It seems every year we see a level of discontent among some iPhone users, enough to drive them away from the iPhone into the arms of the green guy. To my knowledge, there isn’t any statistical data on the number or percentage of users making the jump. Wireless contracts make jumping ship increasingly difficult with most people tied to 2-year contracts. In Canada, you have to commit to three years to receive a subsidy on a new phone. Changing phones, let alone platforms is a big decision. Are these idle threats or people are really switching? If so, why are they making the switch from iPhone to Android?
If this were the Family Feud and we still had the dearly departed Richard Dawson, he would reveal the number one answer as he yelled “Show me bigger display“. There was a time when phones claimed one-handed use as a critical benefit. While that still might be true, the way in which we use phones has changed with faster processors, improved cameras, wireless networks and apps. These are full blown media devices. Years back (and I’m dating myself back to the Palm Treo days), smartphones were primarily used for checking email or productivity apps. I do not think it would be a stretch to say that gaming, watching movies and taking/viewing photos are more important to the average consumer. The natural inclination is to think, “This would look much better on a bigger display.” Those who have stuck to the iOS ecosystem, might have gotten that bug from using the iPad. If the iPad mini could make calls, you can bet that people would buy it. Competitors have seized this opportunity. Samsung hasn’t met a display size they weren’t comfortable manufacturing and selling. They don’t care what you buy, as long as it is from Samsung. Apple’s increase from a 3.5-inch display to a 4-inch display was certainly welcome, but it’s still small compared to most, if not all of the major phones available on Android or even Windows Phone. When people browse Best Buy in search of a TV, I wonder how many opt for a larger display, if there is no difference in price? Even if there is a hit to quality, is it something the average customer can process at the time of purchase? I’m not sure big is a quality, but it’s certainly a purchase factor.
When it comes to iPhones and iPads, Apple has sold a metric ton. Maybe slightly less, but fair to say it’s a large number, spread across all types of users. When you have that large of a user base, it’s not that easy to turn the ship, nor would it be a smart business move. As Apple recently reminded us, people love their iPhones and they love the familiarity of iOS. As a result, we’ve seen a layering of features each year, with the core functionality remaining very much the same. Some have argued that it’s happening again this year, suggesting that iOS 7 is nothing more than a fresh coat of paint. When you are responsible for the stewardship of millions of users, you cannot reinvent the OS every year. So while Apple continues to move the machine at pace that is slow, but steady, you get folks thinking that the grass is greener or more importantly, it’s different. How do you deal with boredom? You change things up.
On the iPhone, your customization options start and end with wallpaper. One of the primary reasons folks jailbreak their iPhone is to theme. They love to change fonts, icons and things as trivial as the carrier logo. Often the things I see people do to their iPhones is cringeworthy, but that doesn’t diminish what is a valid interest in customization. Android affords this kind of beating your phone with an ugly stick and actually, there are plenty of good looking themes for purchase in Google Play. Geez, you can even run an iOS 7 theme. A large number of apps have widgets that can be placed on a home screen or even in a lock screen. These widgets push information, which in some cases can create a bit of a home screen cluster. Between custom themes, manufacturer UIs, there is a tremendous amount of differentiation in how they all look and work. On occasion I’ll use an Android phone. I often end up spending less time in apps and more time changing the look and feel. Eventually I get frustrated and pop my nanoSIM back into the iPhone 5.
In the early years, you could count on a new iPhone come each summer. Releases have now switched to the fall, but the yearly trend more or less remains consistent. Apple released the iPhone 5 in September and many expect a new model this September. Phone manufacturers have countered with new devices before, after and during iPhone release windows. The yearly cycle allows for discontent, which is only made worse by rumors of this year being an ‘S’ upgrade.
Phones Are Getting Better
Remember the T-Mobile G1? Android phones have come a long way since then. Having owned the HTC One for a few weeks, I was suitably impressed with the build quality when compared to the iPhone. Samsung still may rely heavily on plastic, but people are looking straight past the plastic to the almost 5-inch display. Cameras on both are also at an acceptable level of quality. Google has also made strides with Android and the quality of third party apps, while still a notch below iOS, are at an acceptable level for most.
Switching phones is easy enough. Switching platforms? Not so much. There is collateral damage in lost app purchases and having to endure a learning curve associated with a new operating system. For many folks, those are acceptable trade-offs. It really boils down to the individual and what they value most, some of which I’ve outlined. I’m certain there are other reasons not covered above and most of what I’m referencing is anecdotal evidence sourced in forums, Twitter and Facebook. A few years ago, switchers were far and few between, but the other guys are getting better. Apple’s big release this year will be iOS 7 and it will ship on an entirely new iPhone. Come this fall, the spotlight will once again shine directly on Apple retail stores and the throngs of people lined up to buy the new iPhone. Those considering a switch will have to decide if those are compelling enough reasons to stay with what they know and love.