I’ve just seen another headline about how the Android user base has overtaken that of the iPhone in the US and it really irks me. Let me start by saying I’ve not got either, so this is not a disgruntled fan-boy post. Also, my argument is based on the situation in the UK market, so if the US market is very different I apologize.
My problem with this sort of headline is to do with the lack of clarity in these comparisons. How do the writers define smartphone? It seems where Android is concerned they just mean a phone that can actually run Android. I guess Android does allow for most of the functionality you would commonly associate with a smartphone. OK. So let’s assume this a a fight between iPhone and anything else that can run Android.
If I do a price comparison from one specific UK retailer, based on their “most popular” contracts here’s what I get:
- iPhone 4: £139 one-off payment, plus £35.75 contract
- Android: Free phone. £15.32 per month.
So why is there such a discrepancy? Because you can run Android on some very mediocre phones. In some cases the kit is inferior to the first generation iPhones. I would suggest the cheaper Android options, although capable of doing all the things associated with a smartphone, do them so badly (mostly due to very small screen size) that they shouldn’t really be called smartphones. They certainly shouldn’t be compared with the user experience of the iPhone 4 or the top end Android phones. Also, the basic Android contract listed above comes with no data plan, so it’s a phone with no internet connectivity. That’s right, you have bought a smart phone that is really not smart. In the UK market Android phones span the entire market from “cheap and cheerful” to expensive and bleeding edge.
So when I look at these headlines I have to question what is really being compared. If you buy an iPhone and only use it as a mobile phone you are a bit of a muppet. If you buy a bottom of the range Android phone and contract, I don’t think you should be included as a smartphone user because what you have is not usable in a manner that I consider a smartphone should be.
So what I would like to see is a comparison of people using iPhone 4 with people using “real” Android smart phones. In the UK at least, I think this would drastically alter the results.