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

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.

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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

Ed Burnette

About Ed Burnette

Ed Burnette is a software industry veteran with more than 25 years of experience as a programmer, author, and speaker. He has written numerous technical articles and books, most recently "Hello, Android: Introducing Google's Mobile Development Platform" from the Pragmatic Programmers.

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8 comments
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  • Apple cares only about profitshare, not marketshare

    And Apple's profitshare is nearly 100% in the smartphone market and over 100% in the tablet market.

    You make it sound like Apple is about to be killed by Android.

    That couldn't be farther from the truth.

    Apple is doing just fine.
    toddybottom
  • There is no 'slide in market share'; Edward, do not misform readers

    Apple's market share in smartphones/phones <b>never declined</b>; in fact, it grew even this year, though very little (just few percentages), while Android market share grew dramatically faster.

    Yet most of these Android sales are cheapo devices that never used to browse the internet or run applications -- and even if the would be, the built-in volume of flash memory is almost <b>non-existent</b>, and the buyers of cheap smartphones never care to buy an expansion memory cards.

    This is why, despite the amazing growth in market share, Android devices have low usage of internet and applications, generating comparably low revenue for both advertisers and developers.
    DDERSSS
  • Apple's profit share in ALL cell phones.. not just smartphones is 66%..

    let me say that another way... 2/3 of all the profit made on cell phones on the planet goes to Apple.. again this is ALL cell phones not just smart phones.. that's from a single digit market share in all cell phones and selling just two models.. iPhone 4 and 3GS..

    http://www.asymco.com/2011/07/29/apple-captured-two-thirds-of-available-mobile-phone-profits-in-q2/

    who do you want to be right now.. Apple or an android manufacture?? especially with Amazon basically nullifying all Google Android tablets and making Google Android on tablets just look silly and just grabbing up the whole maket with it with its own Amazon Android.. and what happens when the move Amazon Android to phones.. world has just turned under Google and its OEMs...

    Google's and its OEMS have got Apple kicking them in the head and Amazon kicking them in the nether regions.. LOL...
    doctorSpoc
    • Those are truly amazing statistics

      @doctorSpoc
      Apple is literally killing all of the competition.

      Apple deserves it, the iPhone and iPad are so much better than anything anyone else is coming out with.

      Unfortunately though, all of this does point to a sick market from a competition viewpoint.

      Consumers would be better served if the competition was better. Consumers would be better served if there was more than 1 big ecosystem.

      We are doing okay right now because the iPhone and iPad are great devices. I do worry about us 5 years from now, when Apple has solidified the monopoly it currently has (no, monopolies are not illegal but they aren't good for consumers in these types of markets).
      toddybottom
      • well, lets see what Amazon can do..

        @toddybottom in spite of what Ed here seems to think.. Google et. al. are just not up to the task.. selling phones to break even or at a slight loss does not a business make.. look at the numbers... LG, Moto, Sony-Ericsson literally make NO PROFIT on phones.. only ones making money on phones is Apple, HTC, Samsung and RIM (for now at least)...

        and here i thought the point of being in business was to make a profit..
        doctorSpoc
      • Amazon is also scrapping the bottom of the barrel

        @doctorSpoc Amazon is selling the Kindle Fire at a lost, hoping that the low price can be subsidized with other services.

        The problem they may find is that most adopters are cheap bargain hunters that don't support the ecosystem. Most won't be buying anything, not even $1 games. This is why Google's Marketplace is mostly filled with free adware supported apps. The same crap will probably happen to the Kindle Fire.
        wackoae
  • I Never Understood Why Apple's Profit Share Is A Selling Point

    You're telling customers that, since Apple is so good at taking lots of their money away from them, they should give it some more?
    ldo17
  • RE: Apple pins hopes on new iPhones, but can they slow the Android juggernaut?

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