Many prominent tech writers get lots of attention by writing about how they’re switching from the iPhone to Android. I know several of these individuals and speak with other writers frequently, and so I thought an interesting angle to explore would be the reasons why I’m not switching to Android.
To lay the groundwork for my points you need to understand that I have in my possession all the flagship Android, Windows Phone and BlackBerry devices. I’ve tried and tested them all, using them as my primary phones for a period of time in order to form an opinion. I’m aware of the fact that this is a luxury not all have. Still, my conclusion is that they aren’t for me.
I wrote last year in a column that our technology picks are simply matters of personal preference. Because someone chooses Android and another chooses the iPhone isn’t a big deal, and it’s certainly not something worth arguing about. The fact that I’m not switching to Android or any other platform isn’t a big deal. That said, there is an interesting dimension to this conversation worth talking about.
The reason I can make the claim that I’m not switching to Android or Windows or BlackBerry is because I’m a mature smartphone user. I was one of the earliest adopters of the devices, so I’ve been using smartphones as long as anyone. Whether you consider the Kyocera 6035 or the Handspring Treo the first true smartphone, I’ve used them all since they hit the market. If you want to get technical about it, I even had exposure to the IBM Simon, which for many is the first smartphone.
Because I’ve been using smartphones for so long, I’ve had the luxury of being able to fully define my likes and dislikes. More salient to this consumer-psychology point, I know why I like certain things and dislike others. This helps me very quickly filter out potential choices when it comes to smartphones.
What we need to recognize about today’s smartphone market is that although smartphones have high penetration in developed markets, we don’t have high penetration of mature smartphone owners. Many hundreds of millions of consumers are on their first or second smartphone; these customers have not yet had sufficient years of exposure to these devices for their preferences to coalesce. It makes sense, then, that we still see evidence in the market today of a certain percentage of people trying out different platforms in order to identify what they like and don’t like.
This explains why we see writers saying they’re switching from iPhone to Android, and even writers saying they’re switching back to the iPhone after living with an Android device. If we understand the dynamics of how a market matures, none of this should surprise us. Just because a prominent blogger writes that he’s switching from the iPhone to Android (or vice versa) hardly spells doom for Apple.
Analysts, pundits, Wall Street folk and the like will look at slight variances in market share and claim that a platform is more dynamic than static, causing them to make incorrect assumptions about the health of a particular platform or company. Some will read into a small market-share dip and deem that said company is doomed, when in reality we’re simply seeing consumer experimentation causing fluctuation. This is a natural evolution in the maturation process of any given technology market. When we understand this, cooler heads can prevail.
The big question isn’t whether consumers will experiment with different smartphone platforms — a certain percentage always will — but rather which smartphone platform will consumers eventually commit to. Over the next decade, as we see this play out at a global level, we’ll have a much clearer idea of which platforms can stand the test of time.
Sticking With the iPhone
Let’s address the point in my title. As I continually try to make clear, technology choices are highly personal. Things that matter to me may not matter to you, and thus we may appreciate different things for different reasons. But for me, my choice to stick with the iPhone has everything to do with how productive I can be with iOS while mobile. Whenever I use an Android phone as my primary phone (or a Windows Phone, or the BlackBerry devices), I feel a profound drop in my productivity. This does not mean that I can’t be productive on other platforms, but that I am most productive while mobile with iOS. Whether that’s e-mail, project collaboration, document and tasks synchronization, key apps I use for work and personal things, collaboration on tasks or calendar with family, and a host of other functions, I am the most productive and effective in work and personal matters with iOS.
I have nothing against other platforms, and many alternatives to the iPhone have things I appreciate. But those things haven’t been worth the trade-offs.
That said, I’m all for market experimentation. I’ve had friends and family tell me they wanted to try a new smartphone just to see how they’d like it compared with whatever they currently own. To help them narrow the search, I’ll assess the key features they’re interested in, then make a recommendation.
Experimentation within any market is key to that market’s maturity as well as the evolution of the hardware, software and services promising solutions to these customers. We don’t all drive the same make and model cars, and, likewise, we’ll never all use the same smartphone platform. This is good for consumers and healthy for the market. We need to learn how not to overreact to this sort of necessary experimentation, which occurs naturally as consumers learn what they want and don’t want from new and evolving technology.
Bajarin is a principal at Creative Strategies Inc., a technology industry analysis and market intelligence firm in Silicon Valley. He contributes to the Big Picture opinion column that appears here every week on TIME Tech.