Mar 13th, 2013

Here we go again, another post on the internet talking about how Android’s market share is inflated with nothing but junk. We’ve seen inflammatory posts like this before. One of the more recent ones titled, “Android is cheap, not good.” Now comes Business Insider’s Nicholas Carlson talking about the real reason for Android’s success: free handsets.

We get it, the reason why Google’s mobile OS has spread like wildfire is because — unlike iOS — Android is free and opened sourced. Anyone with a little coding know-how can throw it on anything from a smartphone, to a toaster oven. More than often, that means you can find Android running on bargain bin handsets. But what BI’s author fails to recognize are high-end superphones like last year’s Galaxy S3 that have sold upwards of 40 million handsets, Galaxy Note 2 sold 3 million units during the first 30 days of its release — numbers that keep Tim Cook up at night. Remember, these are all smartphones that are still being sold on their respective carriers for upwards of $200+ on contract (same as the iPhone 5).

The logic behind BI’s post? While Android reins supreme in overall market share, less Android users are actually doing anything “smart” with their phones or tablets. Things like watching video, shopping on Black Friday, or even browsing the internet. Of course, all these findings are anything but definitive. In most cases, this is data gathered only from specific users who visited specific website (people streaming video from OOYALA for instance). I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that maybe Android users are simply doing other things with their devices, using video streaming apps like YouTube or Netflix perhap which combined, make up for almost 42% of total web traffic in North America alone. But I guess you have to shop on Black Friday to be considered “smart,” huh?

So, exactly what has been going on with all these numbers anyway? How can we explain them? Well, Business Insider hasn’t been able to figure that one out, but I’ll propose an idea. Maybe, just maybe there is a good number of iOS users who are using their iPads as laptop replacements. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen this, my own grandma for instance does all her Facebooking, online shopping, etc., straight from her iPad. No need for expensive and clunky laptops, when an iPad fits snugly in your purse. Is it really too far fetched to think that Android users are multiple device consumers who, perhaps, prefer to browse the web from their laptops or home computers? It’s possible.

The author also goes on to say that the real reason for Android’s success is simply because it’s cheap and more than often free (on a contract). While I believe that could be true to an extent, what about all those free iPhone 4’s currently offered by AT&T and Verizon Wireless? You know, the top 2 carriers in the US? Carlson briefly acknowledges that while it could be technically possible to get a free iPhone, “most people who get them don’t.” Because Apple shipping 17.4 million iPhone 4S’s in Q4 of 2012 is hardly worth mentioning. If Android is only popular because it’s free, I suppose the very same could be said about the iPhone, which has always had a previous model available for smartphone buyers on a budget.

But let’s get back to Android. We shouldn’t forget that the only reason we’ve seen a smartphone boom these past few years is because of fierce competition between Android manufacturers using high-end hardware as their weapons. Mobile hardware is advancing at such a rate it’s hard for even Apple to keep up. Again, this is all thanks to high-end smartphones, not low-end freebies. Let’s also not forget that “feature phones” that once only had the horsepower to run a dumbed down OS, are now smart. Once again, all thanks to Android. Moving into 2013, we’re beginning to see OEM’s who gained a significant market share due to their low-end hardware, are now focusing solely on premium, flagship devices for 2013 and we expect that trend to continue.

I guess it just roasts me a little bit when someone attributes Android’s success to nothing more than low-end hardware and a user base of monkey’s slapping their smartphones. Are there a lot of soccer mom’s and Joe Schmo’s using Android devices? No one can argue that. But the same could be said of iOS users (maybe even more so). Of course, until we get a whole lot more numbers, let’s not jump to any conclusions about iOS and Android users. For now, let’s just say Android’s success is due to it being a smarter mobile OS that runs on great hardware, and just so happens to provide a better value in many cases. Bygones be bygones.

[Business Insider]