Kudos to the New York Times for focusing on the real trend in the smartphone market as Apple prepares to unveil its newest iPhone later today:
Despite all the hoopla surrounding the Apple announcement, more people buy smartphones running Google’s Android operating system than buy Apple phones. Android’s share of new smartphone sales is now more than double Apple’s share, a striking change from a year ago, when the two were roughly even, and a reflection of how Android phones have improved and become more broadly available.
In this altered competitive landscape, any new phone from Apple will have to stack up favorably against the most popular Android phones. Even app developers, many of whom once devoted all their energy to building for the iPhone, now have more divided loyalties.
-New York Times, October 4, 2011
There are a few obvious reasons why Apple has fallen so far behind and they don't all have to do with the relative merits of the iOS operating system versus Android. The U.S. iPhone is only sold by the two most expensive mobile carriers, AT&T and Verizon, and none of the low cost or prepaid carriers, like T-Mobile or Cricket. Monthly plans for iPhones on Verizon and AT&T cost about $90 minimum versus the $50 and under plans the other carriers offer at the low end.
And only AT&T has a cheaply priced iPhone, selling the prior model 3GS for $49. Meanwhile, Android phones are available on every carrier and at prices approaching zero. Walmart just introduced an Android phone with a $30 monthly plan without requiring a lengthy contract.
The unsurprising outcome of the different price points is evident in the profiles of the owners of smartphones. Lower income and younger people are far more likely to have Android phones and upper income and older people are far more likely to have iPhones. Apple has partially addressed the issue by letting Sprint in on the new iPhone but it will be interesting to see what else they do today, perhaps with a lower cost new model.