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One of the natural consequences of Android and Samsung having such high exposure is that it’s difficult to a competitor to follow in their footsteps without raising comparisons and presumption of influence.
Apple’s move into the phablet space with the iPhone 6 Plus could be chalked up to any number of reasons — better components from its preferred suppliers the rising tide of more detailed games and high-definition video, or less desire to delineate between between iPhone and iPad in the wake of the latter’s weakening sales, for example.
But even Apple’s marketing slogan for its new phones — bigger than bigger — connotes a need to be judged against a prevailing industry standard.
When paired with Apple’s signature design, a thinner body than ever, improved battery life and the best cameras Apple has ever shipped in a smartphone, the iPhone 6 Plus is a phablet that should keep loyalists in the fold. With record-breaking opening weekend sales of 10 million units despite possible supply chain issues for the larger iPhone 6 Plus, the products have certainly resonated.
But the availability of the iPhone 6 Plus and the iPhone 6 are only one concession to Android temptation. Others exist in iOS 8. As I noted in a previous column, Apple has brought some capabilities such as custom keyboards and better sharing options, and better notifications to the iPhone to help address more choice that Android has had for some time.
But despite Apple’s stepped-up efforts to woo Android users (or at least even the migration wars that Motorola started), it likely won’t see too many jump ship en masse for a few reasons:
Competition at the high-end. Apple is most likely to pick up Android defectors at the high-end who would opt for similarly priced competitors such as the Galaxy Note 5, LG G3 and refreshed Moto X.
Strong mid-tier and low-end, Particularly among budget prepaid carriers, the iPhone 5, which represents Apple’s new low-end, still has a higher unsubsidized price. Samsung, LG and Chinese vendors are offering Android devices at prices that Apple has no desire to touch.
Google service integration. Android will still hold favor for those who want the most flexibility in their user interface or tighter integration with Google services. While some changes in iOS 8 allow Google to improve integration within its suite, it can’t achieve default app status as it can on Android.
Beyond Apple Pay, Apple is also catching up in allowing developer access to NFC — a technology it once derided as superfluous. And in hopping on the big phone bandwagon, Apple is experiencing some of the pain of unoptimized resolutions that it has had in the past, introducing a scaler to try to compensate for apps that won’t be exploiting the new screen sizes and resolutions for a while.
Apple’s new handsets set a new bar for the company in terms of design and form factor, and the company has used the larger stage to expand into a greater range of user options than iOS users have had before. It’s little wonder that iPhone users have flocked in record numbers to the greatly revamped models. But at the end of the day, the fundamental philosophies and tradeoffs of the platforms remain intact.
Volume Up is a regular column on consumer technology and digital ecosystems by Reticle Research principal analyst Ross Rubin.
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