Published on January 22nd, 2013 | by Gizmodo0
Android Is Popular Because It’s Cheap, Not Because It’s Good
The story goes like this: The iPhone comes out, and it’s the only smartphone anyone wants, because there’s never been anything like it. It is the smartphone. Step forward a few years, and Apple is losing to Google—at least in sheer numbers of phones being sold.
The story goes like this: The iPhone comes out, and it’s the only smartphone anyone wants, because there’s never been anything like it. It is the smartphone. Step forward a few years, and Apple is losing to Google—at least in sheer numbers of phones being sold. What happened?
From the day it slipped out of Steve Jobs’ womb and onto credit card bills, the iPhone was a dearly coveted bourgeois object. It was expensive, fancy without ostentation, and semi-affluent white people loved it like their own progeny. It is the phone of actors, models, rappers, academics, and graphic designers living beyond their means. There’s never in history been an electronic class beacon so clear as the iPhone—remember how expensive it was when it launched?
But today the tables aren’t just turned—they’ve been flipped over and turned into firewood. Android phones dominate Apple across the world—earlier this month, the San Francisco Chronicle reported the trouncing:
That’s monster success. That’s a routing. And while Android has finally come into its own as a sophisticated, refined mobile OS that deserves to be purchased in large numbers, Android isn’t winning just on merit. Phones like the Nexus 4 and Galaxy SIII are tremendous as both pieces of hardware and containers for smart, thoughtful software. Each is a pleasure to use, but that’s not Android’s sharpest knife.
And it’s not purely an income game—other socioeconomic factors that correlate heavily with the amount of money you’ve got in your pocket line up perfectly. Federal census data pegs black and hispanic households at median income (and ergo spending) levels tens of thousands of dollars below their white peers—and statistically, those same households are going Android at higher rates. A full 12-percent more black and hispanic smartphone users are Android users compared to Apple customers, and owners of any race with a high school diploma or less made up 38-percent of Android owners, over iPhone’s 31-percent mark in that cohort.
This is no accident. Check out the flyers or sidewalk storefronts of pre-paid econo-carriers like Boost Mobile or MetroPCS—which cater heavily to lower-income customers—and all you’ll see is Android. Even Asian corporate giants like Samsung are trying to lure more lower-earning buyers. As NBC’s Griot news site pointed out late last year,
Android makers aren’t beholden like that. Manufacturers are free to use Android, pay nothing to Google, and then pass on that massive savings to consumers in the form of cheap-o handsets. Most of them are pretty chintzy, slow, and generally bad, but they’re still smartphones. For millions upon millions, that’s more than good enough; not everyone needs top-of-the-line. Cheap Android will still run Instagram, still check Twitter, still play music and read email. We might turn our nose up at this—who would ever get anything but the best phone with the biggest screen? You use a handset with fewer than two cores? But that’s a low echo from the nerdy silicon tower: A lot of people can’t afford a $200 or $300 phone, and won’t ever be able to. A lot of people just want the basics—no need for the spiff of retina display or LTE—and only want to put up what it costs to get in the door.
This isn’t just a good strategy for Google, it’s a diabolical strategy for Google: carpet bomb the phone world with as many easy ways to use Google products as possible. Forget prestige. Just get people signed up. Apple might remain the most valuable company in the entire hoary history of capitalism, but Google’s playing the long con. As long as Android can keep feeding itself to companies and drive budget electronics, it’ll have its foot on the iPhone’s throat as a populist standby—and the Zooey Deschanels among us will start to feel like the real minority they are.
Photo by ianfogg42—Image has been edited to remove a £ sign that didn’t make sense here
This Article was originally posted in Gizmodo