The Smartphone Battle Continues

June 24th, 2010

Today Apple releases the iPhone 4 to the masses. Or, at least it’s the release date. Stories abound of shortages, long lines, and people weeping either over the glories of their new device or devastating depression at not getting one yet. That’s all well and good – and getting a lot of press – but where does this ongoing battle actually stand?

Back in March, I weighed in on some things going on with the mobile device war that’s being waged between Apple and Google. The heat’s still on. Google posted yesterday that more than 160,000 new Android-powered devices are activated every day. More than two per second. That’s a lot. And nicely timed with that announcement, Google.

Here’s what is striking me now: How similar is this current situation to Apple vs. Microsoft in the early days of personal computers?

Hear me out.

Apple comes up with the Mac. It’s awesome. A mouse. All-in-one computer. Great interface. Easy to use. Kinda expensive. Can only be bought from Apple.

Microsoft’s OS can be installed on any compatible hardware. It’s relatively easy and open to program for. It’s not quite as nice, but it works. And you can buy it anywhere.

Flash forward. Apple’s phone is awesome. Incredible technological advances and a huge WANT factor. Must be bought from Apple and used on AT&T’s network. Google doesn’t have a phone, but it has an OS. It’s available on many different pieces of hardware from a variety of carriers.

The data shows that Android is making decent gains against the iPhone. Quantcast has a nice writeup about market share and the relative growth of the top mobile OS’s in the market. This chart is particularly interesting:

Granted, this shows mobile web consumption, but that’s a good (and easy to measure) indicator of how things are going.

I think it’s worth keeping an eye on this trend. Apple makes a nice big deal about what they are doing and they get a lot of press for it. They set the standard and they set it high. But Google does a lot of things very well, too. And at a certain point, what features are luxuries and which are necessities? A screen with a resolution higher than you can perceive is really cool (iPhone 4) but a nice large display in full color is still perfectly good when it’s a little handheld device.

Ultimately for consumers and marketers, though, who wins doesn’t matter as much. What really matters, and what we must pay attention to, is the accelerating adoption of mobile devices into the marketplace. People can get their data anywhere at any time. And it’s making a difference in personal communications and buying habits.

There are exciting days ahead!