The iPhone could be just one killer app away from beating Android

Jan 18, 2012
Tech

Through the course of writing about mobile apps and their platforms, a lot of numbers get published that suggest who is beating whom in terms of market share between Apple’s iOS platform and Google’s Android operating system. The back and forth is important because things like market leadership and penetration are the macro view of […]

Through the course of writing about mobile apps and their platforms, a lot of numbers get published that suggest who is beating whom in terms of market share between Apple’s iOS platform and Google’s Android operating system. The back and forth is important because things like market leadership and penetration are the macro view of the app story. The more people using iOS or Android, the more apps get made for them, and the more money invested in making those platforms better in order to keep business working. But the constant back-and-forth can get a little tedious.

Recent numbers released by research firm Nielsen, however, suggest that while Android is the dominant platform on the planet, Apple’s iOS always has a little juice left in the tank that could help it do something no one expects. By all accounts, Android should only grow larger as it spreads out across the world, fine-tunes its operating system and experience and gathers more partners in carriers and device makers. But then, every so often, Apple kicks on the afterburners and reminds everyone that it’s too early to call the race.

The most recent afterburner’s name is Siri.

Driven by the new iPhone

As PC World reports, Nielsen’s latest survey focused on new smartphone owners in the fourth quarter of 2011 in the U.S. Among people who bought new smartphones in December, 44.5 percent opted for an iPhone – double the number who did so in October. Meanwhile, only 46.9 percent of those who bought new phones went with Android devices, down significantly from the 61.6 percent who bought Android phones in October. The difference between those two periods: the iPhone 4S.

READ  Trending - Did Google Copy Twitter?

While Android still accounts for the biggest share of the U.S. smartphone market, appearing on 46 percent of all devices in use in the U.S., many consumers in December opted for Apple’s platform instead. Among those buying iPhones, the big majority – 57 percent – went with the iPhone 4S. Previously, we heard that customers were even breaking contracts to get the latest iPhone, and Nielsen reported that Apple’s market share rose to 43 percent in October and November, from 26 percent in Q3 2011. Meanwhile, Android’s share dropped from 60 percent to 46 percent in the same period.

It’s probably oversimplifying to find one cause in the shifts of the market for both companies, but the iPhone 4S was undoubtedly at least one big reason for the change. And the real reason for the sales of the iPhone 4S, given how similar it is to the iPhone 4, is Siri, the voice-activated personal assistant software that comes with the new iPhone and only with the new iPhone.

One app to rule them all

The big swing in Nielsen’s numbers after the release of the iPhone 4S, plus the rampant demand and the trend of customers being willing to pay extra to drop their contracts and upgrade early, suggest some very important things about Siri. The software has captured the attention and imagination of a lot of smartphone buyers. Voice-activated technology is by no means new, but Siri is an impressive gadget that looks new. It’s exciting in that “magic” way Steve Jobs was so fond of talking about in terms of Apple devices. Even with controversy and bugs, even though Siri is still a beta product being actively worked on by Apple, it still brought lots of buyers to Apple’s doorstep.

READ  Trending - Did Google Copy Twitter?

That suggests that while Android and iPhone are pretty evenly matched on most fronts, Apple could be just one (or maybe two) really killer apps away from turning the tables. Imagine if Siri was a full-fledged, working product, up to par with what Apple claims it’ll be able to do: it would have blown the doors off, if the reception of the beta version of Siri is any indication.

Where Apple succeeds and Android falters is that Apple is, more often than not, taking the forward steps in the mobile race, while Android is keeping pace. In the U.S., Apple has narrowed the gap with one device brand against Android’s army. Siri is a pretty solid candidate as to why.

That suggests that the iPhone 5 could be a game changer in this on-going discussion, should Apple have the wherewithal to see the success of Siri and bring another game-changing app to the announcement. If it’s a great app, one might be all Apple needs.

Search for more

Phil Hornshaw

Phil Hornshaw is a freelance writer, editor and author living in Los Angeles, dividing his time between playing video games, playing video games on his cell phone, and writing about playing video games. He’s also the co-author of So You Created a Wormhole: The Time Traveler’s Guide to Time Travel, which attempts to mix time travel pop culture with some semblance of science, as well as tips on the appropriate means of riding dinosaurs. Check out his profile.

    Home Apps Games