Affordability is the key factor in Android adoption

Apple iPhones aren't seeing the uptake in some markets due to price. Android devices are more affordable and therefore more accessible.
Written by Ken Hess, Contributor

I've read comments from readers, on my blog and others, that Android's superiority is the main reason that its popularity is growing worldwide. I have evidence to the contrary. It comes down to affordability and nothing else. If it weren't for the huge price difference in the two, Apple would be the clear winner. At worldwide sales of an estimated 244 million, the iPhone is a major force in the mobile market. Android phones might or might not have the same or greater marketshare but the bottom line is that it doesn't really matter which one has the greater share at those numbers. Mobile device users generally prefer Apple over anything else but if it doesn't make economic sense, then consumers have to choose second or third best for the money.

In the US, iPhones typically retail for around $400 but discounts, known as instant savings,  are available that bring down that cost to $200. A $200 phone is fairly affordable for Americans. However, it's the $100 per month fee for phone service and data that really bites us on the backsides. These numbers are based on my experience with the five iPhones that I have in my house plus a few others that I've asked about from my in-laws and friends.

The Samsung Galaxy SIII is also $200 after instant savings with similarly priced unlimited talk, text and data usage plans. There are phones, even smartphones, available at US retailers for as little as one cent. It's really the monthly fees that make the largest difference for us.

Unfortunately, some US buyers don't opt for the unlimited plans due to the price but end up paying more each month when they exceed their plan limits. Those users inevitably upgrade to the unlimited plans after exhorbitant bills hit their mailboxes.

AT&T, my iPhone carrier, doesn't offer unlimited data plans, therefore we have to watch our usages very carefully. In my opinion, we pay for unlimited but we just aren't getting it. In the end, it's the carriers that really win in the phone battles. Sorry, I digress.

If you don't believe me about economics playing a major role in iPhone vs. Android adoptions, consider the following numbers.

In India, an iPhone 4S costs about $880 to purchase but the monthly fee is approximately $20 per month for a standard phone and data plan. The average tech salary in India is approximately $1,200. In Argentina, the iPhone costs a cool $750 and the monthly fees are a comfortable $45. The problem is that the average salary in Argentina is $900.

Those numbers, hopefully, will surprise you and educate you on the major reason why the iPhone hasn't quite caught on in certain countries. But, if you believe that I'm prejudicing my illustration with low wage countries, let me point out that the iPhone costs over $1,000 in US currency. Canada's iPhone price comes in at just over $800.

Price is a big factor in making a decision about a mobile phone.

By comparison, the Samsung Galaxy SIII cost ranges from $625 to over $700 in India. It sells for around $550 in Argentina. In the UK, the SIII price for an outright purchase is $800 and a mere $150 in Canada with a two year contract.

It seems to me that the choice, based purely on price, is easy in each case.

Neither phone is particularly inexpensive in any country but you have to admit that a 20 to 30 percent savings is significant enough to sway one's opinion and purchase decision toward the less expensive phone.

So, no matter where you are, you really want an iPhone. The reality is that you might not be able to afford one, so you choose to use the next best thing for the money. And, that's OK but don't assume or postulate that popularity equals quality or desire. It does not.

I don't have anything personal against Android phones. If you've kept up with my column, you know that I have a Samsung Galaxy SII and an iPhone 4. I like them both but for me, the iPhone is my choice for a personal phone and until I see something better, I'll always own an iPhone of some generation for personal use. It might not be the latest version but it will be an iPhone.

And, for me the choice wasn't so easy. In the US, the Galaxy phones and iPhones are very close in price, service and capacity. The primary factor that swayed my opinion to the iPhone was the Apps. Apple has the best Apps. The iPhone has a lot of third-party hardware and software support.

Secondarily, I chose the iPhone because of its ease of navigation, its stability, its long battery life and its recommendations by friends and colleagues. For me, the iPhone is the best choice--even if I had to pay a higher price. That's not the case for everyone and I understand that. But, I also understand that people have to make choices based on economics and not just features.

The heart says, "iPhone" but the bank account says, "Not an iPhone."

What do you think? Do you think that Android phones are popular because they're so great or because they're cheaper? Talk back and let me know.

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