Enough with the iPhone Versus Android Sales Comparisons Already

Pic - John Brecher / msnbc.com

 Comparing Apple’s iPhone to Google’s Android is certainly a fun thing to do, since it gives us a team to root for. Are you for ‘open’ operating systems like Android OS or do you take the stance that closed systems like Apple’s iOS give users a better user experience? That question gets played a lot, but if you look behind the scenes of the Android versus iOS debate, you will see that things are not exactly what they appear.

Sure, Apple only allows approved apps into its iTunes App Store. The guidelines for submitting apps to the store are strenuous and if you want a feature that Apple has not gotten around to implementing into iOS, well, too bad. That is how Apple works because a) it wants to ensure the best user experience possible and b) it wants to make money. Given that Apple is now the fourth largest smartphone manufacturer in the world and that its iPhone 4 is the best selling smartphone in the world as well, it certainly appears to be fulfilling the user experience part and a look at Apple’s financial filings shows that the money side is very, very well taken care of.

Google on the other hand, lets smartphone manufacturers load Android onto their smartphones. The company does not manufacturer the phones but rather Motorola, Samsung, HTC and others do. Android is not an actual phone like the iPhone, but rather just an operating system any smartphone maker can opt to load onto their devices. Google can and will remove apps from its Android Market and your smartphone itself if it finds sufficient reason to. Manufacturers who use Android can restrict what you do with the phones unless you root them. This is similar to jailbreaking an iPhone.

So where does this leave us? Smartphones running Android are more popular in the US than the iPhone—the only smartphone that runs iOS—by a 46.3% versus 26.2% of the market lead. Android smartphones are not nearly as popular overseas and Apple ships half of its iPhones to foreign markets. Android as an operating system is more popular in the US but the iPhone is the more popular actual phone.

Does this mean that Android is more popular than the iPhone? Not really. It certainly has the potential to be so globally in the future, but Apple isn’t trying to compete with operating systems, it is trying to compete against smartphones themselves. Framing the debate as Android vs. iPhone is fun, but misleading.

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