the mobile computing space is thought by many to be crowded and over capacitated. That’s something we’ve been told for a long time, now it’s something we all believe to be true. Crowded, yes. Over capacitated, no. But why not, all the "does the industry need another competitor?" articles all say so. Well, lets talk this put, one by one. At the end, I will let you tell the story.
Lets start with the juggernaut that is apple. There are really two types of people in this world, those who cannot stand apple, and those who don’t see a problem. As apple would gladly point out, most fall under the “I don’t see a problem” umbrella. Apple has managed to carve themselves as a standard so to speak. Aside from their own innovation, if you even dream of existing in the mobile space, you have to measure yourself by the yard stick, or what i like to call the apple stick. Apple created something special with the iPhone brand, things like stellar design, functionality, ease of use, app store and experience are now all synonymous with the word iPhone. That’s huge.
Then comes the unstoppable force that is android. You know the madness behind the android brand well, google. No one understands them, but we cannot and will not live without them. An ad agency that spawned a powerful mobile platform? Does that even sound right? Well, as google would have it, you better believe it’s for real. Google started out with a simple notion. Light enough to run on a car stereo but strong enough to turn a smartphone into a powerhouse. Not only did they deliver such a product as promised, but over the last year or so, android as morphed into something special. How so? I’ve watched phone release after release and noted to myself and others on many different occasions, “You do realize these are literally the same phones…” But despite me explaining to people, they never got it, they just needed to have the “newest” android phone. They had no idea if it was better, faster of even newer; they just had to have it. If that isn’t special, I don’t know what it.
We can’t forget Blackberry, sweet sweet blackberries! Say what you want about Blackberry (and I’ve said some fairly negative things) but the brand is holding on strong. What I’ve had to learn about Blackberry is interesting, you see, yes indeed the platform is holding on, but not for dear life like I thought. Instead they’re holding on strong. Have you ever met a Blackberry user? If you have, you would understand why these things still sell, even if they are technically underpowered and lack more than a few features. People love them! Physical keyboards, simple yet elegant designs and powerful messaging options that have yet to be matched. That’s called “relevant.”
Let’s get back to the iPhone for a second; I’d like to talk about what’s wrong. I could just point out it’s an Apple product and have that suffice, but doing so will uncloak me, and you would have discovered my fanboyism. So let’s find some real issues. iOS. That’s a huge issue in itself. No doubt about it, iOS is more than capable, ask the countless brands trying to complete with the iPad. It’s just a scaled version of the iOS, but for more reasons than one, it’s still untouchable. My issue with the OS is not functionality, its functionality. Wait, what? This will be tough to explain, but walk with me!
From its debut to its current state, the iPhone has seen tons of improvements, tweaks and bug fixes. Additions like the app store and real apps, multi-tasking and even android’s notification curtain in iOS 5 are all very real and functional additions. While all welcomed, the UI itself has gone stale. No less functional but still stale, people are growing tired of seeing it, using it and especially paying for it. The practice of launching an app to do what you need is quality becoming yesteryear. With the iphone 5 quickly approaching and the iOS 5 beta’s floating around, much has not been done to make the experience more modern. The way the OS works and function must be changed if it is to keep up with the jones, widgets really are a big deal!
And what of android? With some wild number like 250,000 (I still do not believe those numbers are real) activations a day, surely they can be no issues! Well, WRONG! Android is one huge issue. Almost every aspect of the platform is a nightmare. Firstly let’s discuss the OS’s performance on a daily basis. Let’s face it, it’s slow, choppy and inconsistent. Just about the only Android device I have ever used that was not a user experience nightmare was the nexus one. Even till this day, dual core proc phones with almost a gig of ram still run like dogs after a few days of use. The UI is not UI any more. At this point android UI has been replaced by OI, which stands for OEM Interface (maybe I should trademark that.) I find it interesting you can pick up any android phone and have a completely different expense from device to device, almost none of them good. Apps FC or force quiet on a regular basis, they run wild in the background doing as they please when they want. Because of this, poor battery life is a standard when talking android. It’s sad to watch an android podcast (not naming names) and see the 4 panelists brag about how many batteries they walk around with.
How about the little Blackberry that could, what’s wrong here? Too much to mention, but the main points are a poor OS and identity crisis. As of now, we’re at version 7 of the BB OS. What’s interesting is version 7 is not too far away from version 5. Sure they’ve done loads to clean it up, pretty it up and even make it a bit more stable, but it’s still the same thing, over, and over, and over again (tuck your iPhones away now.) I would love for RIM to fall back, accept their roll and stop targeting the consumer. The more they do that, the more they are pulled away from the enterprise roots that have served them well.
Enter Windows Phone. The old kid on that block, who somehow managed to be the new kid. Many may have forgotten, but Microsoft has been around these parts for some time now. Not only do they have a nice kill list (looking at you palm) but they’ve been added to a really nice one as well (you may now un-tuck your iPhone.) As it seems, Apple and their fruit phone is indeed the best thing to happe in the mobile space. Apple showed up with a stool, bamboo stick and some chalk; many a lesson was handed out. As much teaching as Apple has done, it seems to be Microsoft is the only one who retained those lessons.
Ya see, Apple showed us how a UI is supposed to work; pretty, smooth, and fluid. They showed us how to funnel apps into one location for the user’s convenience. They showed us, you must have software to manage the phone’s media lifestyle on a computer. They showed us that no matter the device, the complete experience must be the same.
Microsoft was listening well. Even before the Mango update, Windows Phone got almost all of these things right. The UI was and still is top notch and highly functional. The Marketplace is alive and well, growing at the same pace Apple’s app store did in its infancy. Zune software is pretty much the best music player and management app you could find. And they even managed to keep the UI and experience the same across the hardware spectrum. Well done! But what is it worth?
Let’s try to rank the industry really quick. Android is the market leader, or so the number would have you believe. But even that is deceiving, there has yet to be any one Android phone to outsell any one of the iPhones. Android’s numbers are so wild, simply because the platform is supported by so many OEMs, and each OEM has at least 3 current devices to offer. That translates into tons of Android Phones sitting on shelves at every carrier. Realistically speaking, Android’s ugly looks, poor performance and just all around sloppiness removes it from the top seed. As far as I am concerned, Android competes with Blackberry for the “sloppy slop awards” race. So that leaves Apple alone at the top. Not anymore.
Windows Phone is the first real competitor to show up to “the Apple show.” They’ve got Apple covered on every single basis. Not only that, but Windows Phone has got the iPhone beat on a few of these basis as well. How so? Walk with me.
The UI in Windows Phone is a better UI. There be no arguing that, it is better to look at, a lot more smooth and is head over heels more functional. You’ll find people who argue this point only do so because they are “familiar” with the iOS look and feel. Nothing’s wrong with that, but once you remove familiarity and factor in reality, iOS takes a back seat. Windows Phone’s app store has taken on a life of its own! With a growth rate faster than that of Android, and on par with iOS, apps are not a concern any more. Zune software is very much a mature product and now offers unlimited music (Netflix style) for $9.99 a month. That’s something Apple doesn’t even offer. Much like Android, Windows Phone exists on different OEM hardware. This was a bad thing for Android because this meant a different experience for which ever OEM you choose. For Windows Phone, it works out well. Microsoft made an early decision to limit what OEMs can do in terms of customizing and tweaking the OS and UI. This turned into the purest consumer experience on the market today. For the first time in a long time, consumers are now able to focus on the hardware that suits them best, and not worry about “features, bells and whistles” on the software side. This is the consistency Apple has offered for years, but now it has been 1 up’ed.
Apple is clearly the king of the hill, Android is not so clearly number two. When the points for debate are presented clearly, Windows Phone is the rightful owner of the number two spot. What is even more interesting, Windows Phone shows strong potential to overtake the king.
That’s what Mango is worth. Microsoft has managed to clean up, pretty up and show aggression with the platform in just about a year. So much so, that they have unearthed the lack there of in other platforms. Details on the upcoming Android “ice cream sandwich” are scarce, but something tells me it will be more of the same. Apple’s iOS 5 betas have been all over the place, and although they add some nice changes and features, it remains more of the same. 2012 will be the most completive year for mobile we’ve ever seen, and I for one am positive that there is room for one more. Not only for one more, but there is a very real chance the number one spot will be up for grabs (you might want to tuck your iPhone away again…it’s up to you.)