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.