To understand the difference between an Android phone and an iPhone, you have to understand the difference between the Android and iPhone cultures and ecosystems.
No, I don’t mean Android users listen to hip-hop and iPhone users listen to indie rock. I mean fundamental differences between approaches to designing, building and supporting smartphones.
That my Samsung Galaxy S didn’t work as well as the iPhone isn’t a mystery to me—it never stood a chance in the first place, as far as I’m concerned (despite selling as well).
Try to remember what it was like when the first iPhone came out in 2007. It annihilated BlackBerry, the first true smartphone and the iPhone’s only competitor at the time. (When I say annihilated, I mean function and features, not sales.)
Man, those ‘there’s an app for that’ commercials were annoying, weren’t they? And the first iPhone owners, too—phone skin-grafted to their palms, “I’ll Google it on my iPhone!” Ugh. Shut up. It’s why I didn’t get an iPhone at the time.
BlackBerries continued to sell well with the corporate crowd for years (because they worked really well for syncing work email and stuff). But the iPhone took the public consumer market by storm.
BlackBerry couldn’t compete for grabbing the public’s imagination and showing us how a smartphone could change our daily lives (sorry, BlackBerry). The iPhone ushered in a new era (annoyingly to non-iPhone people).
This is the environment in which Android was born. Somebody had to offer an alternative to the iPhone, and Google stepped up to the plate with a comparably featured operating system.
Remember those first Android commercials? Slick, modern, impactful, cool—not at all smarmy like the iPhone commercials were. ‘Drrrrroiiiiid.’ Bam. Android was it—the iPhone killer.
And it did kill the iPhone (or at least wound the iPhone’s market share). Over the next few years, Android literally took over the market—with phones that were just as cool as the iPhones.
Except that one little nagging problem: they didn’t (and still don’t) work as well as the iPhone. They have all the same features pretty much, but they don’t work as well.
And it comes down to this: a loose, open, fragmented approach to making smartphones versus a closed, micromanaging, perfectionist approach. (I’m sure you can guess who is who.)
Android—An OS created as a stand-alone, many different manufacturers trying to get the OS to work on their varied hardware, a fragmented ecosystem with multiple versions of an OS running at the same time (Microsoft model, anyone?).
iPhone—A single company creating both hardware and software painstakingly designed to work together seamlessly, supported by a closed ecosystem tightly controlled by that single company.
No matter what you’re making, the first approach will never work as well as the second. While some Android phones may match features and get close, they’ll never work as well as iPhones.
Not until Google adopts the Apple approach and starts making phones as well as operating systems. (More on that in follow-up posts…Motorola.)
And even then you’re talking about two separate companies, or a software company all of a sudden making hardware. Meanwhile, Apple has always done both—created the hardware and the software that runs on it together. In other words, they’re way ahead of the game.