Phone Wars Part 3: The 800 Pound Gorilla

In less than five years, Android has become the dominant global market leader, with some studies saying close to 80% of the world’s smartphones run it. And from the beginning, it’s been positioned as the anti-iPhone. It’s the most open operating system with a vast array of makes and models.  There are multiple flavors of Android and the overall experience is very dependent on the phone manufactuer/wireless carrier combo. The same phone on Verizon will be a little different on AT&T. It’s not night and day but Android is an inconsistent experience across devices and carriers, and that's probably the biggest knock.  

Pros:  Android occupies an interesting position and appeals to the entire user spectrum. If you’re a tech hobbyist who tinkers with every aspect of your phone, then Android is probably your first choice. But you're also looking at it if you’re buying your first smartphone, even if you don't care about all the technical specs and capabilities.  For more basic requirements such as size, form factor, weight, battery life, and screen size/quality, Android offers many more options across all the carriers.  Add in their non-exclusivity hardware model and a developer friendly ecosystem, Android tries to be everything to everyone.  And it does it remarkably well.  Unlike iPhones and Windows Phones, you can root your phone, which is a process that allows you to attain privileged access to the sub-system. For tech geeks who like to tear apart and rebuild their devices, it doesn’t get any better. This openness leads to variations which allow manufacturers and carriers to tailor it for a better fit within their product lines. An ecosystem as robust as Apple’s and the market leader position should give any customer confidence his/her purchase will hold up well for the life of the phone.  

Cons: The wild west of mobile operating systems. Many people don’t need privileged access to their phone sub-system and a more limited, or closed, system will work just as well, maybe better. The openness also means inconsistent experiences across different wireless providers and devices. Android on Samsung is not the same as it is on Motorola and Samsung on Verizon isn’t the same as Samsung on AT&T.  For some folks, especially those switching from an iPhone, Android can appear more complicated and less intuitive.  It's partially true; the more you understand about gadgets/computers in general, the better you'll do with Android.  A complete novice may feel overwhelmed but it's not a super steep learning curve.  The various flavors can also be frustrating.  More so if you're supporting many devices and trying to ensure compatibility within the enterprise.  For the home user, it's less of an issue but one that's creeping into the picture...

Conclusion:  You're not the dominant mobile OS for no reason.  Android launched at the right time and offered exactly what the industry wanted.  The sales numbers prove it and it's actually shocking how big a lead it is.  With that said, my unscientific analysis is Android users generally fall into a few categories: 1) The anti-Apple contingent. 2) Those who want more options when it comes to the phone themselves. Whether it’s the best screen for gaming or a certain size or the longest battery life, you have much more to choose from. 3) Then there are those who simply like betting on a winner and in the bet for being the ubiquitous mobile operating system of the next ten years, the smart money is on Android.

Next up is Windows Phone, the dark horse in the race.

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