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“It’s just like an iPhone”

August 13, 2010

“It’s just like an iPhone.”

That’s the phrase I hear every single day, from dozens of people who have bought Android phones instead of the iPhone.

That phrase makes me cringe, because I know that there’s simply no comparison to the iPhone and that it’s downright insulting to compare other phones to the iPhone.

The iPhone is a real OS X-based computer in the palm of your hands, that just happens to double as a phone. Android phones are phones first, with all the other features tacked on as poorly-implemented afterthoughts (that were ineffectively stolen from Apple).

But that, I believe, is the real problem here for Apple. At this point, anybody who hasn’t already purchased the iPhone doesn’t really want a full computer in their hands. They just want a phone that successfully makes calls… oh, and hopefully it has a couple of cool extra features on the side like checking email & checking Facebook.

So therefore, the vast majority of people don’t care about the vast differences in quality between the iPhone and the Android. For the vast majority of people, Android is close enough to an iPhone. And most importantly of all, Android is available on all cell phone carriers in the United States.

And therefore, I am forced to hear this annoying phrase every day:

“It’s just like an iPhone.”

If you haven’t already bought an iPhone at this point, I’m guessing that you, too, really want to make phone calls first and foremost. It is widely known and widely reported that AT&T is the nation’s worst cell phone carrier. I love my iPhone 4 and I would never trade it in for a crappy Android phone, but even I have to take deep breaths several times a day to calm myself down over dozens of AT&T dropped calls or AT&T dead zones. And not just in Los Angeles, either. The same thing happened when I was visiting Las Vegas (horrible reception!), Boulder, San Diego, San Jose, San Francisco, and Chicago. AT&T is the worst! And they are ruining Apple’s reputation for high quality!

All of this is a serious problem for Apple.

Just like Apple lost the Mac vs. PC marketshare war (even though their product was superior), Apple is on the path to losing the cell phone marketshare war (even though their product is superior). And it’s all because Apple hasn’t brought the iPhone to other carriers.

For the average consumer, there’s simply no advantage to why they should purchase an iPhone. For the average consumer, Android’s horrible touchscreen is good enough. For the average consumer, Android’s unintuitive user interface is good enough. For the average consumer, Android’s lack of security is good enough. For the average consumer, all the crappy Android hardware out there is good enough. For the average consumer, Android’s small app selection is good enough because most of the apps they want to use (Facebook, Google Maps, Dropbox, etc.) are available on Android. Even iPhone 4’s FaceTime videochatting isn’t an advantage to the average consumer. For most people, FaceTime is a novelty — something you do once or twice, then you go back to texting & phone calling again. And if Apple makes FaceTime open source like they say they are going to, then you could eventually buy ANY Android phone and still do FaceTime videochatting on it anyways. So again, where’s the iPhone advantage to the average consumer?

For the average consumer, there is simply one looming disadvantage to the iPhone: AT&T.

Nobody wants to be with AT&T. Not even the people who are with AT&T.

And please do NOT get me started on AT&T’s complete hypocrisy with roll-over minutes for phone calls but no roll-over data. Um, AT&T, it’s all the exact same data going through your cell towers! Don’t even get me started on AT&T charging their customers 3 separate times for the same exact data: iPhone, iPad, and iPhone tethering. And don’t even get me started on AT&T’s outrageous text messaging fees. (By the way, Verizon isn’t any better when it comes to their fees.) So above and beyond AT&T’s horrible phone call quality, we’ve also got to deal with AT&T’s predatory financial practices as well. I was only paying $60 a month back when I was with Sprint on my Treo 650 — and that included tethering and unlimited data.

And so, I have to grit my teeth every time I hear that phrase:

“It’s just like an iPhone.”

On top of the AT&T problem, let’s throw in the perceived iPhone 4 antennagate problems too. Every day, I receive emails from average, non-technical consumers asking me when Apple is going to “fix all the problems with the iPhone 4″. I simply refer them to Apple’s press conference video. Real or not, consumers believe that the iPhone 4 is flawed. Real or not, there is so much bad word-of-mouth spreading about AT&T and the iPhone 4 that the average consumer really doesn’t want to jump into that pool of sharks right now.

Here are just a few stories about people I know who just bought Android phones, and now they’re locked into 2 year contracts without an iPhone. At the end of the 2 years, it’s highly likely that they’ll feel so comfortable with the Android OS that they will continue to purchase another Android phone.

  • My dad just bought an Android phone because he is not going to leave Verizon for AT&T. He gets NO AT&T signal at his home, at his office, or at his winter home in Florida. And no thank you, he is not interested in buying $150 AT&T Microcell 3G towers for every place that he could possibly be in a given day. A Microcell tower isn’t going to help him while he’s dropping AT&T phone calls on the freeway. He just called to tell me, “My new phone is just like the iPhone.”
  • A friend of mine just bought an Android phone because she is on Sprint and has an incredible $50 per month unlimited everything plan that she’s been grandfathered in on. She has no plans on ever leaving Sprint for her entire life. She told me, “My phone is just like the iPhone.”
  • A client of mine just bought an Android phone on T-Mobile because she doesn’t get any AT&T signal at her home, she loves T-Mobile’s customer service, she has a super cheap monthly plan, and she has always been with T-Mobile. She said to me, “My phone is just like the iPhone.”
  • Another friend of mine just bought an Android phone because she lives up in the Hollywood Hills, where AT&T has never had any cell towers at all and where there is absolutely no signal at all. You guessed it. “My phone is just like the iPhone.”
  • Hell, a friend of mine who is ALREADY WITH AT&T just bought an Android phone because “I’ve heard horrible stories about the iPhone 4. I’m waiting until the iPhone 5G comes out.” And then for good measure, he added, “My phone is really just like the iPhone.”

When it comes down to it, Apple is losing the war here. They’re losing mindshare, they’re losing marketshare, and they’re losing any effective way to distinguish themselves from the other phones on the market. As a result, Android phones are selling at the astonishing rate of 200,000 per day, and is now the 3rd most popular phone OS in the world. Apple is #4.

Is Apple going to wake up in time? Or is this going to be a redux of the Mac-PC war, where Apple’s superior technology loses once again, and we enter into another 20 years of technological dark ages, driven by companies like Google and Verizon that are driven solely by greed and not what is in the best interest for the consumer?

If Apple doesn’t wake up quickly, we’re all going to be living in an Android world.

And that is one world that I don’t want to live in.

I want to live in a world where people are able to realize for themselves:

“No, it’s not just like an iPhone.”


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