Sunday, September 29, 2013

Challenging the iPhone, Part V

Perhaps I should change the title of this post, seeing that many people may say that Android had already caught up to and surpassed the iPhone, indisputably in terms of market share, but also in areas such as performance and third party support. However, since nobody actually reads this, it doesn't really matter.

Anyway, the iPhone is doing fine, selling 9 million units in the first weekend of the new 5s and 5c models. Various caveats can be applied to that number, but it's still a lot of phones and a lot of profit for Apple. Furthermore, the iOS7 release has been adopted by as estimated 60% of eligible users within a week of release. Naysayers continue to worry about the "lack of innovation" from Cupertino, but the iPhone remains a strong and enviable business today.

In the Android universe, Samsung continues its dominance, and seems to be making all of the money that Apple did not make. I haven't observed any real discord between Google and Samsung, though I continue to suspect that the partnership is uneasy. Google is still trying to ship its own devices, but they don't seem to be getting very far. Samsung is also trying its hand at software, but there haven't been any big moves either.

There has been some strange drama, though. Andy Rubin left his post as head of Android (to a different job within Google), and VP of Product Management Hugo Barra left Google to work for Xiaomi. Former hTC VP of Product Design Thomas Chien and two other designers, on the other hand, were arrested on suspicion of fraudulent billing and leaking designs to a Chinese firm.

There are two noteworthy developments elsewhere, though. Microsoft has purchased the handset business of Nokia for US$7.2 billion, and private equity has purchased Blackberry (formerly RIM) for US$4.7 billion. There is still no real number three emerging.

But the thing to watch over the next year or two is probably whether a Chinese brand will emerge in the Android world. Xiaomi and Hwawei, at least, certainly appear to have the ambition for it.