Fred Wilson is recommending developers invest first in Android and Fortune has a similar article about why 2011 is going to be the year that Android explodes. Why? Market share. Android is about to really take off, his thesis goes.
They are both right. But I hate it. First, let’s talk about why they are right.
I’ve been playing with a Nexus S lately and it finally is “good enough” for me to recommend to family members and friends as a smart phone.
I’ve also had some quality time on the Samsung Galaxy Tab, iPad competitor. It, too, is competent and no longer has the kinds of problems that let me confidently warn my friends and family away from Android platform.
These devices are fast. They have most of the apps you’ll need (maybe not the sexiest ones, but most of the ones that you’ll need). A good web browser. Really good maps, contacts, and phone-handling apps. Etc etc.
Compare Android to every other platform and it stands up as the best choice. Yeah, I know, MG Siegler over at Techcrunch got close to recommending Windows Phone 7 to everyone (he’s an iPhone lover like myself) but notice how many major things he said sucked about that system. The Web browser sucks. The lack of apps sucks. The lack of integration into Google’s many excellent systems like Google Voice, Google Contacts, Google Mail, Google Calendar, or Google Maps sucks (I still don’t like Bing’s maps as much, and that’s the most competitive web service Microsoft has going in my view).
And Windows Phone 7 is superior to Nokia’s OS and RIM’s OS, which have even more significant problems to solve (bad user experiences, difficult developer systems, inadequate app stores, very few modern apps, etc).
So, if I take off my iPhone-loving-hat and look dispassionately at the field I see that 2011 is going to be a great year for Android, a moderately good year for Windows Phone 7, a struggling year for Nokia and RIM (unless they noticeably change the game), with a wildcard year for Palm/HP (we’ll know more about that in about a week, because they are announcing some stuff at CES).
So, what about iPhone? Well, there is one thing neither Fortune nor Fred Wilson are including in their analyses: the Verizon phone. It came up at dinner conversation last night with family members (who aren’t geeky and don’t read Techcrunch). There is a LOT of pent up demand for an iPhone on Verizon. If all the rumors about an iPhone on Verizon are true, that’ll give iPhone a big shot and continue keeping it in the top two of the superphone category (unfortunately Nokia has started calling a wide range of its phones “smart phones” which makes the term “smartphone” totally useless). Most people, when they think of a modern high-end phone are thinking of iPhone, Android (and only when put on a big screen phone like the Nexus S), Windows Phone 7, RIM, Nokia’s N8, etc. This is the only category of phones I care about. I really don’t care that in some poor country Nokia sold hundreds of millions of single-chip, small-screen phones that barely can use text features, not to mention have decent access to the web.
But I don’t see how Verizon will sell enough iPhones to keep it in the numbers race with Android.
Now to why I hate this.
In my usage of the Android-based Samsung Nexus S, I’ve found it’s still behind Apple’s iPhone in almost every way. Even AT&T is far superior to T-Mobile (T-Mobile doesn’t even work in my house and I live 16 miles from Silicon Valley. Arrrrgggh).
The iPhone is easier to use. Smoother, especially when scrolling tweets. More consistent UI. Better designed hardware (the Samsung is, while the best Android phone on market, according to Engadget, not even close to as well designed as the iPhone).
Plus, overall, the apps on both iPhone and iPad are still noticeably ahead of those on Android platform. Today.
Yes, I know both platforms have their fans. I’ve argued both sides of the argument with friends and family. The Android wins if you want Google integration. The iPhone wins if you want best overall experience.
But with the Nexus S Android has caught up to be “close enough” to iPhone that I can no longer confidently state that the best system is Apple’s.
Add price into that equation and I will be recommending Android to a wide range of people in 2011.
I hate that. Because it’s not the best designed device.
So, what can Apple do?
1. Push onto more carriers.
2. Lower price.
3. Come out with some major innovations, particularly for developers (if you haven’t watched my interviews with the smart people behind the funding of Siri, that was bought by Apple, you really should — that interview gives insights into what Apple could do this year to stay in the game. Part I. Part II).
4. Integrate further with other systems in the home. One of the demos of the iPad that gets everyone going is when I show off how to use my iPad as a remote control for my Apple TV.
5. Make a deal with Facebook. Normal people are ADDICTED to Facebook. Ever sit in a lobby at a restaurant and watch what people do on phones? I do. Facebook is #1 app by far. What if next iPhone had best-of-breed integration with Facebook?
Anyway, unless something major happens this year (it probably will, the world keeps speeding up) it looks like Android is gonna take off.
I hate that.
I sure hope Steve Jobs has one of those moments where he shocks the world again and keeps this game interesting. I sure would hate it if Google took over the world of mobile the way Bill Gates took over the world of desktops. And, yes, it sure does feel like early 1995 in the mobile world. So, Steve, what you got up your sleeve?