Apple pins hopes on new iPhones, but can they slow the Android juggernaut?

Summary:Apple releases new iPhone models, but reversing its slide in market share will take more than a few bells and whistles.

At today's "Let's talk iPhone" event, Apple is set to announce a much anticipated upgrade to its popular iPhone line. Speculation abounds, but it's a pretty safe bet that the new phones will be thinner and lighter, with bigger screens and better cameras. Some models will be full featured, and some will be targeted towards the low end and emerging markets. There's no doubt that Apple will sell millions, but those numbers could be drowned out by the continuing onslaught of Android based devices made by a motley crew of manufacturers around the world.

Read: Is the iPhone 5 your dream phone?

Apple is using every weapon in its arsenal to hold ground against the threat from its competitors. The best weapon, of course, is innovation. Despite the commonly held notion, innovation usually isn't something completely new. You could browse the web on a phone before the iPhone, but the experience was awful. You could do video calls before FaceTime but nobody did because the quality was poor and it was hard to find somebody to talk to. Apple's strength is making technology work in a simple way for average people.

Read: Today's launch points to an 'emerging market' iPhone

Then there are the not so great weapons, the 'dirty bombs' if you will. I'm talking about Apple's concerted world-wide effort to slow down competitors through legal action. So far they've managed to keep Samsung devices out of the German and Australian markets, and they're struggling to do the same across Europe and the US. Apple says they're protecting their ideas from thieves, while the other side says the ideas aren't original, weren't stolen, and that the action reduces consumer choice. Apple isn't alone in using legal actions of course. But regardless of where you stand in this argument, it's clear that Apple feels threatened and that they've decided that innovation alone isn't going to cut it.

They could be right. According to the Nielsen Mobile Insights survey conducted in August, new smartphone buyers are favoring Android handsets two-to-one compared to iOS devices (56% vs. 28%). That's an astounding gap that a few evolutionary phone models can't overcome. I'm not sure there's anything Apple can do, besides try to secure its place as a niche player.

Apple's problem is not the lack of innovation or lawyers or money, it's that the company is going it alone against a strong and growing array of manufacturers such as Amazon, HTC, ZTE, and Samsung, and a volunteer army of smart, motivated hobbyists such as the XDA community. Android is an open source platform using Linux so anybody can build compatible devices without anybody's permission, even Google's.

Sometimes it's messy and loud, and sometimes it's fractious and disjointed, but this entrepreneurial alliance of converging interests called "Android" is currently crushing everyone else on the field. Unless it can pull out some kind of secret weapon, Apple is headed towards the same fate.

Topics: Apple, Hardware, iPhone, Mobility, Smartphones

About

Ed Burnette has been hooked on computers ever since he laid eyes on a TRS-80 in the local Radio Shack. Since graduating from NC State University he has programmed everything from serial device drivers and debuggers to web servers. After a delightful break working on commercial video games, Ed reluctantly returned to business software. He... Full Bio

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