It’s always a touchy subject for the Android faithful, but it does appear that Apple may finally be breaking into Android’s dominance in smartphones. Late last month, Apple CEO Tim Cook reported that three out of every 10 iPhones sold during the summer were purchased by Android converts, according to ZDNet. This was the highest percentage of switchers since Apple started tracking the trend three years ago.
So why are Android users switching? What has changed that is attracting new customers to the Apple platform? There are several changes to the iPhone itself, its software, and the way it’s marketed that makes it a more attractive option to Android users.
1. Size matters
Apple made the argument for years that Android manufacturers’ rush toward larger and larger devices was irrelevant. People didn’t really want that, they argued. As CNET noted, Steve Jobs in 2010 said “no one is going to buy a big phone.” Well, Jobs was wrong.
Within months of the launch of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus — Apple’s largest phones to date — the evidence said otherwise. By mid-year, CNET reported that the 6 Plus made up 44% of all “phablet” sales — that is, phones with screen sizes over five inches. There was obviously a good deal of pent up demand for Apple’s first super-sized iPhone, and undoubtedly a portion of the interested buyers were Android users.
2. Better support and faster updates
While Android’s allure is the fact that you have so many choices, it isn’t always a good thing. In producing the Android operating system, Google needs to keep in mind all the different possibilities for hardware that might exist. These differences mean that different versions of Android must be customized for every device, slowing down the upgrade process.
ZDNet’s Kevin Tofel argues that the lack of the middleman with Apple means a faster and more consistent experience for the user. Apple builds the necessary customizations into iOS and ships them directly to the consumer. It’s not always flawless, but it works well.
Add to this the fact that iOS 9 will support every device since the iPhone 4S, and even long-time phone owners are still running current software. You can’t say the same for most Android phones.
3. It’s no longer expensive
Motherboard’s Nicholas DeLeon has another possible reason for the iPhone’s success, and it comes down to price. This has a lot to do with the changes in how cellular providers sell you a phone. In the days of subsidies, the iPhone cost you $200 or more — while a ton of equally good Android phones were offered for far less.
With most phones now on a level playing field (you pay a monthly fee to purchase the phone outright), there is no longer a substantial difference in price to worry about. Add to this carriers falling over each other to provide specials on iPhone leases, and consumers have options that work better within budgets.
4. The acquisition of Beats
While Apple’s acquisition of Beats may have not made much sense at the outset, it’s paying dividends in the long run. A popular brand in the younger generation, by association Apple might gain converts from being so closely associated to Beats.
Beats is also likely the sole reason why Apple Music is going to be the first product by the company that will be delivered in an Android-native app. Having the Apple name in front of Android users day in and day out may result in a few at least considering an iPhone as their next phone purchase.
5. It just works
It sounds so cliche. After all, the saying “it just works” was a marketing gimmick used by the company for a long time. But there may be some truth to it. A recent search of an Apple switching thread on Reddit found it was a common reason for Android users to consider iPhones. CIO’s Jim Lynch says users cited the need for tinkering with Android as a reason they came to Apple, as well as the bloatware many carriers and manufacturers add to the Android OS.
Follow Ed on Twitter @edoswald