Every time there’s a launch for a brand new high end smartphone, you start seeing a number of experts (who should frankly know better) tossing around statements like: “This is an iPhone killer!” or “It’s a true Android killer!” So predictably, Wednesday’s launch of the iPhone 5 had a number of folks out there claiming that Android is going down. Is that the case?
I’ll put my cards on the table here: I like the iPhone. I’ve used the iPhone, and it’s a fine piece of technology. And there’s a lot to like about the iPhone 5. But is it going to kill Android?
The iPhone 5’s redesign makes it both thinner and taller, a move that makes its overall design sleeker…even while it add enough extra space to the now-4-inch screen to add a fifth line of icons to the home screen.
The update also brings the screen orientation closer to true widescreen, which means movies will look more natural in landscape mode. So for iPhone users, it’s a win, though it’s only bringing the screen size and aspect ratio to a place that a number of Android phones have been for some months.
But it’s also worth noting that the iPhone 5’s screen resolution, while high, still only comes in at 1136×640, which is just shy of true HD quality in both dimensions. Android phones like the Samsung Galaxy S III and the Sony Xperia ion (among others) already have larger screens (4.8 inches and 4.6 inches respectively) with a full-on 1280×720 resolution.
Apple is also catching up on other hardware considerations, like finally bringing 4G LTE to the iPhone. And the company has chosen to forego other technologies that seem to be becoming standard on high-end Android phones, like Near Field Communication.
(Of course, Apple has never really spent much time on technology it doesn’t think is going to go anywhere, and to be fair, NFC is still missing-in-action in the real world, for the most part. So no real surprise there. Even though a number of Macbook users still wish we had a Blu-ray option. Oh well.)
The iPhone 5 has also seen the update of the long-creaky 30-pin power/data connector to a newer more elegant connector called Lightning. Though, to the eternal torment of many, it’s still a proprietary connector rather than the more universal micro USB.
From an operating system angle, the iPhone 5 is the first to sport the long-anticipated iOS6. This includes Apple’s own take on the Maps app (ditching the Google component that came with the phone up until now), which now includes turn-by-turn directions — something else that’s been included on Android for a while. There’s also an updated Siri, a panorama feature for the camera, and a number of other aesthetic and performance tweaks. Not necessarily the most exciting batch of new features, but certainly a reasonable update.
In the end, the iPhone 5 is a really solid phone, and the faithful have rewarded Apple by jumping on the pre-order bandwagon: the phone sold out roughly one hour after pre-orders started at midnight. That may leave a lot of people scratching their heads, considering that the iPhone 5 doesn’t particularly break a lot of new ground, either on the hardware or software side.
In large measure, it’s really about the ecosystem, and the cohesion of the Apple offering. People have invested time and money into their iPhone and iPad, and have already built up an app library that they can carry forward onto their iPhone 5. They already have their profiles set up to share their data through iCloud, and they love the fact that their iPhone or iPad can near-effortlessly stream content to an AppleTV, should they have one.
It’s also about the fact that once iOS6 rolls out, it will be available to a huge chunk of the popular who have an iPhone, even if it’s one of the older models. Compare that to the Android universe, where Jelly Bean is out on only a limited number of phones, and many people are still struggling with handsets that are stuck two OS revisions back. That’s a huge point in Apple’s favour, and it’s one of Android’s biggest weaknesses, as an overall platform.
So is the iPhone 5 going to kill Android? Hardly. While a number of people who have been spooked by Samsung’s recent court loss to Apple have bailed on Android, Android still has a dedicated fan base who are enthusiastic about the variety of hardware offerings available in the Android universe (with some on the cutting edge), as well as the more open nature of the platform as a whole. People who were planning to buy an iPhone 5 will do so, and people who prefer the world of Android probably aren't going to be swayed much by this new phone. Legal issues aside, Android should continue to chug along just fine, bringing more and more people onto the platform.
That said, the Android universe ignores the reasons for the success of the iPhone 5 launch at its own peril. If Android ever does get dealt a mortal blow, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it will be self-inflicted.