apple vs android
image via Prasanna Ellanti

Will the debate ever end?

If you’re a typical American phone consumer you’ve probably often asked yourself, “iPhone or Android?”

Recently some friends were discussing this and I wondered, “Is there a significant difference between the two anymore? Is there a worthwhile debate anymore? Should we still care?”

Here’s the thing – YES! – it absolutely does. However, in the debate between iPhones and Android phones it’s less and less about the phone itself. Here’s why.

iPhone is Android. Android is iPhone.

The current innovation cycle in mobile phones is tailing off. The phones and software in each new release cycle are trending more and more toward the center.

Samsung’s recent ad jumps straight to this point calling out Apple. They flashy and new iPhone 6 is no different than the two year old Samsung phones…and they might be right.

Yes there are still differences between the two platforms with both hardware and software. But do these differences stack up to anything more than personal taste at this point?

(For the record I’m currently on an iPhone 5s after previously an HTC Evo. For tablets, I’m using a Nexus 7, which replaced my iPad.)

If the Devices are the Same, How Can They Still Be Different?

Here’s a story in 3 charts.

1. Android Blows the World Away…

No surprise to anyone who has been following these stats. As of 2014 Android has captured almost 80% of the global smartphone market share. Note that over this time period iOS has remained relatively unchanged.

Of course, this is just one set of stats from Business Insider and you’ll likely see other stats elsewhere.

Regardless, you can safely say that Android has a stranglehold on global market share.

2. However, It’s a Much Closer Race in the US…

Here’s a decent Apples to Apples (get it?) comparison thanks to the site StatCounter.

They too say Android controls the world market, albeit at a lower share of nearly 50%:

worldwide ios vs android

The big deal is that market share in the US is a completely different story:

US united states ios vs android

At home iOS leads Android with a near 50% share of its own. Yes these numbers are different than Business Insider’s. That’s fine though; instead focus on the differences between the two charts.

3. And Not Close at All for Developers.

When it comes to App Store revenue, iOS developers still hold a sizable lead according to App Annie. Apple App Store developers out earn Google Play developers by an estimated 85%.

iOS developer

Three charts.

Three key points.

Like any good stat these can be manipulated to your liking. If we focus on the trends, though, you’ll see a glaring thread: follow the money. While Android is the leader in pure volume – devices, app downloads, etc – iOS is the leader in the markets with deep pockets.

Beware of Ecosystem Lock-in

As I mentioned in my Apple Watch first look, I thought one of the lesser publicized features was also the most important: the fact that an iWatch only works with an iPhone. Not that this is a surprise. This is Apple afterall.

As Wearables and IoT (Internet of Things) expand in the consumer market you no longer need to just think about iPhone vs Android phone. You’re now choosing your entire suite of devices.

When I switched from my HTC Evo to an iPhone 18 months ago it was a surprisingly delightful and easy switch. These days that’d no longer hold true.

The Moto360 doesn’t work with an iPhone. The Apple Watch? iOS only. And Samsungs Gear watches only work with other Samsun Android phones…yikes! I think I’ll stick with my cross-platform Pebble for now.

And Continuity, one of the new iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite features, won’t make switching any easier either.

Finally, here’s this piece of irony: in a debate between Apple & Google phones Microsoft is now relevant again. There’s a rumor that Microsoft will not only have a smartwatch too, but that it’ll supposedly be cross-platform, meaning it’ll work on any phone. Redmond, you have my interest!

The Verdict

Yes, you should still care about the differences between iPhones and Android phones. But it’s no longer the differences in the phones themselves.

Instead it’s time to consider how they’re being used in different parts of the world…How that impacts you…And how you plan to move into the wearables/IoT market that’s hitting us soon.