Why there's record number of switchers from Android to iPhone (again)

Even with a few key differences, iOS and Android are more alike than ever. And with big iPhones available, Android is no longer the only game in town for the large screen crowd.
Written by Kevin Tofel, Contributor

What is it that has Apple CEO, Tim Cook, telling investors "we experienced the highest switcher rate from Android that we've ever measured," for the second time in as many quarters?

For starters, we don't know what the actual figure is how many Android owners were part of the 47.5 million iPhones sold in Apple's third fiscal quarter. It could be a small but clearly growing number.

Regardless of the actual figure, I'm not surprised to see a rising rate of Android switchers to iPhones at this point. There are few reasons, I can think of; some having do with hardware while others are because of the software platform.

First, despite some differences, Android and iOS are now far more alike than ever.

Go back a few years and that wasn't the case. When asking someone why they chose an Android phone, typical responses might be "I want a custom keyboard," or "I think widgets are handy, " or even "Android's intents system makes it easy to share things."

Look at iOS 8 now and those reasons are far less relevant, if not even no longer applicable.

Sure, some people may still prefer how you can customize Android widgets and place them on any home screen. With iOS, widgets aren't always visible: You have to pull down from the top of your iPhone screen to see them. It's a different implementation but essentially the same concept.


Extension support in iOS now makes it just as easy to share text, images or other objects to social networks, web services or other apps. Custom keyboards? They're in there too.

What about people (like me) who are heavily invested in Google's ecosystem? Thanks to Google, it's actually a positive experience to use the company's apps for iOS. There's little advantage to using Android for Google products as a result.

Then there's the hardware aspect.

There are certainly more than a few Android flagship phones that either rival or exceed the iPhone in one way or another. The LG G4 has an outstanding camera, for example, while the new Galaxy S6 display is superb. I don't claim that Apple is the "best" phone for everyone.

It is a good phone for most people, however, and it's a known commodity. By that I mean, you generally know what you're getting when you buy an iPhone: A blended experience of hardware and software that works together in an expected way that meets Apple's vision.

Android phones, by comparison, come from hundreds of different manufacturers that don't use a set of common components. That's not necessarily a bad thing -- it can actually be good -- but it brings a highly variable experience depending on who made the phone and what software tweaks they've made to Android.

Lastly, Android hardware lost a key advantage when Apple debuted the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus last year.

Apple iPhone 6 Plus (hands on): Already replaced my Android phone

Many people wanted phones larger than what Apple offered, so they opted for Android: It essentially was the only game in town. Now that Apple offers a pair of bigger phones, there's a choice to be made, even for those who prefer larger handsets.

Given that phone upgrade cycles are generally in the 12 to 18 month range, I wouldn't be surprised if these same reasons keep the Android switching rate high for another two quarters. After that, we'll have to see if Android M and Google's hardware partners can start luring back some of its lost sheep.

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