Has Android turned the iPhone tide?

Has Android turned the iPhone tide?

Summary: In the midst of morning cafe pleasantness and civilisation, my coffee mate turns to me like a bolt out of the blue and pulls a small, gleaming object that I only barely recognise out of their pocket. They hold it up like it was their precious newborn child, and says "Have you seen my new Android phone?"

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commentary In the midst of morning cafe pleasantness and civilisation, my coffee mate turns to me like a bolt out of the blue and pulls a small, gleaming object that I only barely recognise out of their pocket. They hold it up like it was their precious newborn child, and says "Have you seen my new Android phone?"

Android statue

Is Android a force to be reckoned with? (Giant Google Android statue with puppy
and cupcake image by Kenneth Lu, CC2.0)

They then proceed to show me — in great detail — the ways in which their Android phone is better than my iPhone. It has a better camera. It integrates better with Google services like Gmail. It has Adobe Flash (hi, Steve!), the window shade feature for multiple alerts, background processes, you can more easily connect it to your PC without the iTunes nightmare, it's open source, Google isn't censoring its applications market, and so on.

After about 10 minutes of this, I say something like "that's enough!" and change the topic of conversation.

Outside I am calm and controlled. But internally I am in full, lock-down panic mode. The reason is that this Android exhibitionism is the same behaviour I used to witness from people when pulling out their iPhone. It signifies that although I own an iPhone, a Wii, an Xbox 360, two high-specced PCs with multiple monitors and about a bajillion other tech gadgets, I could again be at risk of falling behind on the technology curve. And that is something I simply cannot tolerate.

The question that I and a number of other people are asking at the moment is: is the tide starting to turn on Apple's flagship iPhone in Australia? Is it time to dump the iPhone and join the other camp?

Over the past few months, all of Australia's major carriers have put a strong focus on launching Android-based handsets that provide much of the same functionality as the iPhone — but with more choice.

Telstra has the HTC Desire (and the Australian buzz around it has been intense), Optus is focusing on Motorola and is rumoured to be bringing the HTC Legend down under, and it looks like virtually every carrier has the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10. And this is just the start — apparently at the recent Mobile World Congress in Barcelona Android was all anyone was talking about.

There's even been a blog set up — Android Australia — just to cover Android launches locally.

Of course, Apple has a stranglehold on the Australian mobile market and has had for some time. The expected launch over the next few months of the company's next iPhone (hello, Gizmodo!) will only give it a stronger sales story. It has the hardware, the applications, the brand and the growing eco-system to keep the iPhone platform as the dominant smartphone player for some time.

But Apple's problem with the iPhone at the moment is that there is not much it can really add to the device to make it more attractive to those who don't have one. And this is exactly the opportunity that Android is slowly starting to capitalise on.

Google's fledgling mobile platform is increasingly offering Australian telcos and customers most of the shiny things that the iPhone does — as well as everything Apple refuses to put into its tightly controlled handset.

Custom phone designs to suit every customer and manufacturer. Handset distribution through the traditional vendor/telco partnerships. A much more open platform that telcos can customise with their own branded services and users can customise to their heart's content.

And yes, even "adult applications" for that time you want to get your sexy on in the back of the Cadillac.

These are all things that Australia's mobile ecosystem wants from its smartphone manufacturers. And increasingly, it's Apple's rivals that are meeting this customer demand. Apple doesn't meet customer demand that is already in existence. It meets customer demand that it creates itself.

If I was to sum up the growing feeling amongst Australian early technology adopters at the moment, I would say it's probably the same feeling they had back in 1985 when it became apparent that Apple was going to launch its long-term technique of tying its hardware, software (and now, internet platforms) together into one unbreakable package that creates a great overall solution ... but has a bunch of niggling problems due to Steve Jobs' personal foibles.

In short: sure, Windows is not as good a solution as an Apple operating system. But you can run anything you like on it, and it runs on anything you like. Just like Android.

The question is — will Australia's early Android enthusiasm translate into the mainstream? And what shine will it take off the iPhone if it does?

Topics: Android, Apple, Google, iPhone, Mobility

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5 comments
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  • Very nice read - It IS time to join the other camp!
    koppit
  • Apple in Australia is an Australian phenomenon - don't confuse it with fact. The Apple experience is very well suited to tech simpletons. Anyone who feels that they are happy to be locked out of the world wide web because they can not configure their tech to work properly deserves to be excluded - and thats what Apple users are - simpletons who are restricted from access to the reality of the web and the IT revolution. Sad, but necessary evil - they will only clog up the place with ridiculous questions about "What is a FILE EXTENSION?" . So best they are left with Apple and their wonderful, happy, magical garden, while the rest of us enjoy what the garden , and what is outside of it - Life.

    The Android will be releasing the Air 2.0 and Flash player 10.1 along with Flash Player lite 4 on may the 19th. From then on things are going to really heat up.

    There are currently some excellent posts on youtube which detail the HTML5 experience on the iPad and iphone - the Apple alternative to Flash - I think you need to check this out for yourself, your readers and your next breakfast catch up - so you don't utterly embarrass yourself when they start playing full blown immersive 3d interactive games FREE via the web and flash in front of your face as you struggle to get your credit card out to pay for them in the app store - .....

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rfmbZkqORX4&playnext_from=TL&videos=g-o54OK6aDE

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DUWo19BcC7s&playnext_from=TL&videos=qPeZ6ZJhF-M
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aVjIsL8qwNw
    Aristophrenia-74d71
  • Aristo, saying HTML5 is the Apple alternative to flash suggests that Apple authored it, which is the kind of history re-write Apple and Jobs are famous for.
    meski.oz@...
  • Already have my Motorola Milestone or Droid for short. Battery problems are a real nuisance but apart from that this is a brilliant phone. & like one of the previous commenters I feel that those who have the money to pay for a n iPhone & do deserve them. They can have their little piece of Eden which while nice is only a small part of the landscape. I for one like having Flash working. It isn't perfect but Adobe are working on it. One of my primary reasons for never getting a MAC anything is the closed nature of its system. You shut me in, I shut you out. Never have had one & never will. I also do not run Windows for exactly the same reason.

    Linux is here & happening. Android is a great OS.
    alfielee@...
  • I tried out the HTC Desire in a T-life shop last week. Most impressive!
    I was expecting confusion, having never used Android before but I was amazed it only took me 5 minutes to figure out the functions I consider critical for my use.
    Like Rex (above) I detest Apple's closed OS, un-customisable iPhone.
    I wish I had done more research before buying one. It never occurred to me that Apple could be so controlling & paranoid.
    All we need now is better battery technology, but I will probably get a HTC Desire anyway when the opportunity arises.
    Yoda7