Apple vs. Android

Remember the billion-dollar Apple-Samsung lawsuit launched in spring 2011? Some rulings have already been handed down, but the patent infringement case has also expanded to over 50 countries around the world. It’s a world war fought with armies of lawyers, and an armistice isn’t a looming outcome. Apple instigated the litigations, and I doubt it would be inclined to do so if it didn’t feel threatened by Samsung’s technological advances.

Apple should feel threatened, especially when you look at the sales figures that foreshadow a change in the race for global smartphone dominance. Samsung’s mobile division outsold Apple’s counterpart in the second quarter of 2012 with just over 50 million units sold versus only 26 million for Apple. That’s a huge difference.

Keep in mind, though, the pendulum may swing the other way given the launch of the iPhone 5 in time for the holiday season. With its hardware perfected and jazzy new features, the newest iPhone is sure to gather new followers and drive longstanding users to upgrade. The brand’s legacy dictates that when people instigate a mobile app, they immediately think of iOS — Apple’s firmware. Plus, the iPad (also iOS-based) is still the irrefragable leader in the tablet market.

That said, have you tried using the Samsung Galaxy S3, the latest model? You have to see it to understand why so many consumers are opting for this smartphone over Apple’s cash cow. Apart from having nearly all of the same functionality as the iPhone (and a steeper learning curve, I might add), many people prefer the Galaxy because its firmware — the Linux-based operating system “Android” — is open source, which means there are far fewer bureaucratic controls over what can be added to the device or modified to one’s individual tastes.

Beyond this, there are two further considerations. First, Android is the progeny of Google, which means it has some very serious funding behind its continued development (on top of Google’s intensifying rivalry with Apple). And second, it’s important to note that all of Apple’s other key competitors in the mobile department, including HTC and Nokia, are also choosing Android. When you tally up the numbers, it means that for all the hoopla over becoming compatible with iOS, it’s equally crucial, if not more crucial, to design your mobile app or website for Android.

As always, times are changing, and they’re changing fast. No matter the ruling and fallout from the Apple-Samsung patent war, it will likely only narrowly ebb consumers’ choices and purchasing habits. The reason why Apple has been so successful with the iPhone is because, for the longest time, its smartphones were the best products out there. But now it appears Apple’s competitors have caught up, and you have to catch up too! Definitely keep Android in mind when you design your next mobile platform.