September 8, 2013

The iPhone vs. Android Dilemma (2013 Edition)

The tech space, especially mobile, is a fascinating place.  A popular brand can lose it's dominance in a very short period of time. Once powerful leading brands have become brands that are hardly surviving, to name a few in recent history:
Sony, Palm, Motorola, Nokia, BlackBerry, HTC(?)
Smartphones have reached a hardware plateau!
I have been getting the feeling that Apple is starting to lose its ground.  Based on the loosely gathered blog and Facebook commentaries I am seeing, folks are not as excited to hear about the upcoming release of the new "iPhone 5s" or "iPhone 5c". There can be a couple of reasons around technological maturity; the fact is, smartphones have matured, in it's current reincarnation, it has all the hardware features one can wish for (AGPS, 4G data rivaling broadband, Ultra MP cameras, Super HD and high density screens, Extreme-fast CPU, etc...).  I read somewhere that prior to this upcoming release, a typical iPhone's CPU improvements from one release to the next is 100% faster than the previous, with this upcoming release of iPhone 5S, it will "only" be 31% faster than it's predecessor. The other reason is that Android devices have taken the last two years to polish itself to rival the iPhones and beyond; from every corner of the manufacturing world, phones are upping the ante on LCD resolution and size, low light camera performance, dual or quadcore CPUs at breakneck speed. iPhones no longer take the lead in design, hardware spec and most importantly, offer the best UI anymore.

Why iPhone users are shifting to Androids?
Android devices (ie. Samsung Galaxy S4, Nexus 4, HTC One, Moto X, LG G2, etc...) have come a long way.  Working closely with Google engineers, these device manufactures have come up with a long list of impressive hardware specs to exceed Apple's standards.  For example, Samsung GS4 stepped up to a extra large size battery 2,600 mAh, with the latest Galaxy Note 3 at a stunning 3,200 mAh; LG G2 will be equipped with 3,000 mAh... these larger battery is helping to work around the power management challenges of the inherent android OS design.  iPhones have always been stellar with its cameras but lately, competitors have stepped up in that game exceeding what Android can do (btw, the best camera today appears to be on a Nokia Windows phone).  Not to mention a slew of software advantages (apps) Google now has over Apple with Google Maps, Gmail and YouTube being the top used apps in smartphones today.  These manufacturers have caught up to Apple but did not just stop there, better ideas are coming up for the Android camp.  From NFC tec tiles, to Kevlar casing to re-positioned buttons for larger screens to F/2.0 low light camera, Androids phones are pushing the limits.  Finally, Android ability for ease of customization is just icing on the cake.

Why ex-Android users love iPhone 4 and 5?
On the other hand, I am hearing (and feeling) a lot of mistrust of Android devices from early adapters. These early adapters have switched from Android to iPhones in recent months and were quite happy to see how smooth iPhones 3, 4, and 4s were. Speaking from my own experience, early Android devices (Pre-2012) were buggy, sluggish, difficult to use, lack in apps, poor battery life and more importantly, unpolished.  I was using a Galaxy Nexus which is a pretty good phone on paper and until last week I picked up the Nexus 4 on sale and it was then I realized a huge leap in hardware spec improvement and how sluggish the my old Galaxy Nexus has become.  Newer, high power Android handsets using smoking fast quad-core Snapdragon processors and 2GB+ in RAM is extremely responsive and are likely to pack with 2,000-3000 mAh batteries to make it last a full day.  I am finally convinced that Android handsets are ready for prime time (especially if you buy the NEXUS devices in pure Google experience), but... WHAT WILL TAKE TO CONVINCE THOSE CONVERTED IPHONE-USERS TO GIVE ANDROID ANOTHER CHANCE (and switch back to Android)?

So what does this mean?
I cannot predict the future for Apple but without Steve Jobs at the helm, I worry they simply do not have enough vision to survive the long term future, Tim Cook's game plan as a business man will keep the company a float for a few years by tapping into other countries still in love with the Apple brand (similar path as Nokia, and then BlackBerry, took on its way down).  On the Android front, Google is pushing the phone manufacturers in what I believe as a love-and-hate relationship.  They push with a black sheep strategy via back-handed passive-aggressive devices known as "Nexus" and 1-up the hardware manufactures every year to elevate hardware specs and lowering prices...  All at the same time challenging each manufacture to differentiate itself between hardware (form factor, etc) and software (TouchWiz, HTC Sense, etc.).  In the end, users are growing more excited towards each generations of NEXUS devices as we receive the raw intention from Google w/o robbing away device power (CPU and Battery life) compared to the heavier Manufacturer's build... not to mention Nexus devices receives latest Android OS first!  I expect manufactures to 1-up each other on specs (ie. You give the 3GB RAM, I will go up to 4GB, you give 5" screen, I will go up to 6") thus repeating a similar model we've seen in the PC/Laptop industry.

In conclusion, I am convinced Android devices are finally on-par or exceed the iPhones.  For the first time in a long time, I am actually anxious to see what the rumored NEXUS 5 is up to...

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