iPhone: Death by Android?

by Chris Seibold Aug 20, 2008

The iPhone isn't the market leader in any market segment except the coveted “Designed by Apple in California” category. But that is plenty to get hype machine rolling. The truth is that Apple is way out in front of the curve to when it comes to smart phones or usable phones or internet phones or whatever niche Apple decides the iPhone should occupy at the moment. (Apple's favorite segment? Insanely profitable rectangle).

There have already been attempts at iPhone killers but, as James Stoup noted, the attempts have thus far badly confused touch screen enabled with usable platform. That is about to change, the first incarnation of an Android phone (nee Gphone) is on the way and as soon as it hits you'll be hearing how Android is the iPhone killer. Oh, and it won't be a cell service provider or a cell phone maker hinting that the iPhone will soon be as extinct as Gigantopithecus, it will be the media. iPhoners will get a little scared.

Will the fear be justified? Well, Android is everything the iPhone isn't. Android can be used by any cell phone maker. Android is based on the whore of Oses: Linux. Finally, Android is designed by everyone's favorite, beneficent and near monopoly software corporation known as Google. If that description doesn't sound threatening translating the features to consumer speak might be a bit more chilling.

Android can be used by any cell phone maker

Android uses the Apache Software License which means that it will be open except that Google won't be forced to turn over the stuff the company codes if it doesn't want to. Still very open and very permissive. You want an Android cell phone with a physical keyboard? No problem. A flip phone with all the features? A very simple trick. The list goes on and on, Android can be everything to everyone.

Android runs on Linux

Linux on your cell phone has been done before but Android will be better. The minute Android rolls out it will have the full support of not only Linux developers but it will surely have access to the kajillion of programs already designed to run on Linux. Linux is a powerful system and the entry cost for development is low, low, low. Android will run far more software than the iPhone even as the App store swells ever more bloated with questionable applications.

Android is made by Google

Google sometimes seems to be the only other company besides Apple that understands that less is often more. Count the words on the Google.com and realize that Google takes this number seriously for a reason.

A specific example will serve us well: The biggest objection with the iPhone is that to use an iPhone you have to be willing to use AT&T (in America anyway). You know, the AT&T with the crappy coverage, weird data pricing (how come all the data you can use doesn't include text messages, do they use gold plated ones and zeroes for that?) etc.. The hassles are the price you have to pay to use an iPhone and since there isn't a viable, easily usable alternative, the iPhone (and AT&T) win by default. With Android all that will change. You could have a great phone on Verizon, or a bitchin' phone on Sprint made by Nokia!

Bad news for the iPhone right? Who can compete against Google when they have every cell phone maker and every cell phone company on their side? The iPhone is looking at a quick trip from the top of the mountain to the bottom of the cesspool. It will be a sad day for Apple when Android arrives and the stock will take a beating.

Is it really going to be that bad? Is the iPhone doomed by android? Not even close. Let's take another look at the benefits of Android.

Android can be used by any cell phone maker

While this seems great on the surface it is going to be quite problematic for Android phones. Cell phone makers will think all they really have to do is get the box right and cell phone providers will still make purely profit motivated demands to said producers. While Nokia might make a really great box to stick Android on Verizon will want Android to be crippled here and there so customers will have to pay to get at the more advanced features of Android. Cell phones have been around for years, they've had good programmers and designers working on them and the pinnacle of mainstream success (until the iPhone) was the RAZR. Things won't get much better with Android.


Android runs on Linux

For a certain community out there just running on Linux is enough. If you're a Linux user that is great but most people just don't care. The rest of us will just want an easy to work cell phone and telling everyone that it will run a host of hard to install Linux programs and so forth is just going to cause confusion. Android could end up being the ultimate phone for geeks but that isn't the group of people buying the iPhone.

Android is made by Google

Google is likely to do a better with Android than any other company except Apple has done with cell software. Google, like Apple, will understand that they are actually making an OS for a computer with a strong emphasis on telephony and usability rather than a cell phone that can possibly, if you push these eighteen buttons in the right order, do something uncellphone-ish. Just because Google gets it doesn't mean any other companies will and since it is open the amount of pressure Google can apply to turn Android into a decent end product is limited.


Don't worry about Android killing the iPhone, this won't be a repeat of Westworld or The Terminator (well, I guess the robots lost in both of those anyway). The model for Android could be the basis for a iPhone killer but once other companies get involved they'll manage to turn it into just another iPhone wannabe.



  • “The iPhone isn’t the market leader in any market segment except the coveted “Designed by Apple in California” category. “

    Er, and the highest market share of any mobile platform viewing the web. Or is that not important?

    Ratty had this to say on Aug 21, 2008 Posts: 5
  • There is a basic tension between a single platform provider (MS for Windows, Google for Android) and their client hardware manufacturers (PC makers for Windows, smart phone makers for Android).  This tension arises from the fact that the platform providers will always want the client PCs or phones to be as similar to each other as possible, while the client machine makers will want their PCs or smart phones to be as highly differentiated as they can get relative to their competitors.

    Life would be easier for MS if Dell, HP, etc. would be happy just selling generic, interchangeable machines.  But of course the PC manufacturers wouldn’t want their product commoditized.  Same deal with Nokia, Moto, Samsung etc.

    The inevitable result is platform complexity that negates the presumed advantage of sharing a common platform.  Android will suck for the same reason that Windows sucks:  The effort to constantly fine tune the code just to accomodate this and that phone manufacturer’s idiosyncratic specs will divert Google’s resources away from truly innovative software development work.  With so many moving parts, introducing a new feature or capability for Android becomes an excruciatingly slow process because every new thing must be tested against all the different Android smart phones out there.

    tundraboy had this to say on Aug 22, 2008 Posts: 132
  • So, the iphone killer is going to be open source projects? Nice dream, but it’s time to land… Android might be a Symbian killer, iphone is already light years ahead, with no competition.
    At this moment there are some companies like Samsung trying to replicate its form factor, but there is no way they can compete with the phone, which is just a part of the device: remember that buying an iphone you also get an ipod and a desktop performance browser. Even if someone finally manages a usable browser in android, there’s just nothing he can do to compete against ipod and itunes. Good luck with android, but no iphone killer here

    diogenis had this to say on Aug 25, 2008 Posts: 5
  • diogenis, you’ve obviously forgotten how DOS was a Mac killer. Stupid as it sounds, so it was.

    SoI’d never say an inferior product won’t beat the better one.

    Chris Howard had this to say on Aug 27, 2008 Posts: 1209
  • The Google smart phone will be the Iphone killer as voip phones were the killers of normal telephony. As long as the price tag on the new smart phone from Google is decent and lower than what an Iphone costs, I have to say that I would prefer buying from Google.

    IBMdude had this to say on Aug 22, 2011 Posts: 50
  • As long as the price tag on the new smart phone from Google is decent and lower than what an Iphone costs, I have to say that I would prefer buying from Google.

    Toomie`s Thai Cuisine

    nobelboy had this to say on Oct 30, 2011 Posts: 14
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