Opinion: Android’s “iceberg ahead” moment?

Opinion: Androids iceberg ahead moment?

The launch of Windows Phone 8 has thrown Microsoft’s phone efforts back into the spotlight, and how it has struggled to gain market share over Apple and Android. With yet another relaunch of a mobile OS, Microsoft and its embattled partner Nokia (or future purchase), certainly have their work cut out. However I think we’re coming up to a possible inflection point for one of the big boys – Google’s Android.

Google Android has always had two things Apple hasn’t – Adobe’s Flash and Google Navigation – but its about to loose those “unique features”.
(I acknowledge Flash is on the Playbook, but you can’t really count that as competition.)

Flash has always been a bit contentious on mobile devices, whether you believed Steve Jobs assertion that it didn’t work on a mobile device, or watched it fail in demonstrations when Blackberry’s Playbook tried to play it as trump card. It does however work pretty well for most Flash-strewn sites you might try to access on an Android phone or tablet.

Indeed, in our two-OS household I get my wife grabbing my phone because she can’t access a Flash-based site on her iPhone. Therefore Google certainly have a plus point by having it on Android. The problem is, it’s going. I’d say gone, but the BBC seem to have managed to prelong its immediate future, but it is going according to Adobe – HTML 5 is the future, not Flash. I’d love to have seen the faces in Google HQ when Adobe announced that – harder to ignore when its your supplier, rather than main competition, saying that. So soon web-browsing will be equally frustrating on Android and iOS.

I cited Navigation as the other unique point Google had over Apple. There are of course Apps you can get, TomTom probably being the most famous, on iOS, but they’re quite expensive. Google’s Navigation is not only excellent, but more importantly, its free and embedded into the OS. The average phone user is your average person – not technically or even adventurous, and won’t get past a phone’s standard features. Apple know this and have invested heavily in getting a mapping and navigation offering to rival Google’s built into iOS6. If they didn’t think it was costing them business, they wouldn’t have invested so much money in it. Even Microsoft saw a similar gap in their OS, which they neatly plugged with their tie with Nokia – Microsoft definitely get more from their deal with Nokia than Nokia ever will.


Wednesday sees the announcement of the iPhone 5, or whatever its going to be called, touting the new iOS6. There is already a ludicrous amount of hype over the device, and it will sweep aside most other tech news to dominate headlines in the mainstream press for sometime to come. These new features, coupled with the demise of Google’s remaining USP, means a much smaller gap between the two platforms, but I would now put the momentum back with Apple.


Most people who buy phones are not technical. Some will buy based on fashion, others advertising for instance, and even features. As features converge though, the other factors become more relevant to consumers. Losing unique features from Android, means they start to have to compete with Apple on things like fashion whims and advertising – er, good luck Google!

The end of year will be very interesting, but my money is on Apple gaining a healthy chunk more marketshare and Android starting to struggle by comparison.

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  • As you say, “Most people who buy phones are not technical”. Given that is the case, most people don’t really care about Flash or even Google Navigation, so I think you over play the significance of this issue.

    Apple will see a a gain in marketshare because it always does at the launch of a new iOS device, but those gains will shrink as new Android devices are also released to the market at lower price points than iOS. Nothing new here, and it is unlikely to change all the while Apple choose to only address the higher end of the market.

    P.S Spelling fail – look up lose/loose and losing/loosing! Sorry – pet hate of mine that one! :)

  • Patrick

    i have noticed over the last year im not sure were android is going…

    i know what apple wants with integration on all there devices and now windows are buying into this.

    i think android needs to have a killer click feature as soon my iphone or maybe windows device can do all i need without having to transfer /copy items across pc etc..

    maybe i havent had enough play on android and could be wrong.

    • Glenn

      You are wrong, have a play with an android phone and I think you’ll quickly discover it can do anything those other 2 can and more.

  • Craig Bradshaw

    The one thing that Android will always have over it’s rivals (at least for the medium term) is the diversity of platforms it can be deployed on. Apple = closed. WP8 – Nokia mostly. Android…any manufacturer.

    That, and the fact that Android is open source means te developer community single handed keep the techies happy.

    I don’t see this as a demise….but if Lumia is successful it might just spread the market share a bit more.

  • Well it didn’t happen with Winpho7 why should this be different?

  • the bear

    there is always a surge after an apple launch but thats it, the galaxy right now today is still the most desirable phone and 99% who want it won’t care about flash

  • Android is better for those who dont want to rely on a single OEM…. I’ve spent money on apps and if I was on iOS and had done the same I would in my mind be loosing if I went out side the eco system. Now iOS is imho aimed at those wanting a smart phone but dont want the complications where as Android can go beyond. Winmo – not sure yet – more probably the Enterprise and Xbox users and RIM…. well unless they book their ideas up will get their patents swallowed up by the big three….. In short different strokes for different folks and when your in your pretty much stuck unless you have money to throw away….

  • Andrew

    It is quite interesting to see how the market is developing – Microsoft’s share, for example, might be pretty low right now, but Nokia have done a brilliant job of getting it into the mid-low end of the market – increasingly people are buying the devices because they’re so simple and easy to use, and I am yet to meet anyone in real life who owns a Lumia and doesn’t like it – and the numbers are increasing. It will take time, but these things do – Microsoft has the time and money to make Windows Phone work, and they won’t stop until they do – WP8 is most definitely a competitive OS, and nowadays even the shopfloor staff are getting on board.

    Just because the online press don’t like it, doesn’t mean consumers won’t.