Battle of the Platforms
When the time comes to tell future generations about the epic mobile contest between Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android OS, Mary Meeker’s 2016 Internet Trends report will serve as a great overview. What does it tell us? Well, it shows that there was a budding smartphone market before the two US giants came in, and that Apple enjoyed a brief lead on Google before being surpassed by the latter’s unquenchable thirst for more users. Looking at the rapidly diminishing growth in smartphone sales, we can probably declare the contest over, too, since there’s no new challenger and little reason to believe that the current split between iPhone and Android users will shift dramatically. We’re close to reaching mobile equilibrium.
Zooming out to a longer historical view shows Apple’s iPhone strategy has remained broadly unchanged from the start. The Cupertino company has been remarkably consistent in maintaining a smartphone price somewhere near $700 and enticing more users with annual feature additions and improvements. Android phone prices, on the other hand, aren’t controlled by a unitary body and therefore exhibit all the signs of the brutal price war we’re all familiar with. Device prices have fallen every year since 2011, and the average Android phone now costs roughly a third of the average iPhone.
Honestly, it’s Economics 101: the cheaper product in a price-sensitive market will always dominate that market, provided it’s within striking distance of the best product. Android has been more than close to iOS for many years now, and so it’s perfectly logical that the decline in its price has been matched by an increase in its market share. That being said, Apple probably wouldn’t want to trade places with any of its Android-manufacturing rivals, as the one thing missing from these particular charts is how its pricier iPhone has garnered the vast majority of the profit from smartphone sales over the past few years.
The cool thing about these charts is that they cut away all the tactical day-to-day stuff like new models, screen sizes, color options and the like, and just distill the large-scale movements — which we sometimes forget are so heavily price-dependent.
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