of Windows Mobile when phone manufacturers (such as HTC and Palm) and, even, some carriers, would add their own customisation to the operating system and make upgrades that much more frustrating.
While Android is definitely an attractive alternative to iOS4, and will appeal particularly to Apple naysayers, perhaps Google have left it too open and have failed to exercise the very sort of control that Apple is often criticised for.
I don’t have many problems with Apple and I like to think that their controls are looking after me and my investment just as much as they are looking after their own business. After all, this synergy between hardware and software is Apple’s crowning glory. With Apple you get the whole package and when it comes time to upgrade they make it as easy and painless as they can. And because of the Apple controls, particularly on which apps to approve for the iOS platform, stability is of a high order.
Consumers who want a painless experience – and I include myself in this category – value the sort of restrictions placed on third parties by Apple. I don’t want to have my iPhone customized by O2 or Vodafone; I want to be sure that I have the genuine, 100% Apple product that is not going to be upset by future upgrades. And I want one company – Apple – to take full responsibility for the full package.
The next few months will be telling, particularly with the introduction of new new Windows mobile OS which, Microsoft believe, will kill both Apple and BlackBerry so that they can be in a two-horse race with Google. Somehow, though, I don’t think things will be that simple and there is still a lot of life left in the old dog at Cupertino.