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A Cheap Shot: Why IPhoners Are So Quick to Point Out Android’s Affordability Factor

Current IPhone Contract Deals

I read an article today that was written by Sam Biddle from Gizmodo. In the article titled “Android Is Popular Because It’s Cheap, Not Because It’s Good,” Biddle goes on to humiliate Android as an operating system based upon its “cheap” smartphones to which the poorest American citizens flock. For him, Android has become a sophisticated operating system; however, Android is not winning the smartphone war by sheer hard work and persistence:

“Android phones dominate Apple across the world…‘in the third quarter of 2012, worldwide manufacturers – among them Apple, Samsung, HTC and Research in Motion (RIM) – shipped 181.1 million smartphones…Google’s Android operating system was installed on 75 percent of them, says IDC; Apple’s system, iOS, was on about 15 percent.

That’s monster success. That’s 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” (Sam Biddle, Android is Popular Because It’s Cheap, Not Because It’s Good; http://gizmodo.com/5977625/android-is-popular-because-its-cheap-not-because-its-good).

Biddle does not say that Android is winning only by its inexpensive pricing, though he makes the case that “cheap” is the major reason Android is winning the battle. For him, sheer quality is not enough to make Android popular. It is apparent (though unfortunate) that Biddle has not thought through the way the smartphone world works nowadays. As someone that comes from a rural county in the Eastern United States, let me explain something to Biddle as someone who lives on a street that homeless people walk. I can talk about this because it is part of what I witness on a daily basis.

Where I come from, there are a number of people who walk the street and seem to be poor by all outside testimony – that is, until they purchase a new smartphone, three-piece suit, or the latest computer. Many of them would rather purchase the latest gadgets than have a roof over their heads. When I took an Economics, Legal, and Political Systems Course (ELPS) back in high school, one of the statistics that stood out to me was that “more people own a television than a toilet.” This is a perfect statement for poor folk in the ‘90s: they may not have owned a toilet, but you can believe they purchased televisions. This mindset is still the same in the twenty-first century.

For them, owning an iPhone is just as possible as owning a Samsung smartphone. Those I have seen walk the streets all my life are poor, but their social status never stopped them from affording any smartphone brand if they wanted it. Thus, being poor is not a condition that justifies Samsung’s smartphone sales. Anyone that works a job nowadays and chooses to labor instead of steal for a living can own a smartphone.

This is also made true by the fact that carriers subsidize the iPhone for an affordable price. In fact, a recent Consumer Reports study (Business Insider) shows that more people purchased a Galaxy S3 in Q4 2012, which costs $50 more (minimum) than the 16GB iPhone 5. The consumer who purchases a 32GB Galaxy S3 (as I did) on a two-year agreement will pay approximately $50 more ($350) than the consumer who purchases the 32GB iPhone 5 ($300) on the same agreement. A 16GB iPhone 5 only costs $200 on a two-year agreement, cheaper than Nexus 4 costs on a two-year contract ($500 at T-Mobile). In addition, the unlocked Galaxy S3 has a retail cost of $899.99 at Amazon.com, cheaper than even the 32GB or 64GB unlocked iPhone; the Galaxy Note 1 has a retail cost of anywhere from $480-$600 at Amazon.com, while the Note 2 has a retail value of $999.99 – another smartphone that is more expensive than the 64GB iPhone ($750-$800). If we assume Biddle’s thought, poor consumers should purchase the iPhone since it’s cheaper and, as he says, “a dearly coveted bourgeois object.” Yet and still, the numbers show that the iPhone did not register well in the fourth quarter of 2012. Why is this? Because consumers were willing to pay more for a better smartphone than the much-hyped iPhone 5. Even when Android phones are priced higher on two-year agreements, customers still choose Android over iOS. Amazing, don’t you think?

The truth of the matter is that both Apple and Samsung’s high-end smartphones are responsible for billions of dollars in smartphone sales. Both sets of phones cost $600 or more at retail value, Samsung’s Galaxy line holding as expensive a price tag as Apple’s iPhone line. Yet and still, we have arrived at a place where consumers see the boring, predictable nature of the iPhone and choose the Android adventure first. I hate to say it, but anyone who thinks Android is winning because of its cheap smartphones is too blind to see that Apple’s competitive pricing strategy on two-year contracts no longer appeals to the public.


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  1. Brad,

    I think everyone is entitled to their preference of one over the other. I own both and find remarkable things about both Android and iOS.

    At the same time, I think consumers owe it to themselves to be honest. Apple’s iPhone is far behind Android in terms of the technology used. Faster processor chips and smaller body frame do not count as progressive technology. When it comes to software, Android is superior to Apple by far. IOS6 supposedly has a lot of bells and whistles, but look at Apple Maps — we all know how that turned out.

    I think that some people prefer a phone to perform basic functions. Okay, fine, but they should admit that their phone does not have cutting-edge technology and get on with it. Preferences are fine, but it is not okay for iPhone lovers to act so blindsided by their love of all things Apple when they know the tech in their iPhone does not match that of the high-end Android smartphones. This is where I take it personal: when Apple makes a press announcement and says, “we have the most advanced operating system on the planet.” Really? Does Apple really think it has an OS that trumps Android? As both a GS3 and an iPhone 4S user, I can tell you that Apple’s OS pales in comparison to Android. There are so many things I can do with an Android that I can’t do with an iPhone. Even when I do things with my iPhone, I can do them better on an Android device.

    Preferences and reality are not necessarily the same thing. IPhone customers love Apple and are probably loyal to the company, even through its current recession; nevertheless, you don’t need to be an “Apple Genius” to see that the company has failed to innovate — and that Android provides more of an adventure. If they do not care for that adventure, fine…but do not try to justify the iPhone because you love it. If you love it, love it enough to be able to admit its shortcomings.

  2. Don,

    Okay, so the iPhone 5 has LTE, a faster processor, and a larger screen size. Are these specs THAT impressive, enough to make customers purchase a new iPhone when an iPhone 4 or 4S would work just fine?

    You write as someone who is an Apple fanboy. Interesting, but a number of tech analysts have criticized Apple recently because the company sees its products the same way you do. However, there is a problem: these things are iteration, not innovation. When Apple introduced LTE, it claimed that it wanted to make sure LTE worked before it included the technology into its next iPhone. In reality, LTE had been at work for some time in Android phones. Apple was simply late to the game.

    When it comes to NFC, a number of iPhone customers anticipated the technology in Apple’s iPhone 5. They didn’t get it. What was Apple’s response? “We didn’t do it because it doesn’t really help anyone.” then, the company turned around and filed a patent that is similar to Google Wallet to help its customers use Passbook to pay for Apple Store purchases. Is this not a situation of “playing on both sides of the tennis field”? When asked about the technology, the company should have been honest about their refusal to use it. Rather than admit that, which wouldn’t justify Apple’s position, the company turned around and filed a patent later that indicates Apple wants to include the technology in its iPhone. Why not just say that up-front?

    With regard to your claim about comparing 32GB and 16GB smartphones, you missed the point. You have obviously not read the article from Gizmodo that I cited above. In the article, it was stated that customers purchase Android phones because they are cheaper– something you seem to agree with. However, this is not the case when you consider the high-end smartphones that are being purchased a lot more often than the low-end smartphones. I come from a rural town where the Galaxy S3 was heavily promoted and heavily purchased. My carrier made a fortune off of the GS3. There were tons of other cheap smartphones in the store, but customers who wanted to renew their contracts opted for the GS3, according to my carrier, 4 to 1 over cheap smartphones. For every customer who purchased a 16GB GS3, they paid at least $200 ($300 if you consider that many do not receive a mail-in rebate). this means that they paid more for their 16GB GS3 than Apple customers pay for a 16GB iPhone 5. Again, if cheaper phones are what sell, then why is it that Android’s high-end phones made more money in Q4 2012 than Apple? I think the point is clear — consumers are starting to care more about quality and less about a name or brand. This is where Apple will lose in the long run.

    As for “free,” have you forgotten about Apple’s $0 phones that happen to sell just as many (if not more) than the iPhone 5? Analysts are saying that the iPhone 5 did not do any better than the iPhones 4 and 4S in Q4 2012. Again, if Apple is supposed to be a luxury brand, why are so many consumers opting for cheaper phones? Even in the iPhone 5 crowd, customers are buying the lower-storage versions (16GB mostly) by the dozens compared to the 64GB iPhone 5. Again, Apple consumers care about their dollars, just as Android consumers do.

    As for cheap phones, you simply do not know what you are talking about. Android phones that are running older OSes are inexpensive now because they have been on the market for years. Look at the iPhone 4 currently, which runs at $0 with a two-year contract. It has been out on the market for at least two years — making it as old as some of the older Android devices. This was not the original retail price for these phones, however.

  3. Any one who says the 4s and the 5 are the same should not make a comment. The 5 is lte which makes it as fast as a cable modem. Screen is bigger graphic performance in games is faster. It is a testimony to apples ecosystem that the common person could think that. As far as as this article goes the author couldn’t be further from the truth to compare a 32gb phone to a 16gb is like comparing a v6 pony car to a v8. When you compare apples to apples the iPhone or tablet is almost always more expensive. If you look at the pie chart of android os the minority have the lates os. Which in turn means that the majority of droid devices are cheap or free.

  4. The Note 2, specs wise, is better than the iPhone 5. That’s a fact. The Note 2 itself, is not better than the iPhone 5. Nor is the iPhone 5 better than the Note 2.

    It’s a subjective opinion and is up for the person to decide. For me personally, I am loving the Note 2 and all it has to offer. My one complaint has to deal with the Android OS more than anything. The lack of 60 frames per second. Android can not reproduce that in the way it currently redraws graphics.

    When Android can pull off a capped 60 frames per second, the Note 2 will be the perfect smartphone.

  5. Tim,

    Thanks so much for writing in. I agree with you 100%. The Note 2 is far better than the iPhone 5. I would dare say that the Galaxy S3, which I own, is better than the iPhone 5. I own a Galaxy S3 and an iPhone 4S, and my iPhone 4S is practically IDENTICAL to the iPhone 5. I have a cousin who owns one, but her iPhone 5 is no different from the iPhone 4S — which is no different from the iPhone 4, and so on…you get the point 🙂

    I think the iPhone started out as a consumer product. Apple has always been a consumer electronics company; rather, it is Apple’s success with the iPhone in 2007 that propelled the company into a luxurious, status-quo situation where the iPhone has become associated with affluence. If the iPhone were really a bourgeois object to be envied by the poor masses, why is it that practically anyone can fork over $200 and get an iPhone? from the standpoint of finances and carriers, it seems to me that even Apple doesn’t think of itself that way — no matter how many Parisian Apple Stores it builds.

    Thanks for commenting, and feel free to visit again.-Deidre

  6. I suggest he look at the latest Android phones by Samsung. I have a Note 2 and AFAIC it’s by far better than an iPhone for many reasons.

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