This editorial is a response to a couple of articles that have been published in the past 24 hours, basically saying that the reason Android has become hugely popular is because it’s cheap.
Gismodo published the article entitled “Android Is Popular Because It’s Cheap, Not Because It’s Good“. TechCrunch then published a follow-up article “The Truth Is That Android Is Cheap, Not Good“. I suggest you read them both.
Sam Biddle’s Gismodo article is a response to the stats that 75% of smartphones shipped in 2012 Q3 where Android.
Sam makes a lot of valid points. There are a lot of people who aren’t willing to spend a lot of money on a phone, buying cheap Android “Smartphones”. It makes sense that richer people are more likely to drop a bundle of cash for a iOS device – everyone has heard of the iPhone and Apple have a reputation for well-designed premium devices and owning one is still somewhat of a status symbol. Also there is no doubt that Google giving away Android for free helped get adoption from manufacturers and get the popularity gains it needed in the early days.
Of course price is an important factor in our choice of smartphone. However what these articles suggest is that price is the overriding factor, and that the people buying Android phones are happy to put up with an inferior experience to save a few bucks.
The truth is that Android has become so popular, not only because of cost but because it has matched and even surpassed the experience of iOS devices. From the name of this site, you’ll expect some Android bias, but don’t just take my word for it. Take a look at what many tech. journalists are using. The majority of those with ready access to a wide range of devices and who spend time evaluating each platform are now carrying Android smartphones along with their MacBooks. Price can’t be considered a major factor for them. Consumer reports magazine (which also offers unbiased ratings) rates the top Android smartphones above the iPhone 5.
A couple of years ago Android and iOS were roughly equivalent in terms of OS, and Android lacked the same quantity and quality of apps. Since Ice-Cream Sandwich and especially Jellybean, this is no longer the case. Top Android smartphones have surpassed the iPhone. I expect a similar story for Android tablets which are also rapidly gaining on the iPad. Android’s increasing popularity is already driving developers to pay more attention to tablet optimization, and it’s becoming more and more difficult to find those apps that don’t scale well to a tablet.
Overall, I don’t pay a lot of attention to smartphone sales numbers. Price is undoubtedly the driving force and as such these figures are not a good way to compare handsets. However if you compare the features, usability and even design of the iPhone 5 to the top Android smartphones, Android is no longer just the budget option.