Daniel Eran Dilger
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Myth 7: iPhone Buyers will Flock to Android

Daniel Eran Dilger
Continuing upon the previous six iPhone myths, this one insists that Apple will lose its iPhone platform to Android as iPhone users defect to non-Apple phones seeking freedom and openness. That’s wrong, here’s why.

iPhone Myths
Five More iPhone Myths
Myth 6: iPhone Developers will Flock to Android
Myth 7: iPhone Buyers will Flock to Android
Myth 8: iPhone will lose out to Steve Ballmer’s Windows Mobile 7 in 2010
Myth 9: iPhone Unable to Penetrate Europe Due to Symbian Dominance.
7. iPhone buyers will flock to Android

The idea that iPhone users will rush to buy Android phones is even more delusional than the idea that developers will flock to Android in myth 6. That promises to keep Android’s users vs. software Catch-22 firmly in place as a barrier to the rapid, mass adoption that the iPhone experienced.

The last thirty years of consumer electronics tell us that the primary influence on purchasing decisions relates to price: either a simple low cost or a high perceived value for the money.

Ideological factors not related to price, including technical superiority or Android’s primary appeal of “openness,” have historically had very little impact on the success of products in the marketplace, particularly when compared to price-related factors, much to the chagrin of those of us who prefer to see better and more interoperable products rather than just cheap ones.

The Great Google gPhone Myth

Android’s Cost Problem.

Android offers mobile handset manufacturers a free alternative to Windows Mobile, which explains the great deal of interest demonstrated by existing Windows Mobile hardware partners. HTC, Motorola, Samsung, and LG all make Windows Mobile phones, but would obviously be better served to have access to a software platform they can use without paying Microsoft royalty fees.

However, phone buyers don’t see themselves as paying for Windows Mobile, and Android does not save its hardware partners enough in royalties to result in cheaper phones. In the PC arena, computers sold without a Windows license can be significantly cheaper, but royalty payments for licensing Windows Mobile are much lower. That means that while the royalty fees have an aggregate impact on manufacturers, they aren’t large enough to show up in the retail price consumers see.

That means users won’t have the same incentive to get excited about Android as hardware makers. Users who bought the Motorola Q or Samsung Blackjack didn’t make their decision related to the phone OS, but rather on the the value of their hardware features and the cost of the phone. An Android version of the Q or Blackjack won’t make them any more attractive to users than the Windows Mobile version.

Apple: iPhone Now Costs Less than Ballmer’s Lame Motorola Q

A Step Across, Not Up.

Android will only replace Windows Mobile and perhaps Motorola’s current version of Linux on some of its phones. This will have little positive impact on end users, as Android doesn’t offer many new features over Windows Mobile, apart from a usable, WebKit-based browser.

On the other hand, Android currently lacks many Windows Mobile features, including support for more advanced Bluetooth options and the ability to run existing Windows Mobile software titles. While Windows Mobile is not highly regarded as quality software, Android has only just recently reached 1.0 status. It will take some time to become clearly superior to Windows Mobile.

That all adds up to mean significant trouble for Microsoft, but no real impact on Apple because anyone interested in Android-type phones already has a wide assortment of Windows Mobile phones to choose from, none of which approach the iPhone in areas where the iPhone excels.

Breakdown: Android G1, iPhone share little in common

Freedom and Choice.

Anyone who foresees a mass migration from the iPhone to Android based on “freedom and choice” should stop to contemplate why those factors have had so little impact in making Windows Mobile phones competitive against the iPhone over the last year and a half.

The reasons people are buying iPhones relate to simplicity, ease of use, elegant design, and integration into Apple’s iTunes media and mobile software sphere, which neither Android nor Windows Mobile address. These are all features that enhance the iPhone’s obvious value to users, differentiating it on price-related factors that consumers care about.

Additionally, with the release of the $199 iPhone 3G, Apple has moved beyond its high value phase and entered a new low cost push that further erodes the capacity of any competitors to beat Apple in price. Apple’s ability to aggressively compete in the music player market on price indicates that it has figured out the key importance of pricing factors to push beyond a niche luxury market.

Jobs and Pricing.

In the mid 80s, Steve Jobs worked to push the original Macintosh at the lowest price possible, despite its expensive pioneering technologies. Instead, Jobs was pushed out of Apple by CEO John Sculley, who added a huge marketing budget tax on the Macintosh and continued to resist the strategy of selling Macs in volume to a mainstream audience at low prices until Apple’s window of opportunity closed in 1990.

Jobs sold high value NeXT workstations at very competitive prices in the early 90s, but was unable to enter the consumer market until Apple bought his company and eventually put him in charge of fixing Apple. The result was a new push to lower prices while delivering more value to users.

The iPod and now the iPhone show that Apple clearly understands the importance of accessible prices in targeting a large mainstream audience. The iPhone in particular has a special edge in that mobile phone prices are disguised in the shell game market of mobile operators’ subsidies.

Steve Jobs and 20 Years of Apple Servers
Can Apple Take Microsoft in the Battle for the Desktop?
Jean-Louis Gassée Returns from Obscurity… to Talk About MobileMe

No Room For An In.

With the iPhone, Apple has raised the bar by offering features with clear value, including a vastly superior human interface, a secure software deployment mechanism, strict quality control on hardware and software (exempting the current low point in stability plaguing the iPhone system software), and tight integration with iTunes. At the same time, Apple has given competitors, including Android phone makers, no breathing room to undercut it on price.

This will leave Android phone makers to churn out the same phones we’ve seen running Windows Mobile, except that they’ll be running open source software rather than Windows Mobile. Open source software has not demonstrated sufficient market appeal among consumers to effectively compete, even when offered for free. That’s because ideological features only appeal to a small niche of buyers.

Take a look at how well products do when their main features are, like Android, freedom and choice. Google effectively pays for the development of Firefox so users can download it for free, but the browser has seen limited adoption over the last half decade despite its technical superiority over Internet Explorer in many areas.

Safari has taken a share of the market roughly a half third as large as Firefox in just the last several months [Net Applications reports Firefox has a 19.46% share cross platform, while Safari has 6.65%; this proportion has been in place over the last year since Safari went cross platform in June 2007.], and it decisively leads Firefox in mobile use. Open source alternatives to iTunes have gone nowhere. Linux on the desktop has had very little impact. Freedom and choice sound good, but don’t result in sales.

Without the ability to fuel significant price savings for consumers or to add substantial, tangible value, Android will similarly not be able to match the high value, low cost impact the iPhone is experiencing, and Android’s focusing on freedom and choice simply won’t matter. That in turn will hold back the market for third party Android development, making the platform even less appealing to users.

Market share for browsers, operating systems and search engines
The Spectacular Failure of WinCE and Windows Mobile
Will Google’s Android Play DOS to Apple’s iPhone?
The Web Browser Renaissance: Firefox and Safari

Could An Alliance of Big Name Manufactures Possibly Fail?

Advocates for Android cite the big names behind it. Motorola is currently failing, but LG and Samsung are strong leaders, and HTC is desperate to prove its ability to move past selling clunky phones running Windows Mobile. Google itself is also a powerful force in the industry.

Major alliances have failed spectacularly before however. All of the Android partners are also Windows Mobile developers backed up by Microsoft, which is itself reason for pause in cheerleading for Android. Most of them also participated in Microsoft’s failed PlaysForSure effort. Other examples:

  • Sony put together an impressive roster of Blu-ray partners, but that product alliance won a battle with HD-DVD only to lose the war of pushing better-secured DRM discs as an alternative to DVDs.
  • PowerPC formed a grand alliance of heavyweight supporters that were unable to materialize the goal of updating the crufty old PC desktop with modern, interoperable technology open to a variety of operating systems.
  • Taligent and OpenStep lined up impressive partners, as did Intel and HP’s Itanium disaster.
  • Efforts to create alliances to support commercial Unix, including the rival X/Open and OSF and then their combined efforts as the Open Group, largely only acted to observe its fall from relevance as it was blindsided by the rise of Linux.
  • Linux has been supported by a series of alliances, both on the desktop (OpenLinux, United Linux LSB) and for mobiles (MLI, CELF, LiPS, LiMo, and now Android). While absorbing the role of commercial Linux among server applications, Linux has had little real impact in consumer electronics and PC applications apart from providing cost savings for manufacturers.
  • Among mobile manufacturers, Java ME and Flash Lite have largely failed as middleware despite wide deployment across nearly every major manufacturer, while the Palm OS and Symbian are falling apart as partnership OS alliances between major manufacturers.

Origins of the Blu-ray vs HD-DVD War
Lessons from the Death of HD-DVD
Why Apple Hasn’t Used Intel Before
The Secrets of Pink, Taligent and Copland
Road to Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard: 64-Bits
SCO, Linux, and Microsoft in the History of OS: 1990s
Will Google’s Android Play DOS to Apple’s iPhone?
The iPhone Threat to Adobe, Microsoft, Sun, Real, BREW, Symbian
The Egregious Incompetence of Palm

There are nearly as many failures in tech alliances as there have been tech alliances. That doesn’t bode well for Android. What about the prospects for the partners involved in the upcoming Windows Mobile 7? The next segment will take a look.

Myth 8: iPhone will lose out to Steve Ballmer’s Windows Mobile 7 in 2010

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  • HCE

    Why will iPhone buyers (or should I say, potential buyers) go to Android? One simple reason – choice.

    I personally know several people who

    a. Cannot stand AT&T or
    b. Just cannot get comfortable with virtual keyboards or
    c. Consider one or another of the iPhone’s missing features as vitally imprtant or
    d. Are intensely price sensitive and genuinely don’t care whether they get an iPhone or an iClone – so long as they get the best possible deal.

    I own an iPhone and my biggest frustrations (bugs apart) with the iPhone is AT&T’s flaky 3G coverage. I live in Silicon Valley (which is supposed to be one of AT&T’s better markets for 3G) and my 3G coverage is mediocre, at best. My phone switches down to Edge far too often. The other big frustration is lack of Flash support. I really have no interest in the holy war that Apple has with Adobe over Flash. All that matter to me is that a significant number of websites that I frequent have flash content and I cannot view this content on the iPhone.

    What Android gives you is a modern, desktop-quality OS which may be less polished than OS X but is better than others out there and it gives you options. If Google and one of its partners came up with an Android-based phone that was reasonably close to the iPhone in functionality but ran Flash and was on a network that worked better than AT&T, I’d be tempted to switch.

    – HCE

  • Joel

    Iphone users (I think) are unlikely to switch, but once there’s a easy way to sync Outlook and edit Office documents I can see Windows Mobile users flocking to it. An informal survey of Palm users also points to another group of people jumping ship…

  • http://www.sistudio.net studiodave

    One more month for my Verizon contract to expire then I toss my Treo under the tires of my car and get my iPhone. Nothing else will do as much as the iPhone, never used outlook and never will. I don’t even use Office anymore.

  • http://johnsessays.blogspot.com John Muir



  • jason

    “Sony put together an impressive roster of Blu-ray partners, but that product alliance won a battle with HD-DVD only to lose the war of pushing better-secured DRM discs as an alternative to DVDs.”

    You really are one-eyed. How did you come up with that one? Blu-Ray is progressing fine, it is not dead, and as you are a major Apple fanboy, it is significantly superior to the iTunes semi-HD movies available

    [No, Blu-ray isn’t dead. But it isn’t exciting anyone and clearly isn’t competing against upscaling DVD players. Nobody has equated BR to iTunes HD in terms of quality. However, downloads are beginning to catch on, while BR-DRM is not doing well by any stretch of the imagination.

    People were far more argumentative about this before what I had surmised came to pass. Haha :) ]

  • babydoneabadbadthing

    HCE is probably right… the biggest thing in the US is the lack of carrier choice. The decision was made for all the right reasons at the time (and with the spectrum auction out of the way, and Apple and Google not getting a piece of the pie…. there will be alternatives from them), but Apple hitched to a big player who quite honestly, isn’t as hitched to them (polygamy… Apple is currently the prettiest wife, but not necessarily the lowest maintanence in the ATT wireless harem). The network and secondarily, the battery, will be the achilles’ heels of the Iphone…. If ATT can get the network right (and as a person who left Sprint for ATT, I must admit, as much as I hated sprint/Lasttel post merger, they had their network where I needed it.)

    The iPhone will flourish if it can do two things…. convince primary websites to go flash free (my Minneapolis StarTribune main page crashes Safari on my iPhone every few minutes… I suspect over flash), and/or provide compelling applications that obviate the need for flash.

    The 2nd is gain the enterprise foothold. Exchange and Lotus interoperability here is key, especially in email and calendar synchronization. As a consultant, I would love to be able to sync to Lotus tomorrow, an Exchange the day after that. Where I’m at now, they have 3 people dedicated to supporting Blackberry services, ontop 10 people supporting web enabled Lotus, ontop of 20 odd people supporting fat client Notes. If iPhone can come in and ‘hook up for free’ I’d be soo happy. And the iPhone would penetrate against the RIM bastion the way RIM got into the organizations 5 years ago… 1, then 10, then 100. If it requires an enterprise infrastructure change… it takes years to add that budget line item to the already cost conscious organization, and that inertia will stunt Apples penetration into the mobile enterprise. If they can get that ability in place, not only will iPhones jump off the shelves, but you’ll see enterprise macs as a mobile workforce platform leap up as well (one thing that is discounted is the apple retail support channel… Geek Squad et al is really a poor substitute for a truly universal support network for your untethered workforce…. iPhones, MacBooks, software, hardware, support for all at one location….. You’re not gonna see Android or WinMobile and Windows and Dell support like that!)

  • donarb


    You mentioned that Safari on your iPhone crashes on a particular site, possibly because of flash. I doubt that’s the case. Months ago, I did a test on our own company website using my iPod Touch. When requesting a web page, Safari ignores the flash link and doesn’t even bother downloading the content (verified by scanning the Apache logs). That would make sense because it’s more efficient for the iPhone not to download data that it can’t display. I would suspect that most crashing problems in Safari are Javascript related.

  • http://islandinthenet.com Khürt

    “Linux has had little real impact in consumer electronics”.
    That’s not a true statement.


    [I have noted Linux use in embedded applications such as Linksys routers and the Tivo; both products are big examples of how Linux has proven to be commercial-hostile. Your link details a variety of other embedded Linux applications which are no secret. However, it remains true that “Linux has had little real impact in consumer electronics and PC applications apart from providing cost savings for manufacturers.” Nobody really buys products because they are running Linux, and no consumer really benefits from having a Linux-based router as opposed to one using a BSD or proprietary OS.

    Among mobile phones, Linux has only really seen any adoption within closed phones that Motorola sells in China, where using Linux similarly has has no impact on consumers. Those phone could just as well be running Symbian or some other proprietary OS. On the other hand, a major draw of the iPhone relates to its OS and development platform, and substituting some other OS would make it far less attractive.]

  • http://islandinthenet.com Khürt

    @HCE: If the iPhone was available from multiple carriers would you change your opinion of the iPhone? IMHO, the 3G problem is AT&Ts and not the hardware. I don’t have an iPhone because it is not available on Verizon Wireless which has almost 100% coverage in the New York metro area.

    How does Android ( an OS not a hardware platform ) provide access to “a network that worked better than AT&T”?

  • John E

    in theory, everything the iPhone can do – except playing DRM’d iTunes music and using Apple’s patented multitouch UI – can also be done by an Android phone, with an equally easy-to-use UI (and an equally stylish design). HTC or somebody else could build it. that is not true for WinMobile 6, which is just too clumsy an OS, and Symbian, which probably doesn’t have all the OS capabilities. RIM, i dunno. and such a theoretical iPhone clone could even have better/more features that many of us would like, like a keyboard or good camera.

    and i do expect to see some Android smartphone hardware very much like that in 2009. Apple will need to keep up (certainly we will see a better camera next year).

    IMHO the key to the iPhone’s design and market superiority is not the hardware, and not even its on-board software. those can be copied, and will be eventually. instead it’s iTunes, Apple’s ubiquitous middleware platform that provides the iPhone’s media database, management tool, home network/lifestyle integration, and App Store, all combined in one very easy to use package.

    Nobody else has anything comparable, and won’t in the foreseeable future. MS has the media pieces, but can’t even put them together – maybe WinMobile 7 finally will. phone companies want to have their own private media stores. or Nokia wants to lock in a subscription service. every model of phone hardware needs its own distinct management tool software and home network integration approach. everyone is rushing to set up their own app store, but their pre-July 2008 apps are too crude, the market is badly fragmented with no standards (which Android plans to fix), and their pre-July 2008 high-priced app business model has been totally killed dead-dead-dead by Apple’s App Store and it’s wonderfully low prices for great apps.

    The big differentiator then with Android is that Google decided not to provide such a companion PC middleware program for it. it might have. it could have bought Rhapsody/Real Networks, for example, as a media program equivalent for iTunes, and bundled it with its Android app store somehow. but like WinMobile, it’s approach of letting any telco or handset manufacturer customize Android makes any unified management tool software impossible. so every consumer is on their own, and the Android market will be balkanized from a consumer services and support standpoint just like WinMobile is. looks like Symbian is headed in the same direction too. Only RIM could attempt to copy Apple’s model.

    It’s Apple’s iTunes “ecosystem” that really sells iPhones and iPods, not the other way around. that’s why iPods still have 70% of their market, despite all the strong hardware competition, and that’s why the iPhone will lead the new super-smart-phone market of the future. Android can’t compete with that.

  • HCE


    You know what, I like the iPhone, for the most part. My two big grouses about the phone itself are that Safari crashes way too often and that it doesn’t support Flash. The first issue is likely to get better as the software gets more stable, the second may never get fixed so, I guess, I rate that as more important.

    My big non-Apple related issue is AT&T’s 3g coverage which, even in the supposedly well-covered area that I live in, is spotty at best. Maybe that will get better with time but I don’t have all that much confidence in AT&T. So, of my three issues, the only issue that I am confident will be fixed is the Safari crashes.

    Android, by itself isn’t going to give me access to a better network. Right now, the only network that carries Android phones is T-Mobile whose 3G network is probably worse than AT&T’s. However, unlike iPhone, the Android model is multiple handset manufacturers, multiple carriers. There is a decent chance that some carrier + handset combination will give me what I lack with the iPhone and AT&T.

    Not that I am looking to switch. My ideal scenario is that Apple allows Flash (or is successful in making the web Flash-free) and that AT&T improves its network. In that case I stay happily with AT&T and Apple.

    – HCE

  • Realtosh

    “Safari has taken a share of the market roughly a half as large as Firefox in just the last several months.”

    Forget all this iPhone myth stuff. If this statement is true, this is the MOST important fact in this entire article. Firefox has been getting double digit market share in most markets, getting 30-40% or more in some European countries.

    Anyone have a link to the stats? This is interesting.

    [I am afraid I overstated this. The latest numbers from Net Applications are that Firefox has 19.46% share cross platform, while Safari has 6.65%. So Safari is actually closer to a third of Firefox, having gone cross platform in June 2007. Firefox (then called Phoenix) was first available for Windows September 2002.

    http://marketshare.hitslink.com/report.aspx?qprid=0 ]

  • PXT

    There is always a lot of talk about freedom and openness as if they are inherently good. The platform that allows anyone to do anything is Microsoft Windows and the result has been a fragmented, unstable and insecure experience. In fact, users have to license other third party software, to chase all that freedom and openness around the PC, and stop it from doing damage.

    Apple take more of a consulting approach with their systems, offering you what they decide you need, in the way they believe you should have it. The result is a more integrated, secure, stable and performant experience. If you don’t happen to like Apple’s value-judgements, then Apple is not for you, but the reason that Apple products are as good as they are has a lot to do with Apple’s decision to make decisions – as opposed to leaving the system to be defined by a global pool of developers.

  • The Mad Hatter


    There is always a lot of talk about freedom and openness as if they are inherently good. The platform that allows anyone to do anything is Microsoft Windows and the result has been a fragmented, unstable and insecure experience. In fact, users have to license other third party software, to chase all that freedom and openness around the PC, and stop it from doing damage.

    You are wrong. The problem is not Windows “openness”, it’s Windows flawed design. Linux is more open than Windows, and it has none of Windows problems. On my one Ubuntu machine I regularly install and uninstall software, and it has been running on for a year and a half now with no issues.

    I do think however that Daniel underestimates Palm and RIM. While both have their problems, they are under their own control, since they aren’t tied to the Windows boat anchor, and they can be fixed. The Palm Desktop is not as good as ITunes, but again that could be fixed, and Rim could introduce an equivalent.

    The IPhone isn’t the killer app. Itunes is the killer app, the Iphone and the IPod are just Itunes accessories. Nice looking accessories though.

    Oh, and what can and will do damage to Apple is their partners. Rogers (the local Apple partner) used to have great customer service. About 3-4 years ago something happened, and they are now approaching disaster level. Since no other network here is GSM, and I’m not willing to deal with Rogers, I’m stuck without an Iphone for now.

  • Quickstudy

    I think we are starting to see a division of purpose here – social vs business driven phone needs.

    Its great that the iPhone has a music player and better grapics/display (what apple is known for), perfect for impressing your friends with the capacity of your phones ability to store massive quantities of “Social Contacts”, catching up on a podcast or listening to music while on a jog. No copy and paste? Come on!

    I am a business professional who uses both a laptop and a phone and am constantly flipping between the two. I see the iphone just got connectivity to Lotus Notes the other day – That was not an impressive 15 month wait, but it does show where Apple’s priorities lie.

    What I think the gPhone is trying to do is re-lay the groundwork for a usable phone\laptop hybrid. The Microsoft platform failed to do this since 1/2 the major business world does not have a Microsoft infrastructure and the MS mobile application itself is weak – not very cross platform compatible at a feasible price.

  • JulesLt

    HCE – note that the existing Android phone doesn’t support Flash either, and I suspect any devices will face the same challenges Jobs has outlined – on current phone CPUs it will be slow, although I think a useful compromise could be made around Flash video support.

    John – in theory the underlying Android platform could be made into something very iPhone like, but there is one crucial difference, and that is in the approach the developers SDK uses.

    One is native, and the other is VM-based. As time goes on, the overhead of the VM will become insignificant – Jake, the Java port of Quake, for instance, runs fast on a desktop Mac, because most of the heavy work is really OpenGL anyway.

    However, if the portable VM approach was really so great, console developers would be using it as the fastest way to develop cross-platform games. Instead, they largely focus on portable C++ libraries. In that respect the iPhone is closer to existing console platforms (and developers on those platforms) than Android. You can code a lot closer to the metal.

    There is a clear flipside to this – most business/enterprise developers are more familiar with Java or .NET, which means it will probably be a stronger platform in those circles.

    The ideal solution, I think, is for the market to settle on 3-4 strong platforms, ideally with 15-30% market share, but none achieving the larger dominance which kept desktop computing back for so long.

  • IainP

    The truest test will be as one developer for the iPhone commented: If Android is not modified by for each model it will be a competitor. But if developers see a fragmentation of the Android market into incompatible versions, why bother?

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  • HCE


    True Android does not support Flash but chances are it will get added pretty soon – given Android’s more open development model. With Apple, who knows? Depends on Steve Jobs’ whims and right now he seems to be on a mission to kill Flash.

    – HCE

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  • luisd

    What about the rumour on the internet about 1.5million G1 handsets already sold. If this is true, this myth may not be a myth after all. This 1.5 million figure, sprang of thin air, and I haven’t been able to find a single reliable reference. All articles seem to be referencing each other. But where did it start and what true is there in it?

  • http://www.roughlydrafted.com danieleran

    @luisd: “1.5M G1 sales” meme is from The Motley Fool, which did some absurd calculations to suggest that the pipeline is full of G1s somehow.

    In reality, T-Mobile’s wildest estimates called for 500,000 sales before the end of the year. Apple sold 270,000 iPhones in the first three days. The reason NOBODY is talking about the G1 is that it is not a success on any level. If it sells .5 million in 2008 (which would be very good), it will hardly matter as a platform. Android won’t make any progress until it has a better phone to sell. Critics have panned the G1 as nicely as they can. It’s not anything amazing.

  • luisd

    Thanks for the source. I had seen that article, but never crossed my mind that that was the source. It does not say where the information is coming. I had just dismissed it as a site parroting the news…. as it seems I should have dismissed it as rubbish.

    The worst is the huge number of news sites just repeating that piece of misinformation.