Friday, 23 November 2012

The not-so-smart market shares of smart phones


We shouldn't be surprised if the latest IDC figures make Andy Rubin do it the Gangnam style. Android notched up 75% of the smartphone market share last quarter.

It's true that Android signs-up about 5 new users for every new iPhone user. But what the  statistics fail to highlight is that at least 3.5 times out of that 5, it's a fairly basic, relatively low spec & most likely buggy Android smart phone activated in some corner of the world. Since top-end Androids are Ice cream sandwiches or Jelly beans (or the fresher Jelly Bean 4.2)*, the Android version market share numbers make it a no-brainer to infer.

Let's talk about a Mr. Average Joe. Joe wants a new phone. And Joe picks up an Android phone be…cause: 
  1. Everybody around Joe is buying a ‘smart’ phone. Who wants to stay un-smart?
  2. The phone shop guy (sales girl on the phone) sings paeans about smartphones and how one would change Joe’s life (everyone’s pushing smartphones hoping to make some money once you enter that eco-system)
  3. The Android smart phone is a fairly affordable choice. It costs Joe the same/ a tiny bit more on contract as a non-smart phone. Who wants to stay un-smart when ‘smart’ costs just a few bucks more?

Joe does not buy the Android phone because he wants an ‘app for this & that’ or to leave an indelible mark on everybody’s timelines or to become the Superstar of the cafeteria he has lunch every day at with his mates. He may eventually try some of it because others are doing it. But these things don’t really matter when he picks up the Android. These are just nice to hear possibilities that made the few extra bucks worthwhile to spend. Most Joes end up regularly checking emails, indulging in a lil FB'ing, clicking & sending photos to family & friends and locating addressees on the map.

Now let’s talk things, ‘i’. The hallowed iPhone. Even Joe had heard on the news that the 5th avatar had come. But when the phone shop guy/ sales girl on phone tells him it’s ₹45,000/ $750/ £530 or a proportionately exorbitant amount every month, Joe doesn't pursue the topic any further. But then the phone shop guy/ sales girl tell him the happy news of the affordable Android that does all things that the iPhone does. And Joe loves it.
Joe would have made the necessary sacrifices to spend if was a believer in the Apple religion. But he isn't  For the middle-class budget conscious, the non-geek & the Comic Sans people (that’s most normal people), when they invest the kind of money that you have to spend to own an iPhone, it’s an unjustifiable overspend. It’s not the conscious ‘investment’ decision that fanbois, geeks & designers make driven by the desire for a digital lifestyle they wish to maintain; there’s hardly a correlation between their average monthly bank balance and the purchase decision. Or the nonchalant spend of the “my dad’s an ATM” tee wearing teenager, the rich show offs or the well-off professionals.

It’s amusing that many articles talk of the differences between the iPhone user & the Android user like it were of genetic origin. Doesn't this popular infographic about iPhone user vs. Android user just illustrate the rich –poor divide? The affluent buy iPhones. And the less privileged end up buying Androids because they don’t want to lag behind in the smartphone race (or simple they don’t want to look stupid.)

With Google starting to wage a price war with the new Nexus devices – the 4, 7 & 10, this divide would widen. If every Android device cost as much as an iOS device, the users would be similar, behave the same way and spend the same on a variety of apps. After all, there's nothing more behaviourally equalizing than affluence - the rich are the same, world over. It's the poor who add diversity (& IMHO make the world an interesting place.) And market reports & statistics would never capture this.

* Diabetics, steer clear of Androids! And someone investigate if people with a sweet tooth are more likely to buy an Android smartphone.

2 comments:

Daipayan Bhattacharjee said...

Well written and very nicely brings out the crux of the reason that causes 'the-elitist-apple-commoner-android' divide. In some ways i think the divide is also brought forth when 'elitist-apple' tries too hard to get niche, nicher, nichest and lays down the rules. So the half eaten fruit says, "You need itunes to put stuff on your phone. Go get it. We aint the commoners. You know we sync stuff, not just put stuff!" "You play videos only is so and so format.Go get it. And no, you cant convert a video to the so and so format and play. Thats for the commoners" "And bluetooth? Damn! We dont use those ugly common teeth,Yuck!" "And we pay for most apps that are free for all the commoners, we are the elite you see,and we like to show that we are the haves, not the havenots"

The poor average comic sans joe, then looks at the poor cousin android and sees he can drag and drop stuff and just put stuff into his phone, bang his phone with another to transfer photos,even with red paan stained teeth, and can play videos in any 3 letter format he can think of!and can get all his apps for free!

And then comic sans joe decides in favor of the commoner, and thus the divide continues... :-)

Sannidhya Misra said...

Good points. A beautiful walled garden with its own set of rules. What could be more elitist! Great strategy though.

Whats the problem with Bluetooth on iDevices?