Dec 10, 2012
So, it seems like iPhone, at least in the US, is finally reaching a point of ubiquity among the major carriers. Not only has T-Mobile been rolling their network out to start supporting the iPhone’s cellular hardware, but there are reports from their investor meetings that they will start selling Apple hardware in 2013. What this means and when is unclear, but it means all 4 of the nation’s biggest carriers will be going iPhone.
The immediate reaction might be to despair for Android fans: the last bastion of Android-exclusivity has become corrupted by the Cupertino colossus. Yet, that is missing out on why Android has gotten to this point where it is the primary competitor to Apple: because it took on all comers in the smartphone OS world and has won.
Think about why Apple succeeded with the iPhone. In a world of user-unfriendly smartphones, largely focused on business customers, Apple introduced something that was very intuitive. Android followed with something aiming for the same goals, while being open-source. BlackBerry was king of the smartphone mountain, but didn’t have the kind of usability that iOS and Android introduced. Windows Phone never really dominated, Windows Phone 7 has floundered, and Windows Phone 8 is a total reboot. Even well-appreciated hardware like the Lumia 900 wasn’t enough to popularize the platform. WebOS…it existed.
The fact that AT&T had the iPhone exclusive for over three years does count for a lot. But think about it: Android is still going strong, right? There’s still reasons for people to go Android, and the carriers still love it. Bloatware and various carrier-specific customizations are there for many reasons. Just because a carrier has gotten the iPhone doesn’t mean that it’s been a death knell for Android. And the iPhone becoming available on seemingly every carrier only means that it’s an option for more people.
And Android in and of itself, because it is really just a common OS that these disparate devices use, still represents options. It is the backbone of increasingly-capable low-cost prepaid options. It still has bigger phones than Apple may be interested in making. And for those on the cutting edge of network speed, Android has been first at 4G. It’s not as clean and crisp of an experience as iOS is, no. But just because iPhone exists doesn’t mean that Android can’t coexist. Maybe because Apple allowed Android to gestate through its AT&T deal. But there are reasons why the battle is iPhone vs. Android and not Windows Phone or BlackBerry.