The great iPhone-Android battle that isn’t

December 1, 2010

The great horse race taking place between Apple’s iPhone and the Google-designed Android phones makes for great drama. So much so that it can be easy to overstate how significant this rivalry is.

Case in point: Nielsen released a survey that asked people considering buying a smartphone in the coming year which mobile operating system they “most desired” on a new phone. 30 percent said they’d most desire an iPhone, while 28 percent preferred an Android phone.

The headline on Nielsen’s summary of the survey read, “U.S. smartphone battle heats up”—which is dramatic enough but not necessarily accurate. More telling was another statistic in the survey: Only 30 percent of U.S. mobile phones are smartphones. The rest are those not-so-smart feature phones.

Google and Apple are going to remain rivals in the smartphone market for some time. But the true battle being waged in mobile devices is the one-sided slaughter between Google and Apple and everyone else. Their market shares are growing, not at the expense of each other—but at the expense of the also-rans in general, and the feature phone market in particular.

Nielsen found that 27.4 percent of smarphones in the market are using Research-in-Motion’s Blackberry OS – a share roughly equal to the iPhone’s (Android ran a close third at 22.7%). But only 13% of people planning to buy a smartphone said they most desired a Blackberry, which can’t be good news for RIM.

While these surveys are interesting as a general gauge of how brands are perceived, I have to wonder whether the average smartphone consumer has a strong preference. Most people just want a phone that can make calls, send texts and e-mail, and run games and apps. Hard-core geeks can argue for hours over whether Apple’s or Google’s platform is better, but most people are swayed by the discounts and plans offered by carriers when deciding which phone to buy.

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But wait, where is any mention of the New WP7 OS? We develop software for all three mobile OS, so we are familiar with all the features. Android is good, but the Widnows phone in its present state is just as good, and operates a lot smoother and sometimes faster than the other two. Our users are moving over to WP7 phones, due to features. Released 11/8, there is a major upgrade coming out in January. Even my kid, an Apple devotee, says the WP7 is cooler than the Iphone. I think as people see the feature sets coming on line, they will change their preferences. It more than just making a call, checking email and apps. Its a pocket computer that frees you from having to go to work to get your work done. Thats a big deal to many of us.

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