Apple vs. Android: The Illusion of Choice?


Apple Watch

As the mobile technology platform battle continues between Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android, consumers are choosing between experiences.

The iOS experience is less about the details and more about the broad strokes. If you want iOS, you buy an Apple device and you have three choices today: iPhone, iPad, and the Apple Watch. There are some color choices, storage options, but by and large, if you choose iOS, you will have the exact same experience as millions of other people around the world.

If you choose Android, your choice of hardware is very diverse—there are dozens of companies manufacturing Android devices, and where you live in the world can change those choices significantly. As a result, Android phones share a common core experience, but the actual experience could be through a layer, either from the manufacturer or from the carrier. T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon all load software onto Android devices, software that can make one user’s experience different than another’s even on the same device.

Apple’s “Think Different” campaign helped identify the “Apple people” (vs. the “I’m a PC” crowd) and at the time that meant something. In a world of beige-box PC clones, Apple offered a choice that made you different. At one time, Apple had very little of the market share, but those were hard-core users that were fiercely loyal, and identified themselves with Apple to be different.

Apple has kept that mystique for the most part, but when the iPhone and iPad became dominant, the “Think Different” idea loses some authenticity—you are much more the same than different if you own an Apple mobile device today, because so many people have Apple devices. There was a choice of colors with the Apple iPhone 5c, which is something that not every Android phone offers, but the experience of using the phone was the same, and other than an opinion on color, not much new to see.

Android’s “Be together, not the same” campaign seems a little late in some ways, but could have strong legs over time. Celebrating what’s different while nodding to the idea that the Android OS is a common launchpad for all of the Android hardware experiences seems like it would be an appealing message to the same types of people that originally stuck with Apple. Sharing an OS rather than an OS and device allows for conversations to start between users, for a greater feeling of ownership and control, and allows for smartphones and tablets that excite.

For example, there is no “10 Best iOS phones” list, or “best Samsung/LG/Motorola iOS phone” list. As consumers, we like choice, and we like control. Android offers “pure Android” devices, with no carrier or manufacturer OS layers or apps. Every Apple device is a “pure” experience right now.

Enter the Apple Watch. It offers many choices, along all price points (above the starting price of course), colors, finishes and more. Apple is making choice a main message that they are communicating. This is different, and time will tell how people respond. Another question is how it will change how we as consumers understand Apple.

—Bob is a writer and works with world-changing brands every day. Follow him on Twitter: @bobbyob and on Instagram: @bobbyobnyc