As I contemplate my next smartphone purchase it has become apparent to me why iPhones, iPad and iPod Touches have a very significant advantage over Android phones which will be very difficult for Android phone manufacturers such as Samsung, HTC & LG to overcome (and also for that matter Windows Phone manufacturers such as Nokia).
It all stems from the common iOS operating system and associated apps that can largely run across this line of devices. Through the iOS app store and associated iOS app development ecosystem, Apple has built up a significant community of users and developers who are pretty much locking in to iOS devices. There are still many iOS apps that are not available on Android and many developers who still exclusively develop for iOS.
As I contemplate buying an Android phone (the new HTC One looks good) and ditching my almost out of contract iPhone 4S, I have to factor in the large number of iPhone apps that I have become very reliant on since I bought my first iPhone 3GS in 2010. Many of these are still not available on Android (even though there are almost certainly equivalents). Over the last 3 years I have accumulated almost 200 apps, many of which I have paid good money for. If I were to move to Android I would have to either re-buy the Android version or find an equivalent Android app with an associated learning curve. This would involve significant time and financial investment.
Conversely if I was an existing Android user on say a Samsung Galaxy S3 about to come out of contract, I have a multitude of phones from competing manufacturers to choose from e.g. the new HTC One mentioned above. I can easily move my suite of Android apps across to my new phone and the old manufacturer will loose my business. Android phone manufacturers are well aware of this and that’s why they’re heavily investing in manufacturer specific feature add-ons to Android e.g. Samsung Smart Pause and Smart Scroll. Ironically these will only serve to splinter the Android ecosystem more and destroy a main selling point of Android phones – that of being able to easily switch devices an take your apps with you and not being locked in to a single manufacturer.
This means that Apple is going to have a significant advantage as a smartphone and tablet manufacturer over it’s competitors for the foreseeable future.