More than ten years have passed since the first Android mobile phone came out. The Android mobile operating system, which is updated once a year, also ushered in its 12th version.
In the early morning of May 19, Beijing time, at the 2021 Google Developers Conference, Android 12 officially arrived, which is also the version with the biggest design change in Android history.
Android 12 re-adjusted all visual elements from light and shadow to animation effects; the team completely rewrote a lot of interaction logic, animation effects, and the corresponding system layer code; also introduced a privacy panel and allowed users to browse, delete generated data, etc.
These three changes correspond to Android’s controversial issues: the visual design is not as good as Apple’s iOS; the system lacks fluency; security and privacy issues are lacking.
Although there are still many problems with Android, it is undeniable that the former Apple imitator is not what it used to be. In the more than ten years of melee of smartphone operating systems, Android is the only player who has fought with Apple’s iOS so far and can compete with it.
Sameer Samat, vice president of products at Google, announced at the developer conference that the number of active Android devices in the world has exceeded 3 billion, and Android has once again been firmly seated as the world’s largest operating system.
If we look back at the relationship between Android and iOS, Android, which was once considered an imitator, surpassed many players through open source to hardware manufacturers a few years ago, and is on an equal footing with Apple’s iOS, but now the two have become imitators of each other. , the relationship of competition.
However, both are not as beautiful as imagined. Android’s open source positioning also has drawbacks, resulting in unstable system reputation and limited revenue space for Android to Google Play. However, iOS has not yet escaped the negative impact of the “Apple tax”, facing sky-high fines, and the system problems that iOS has been exposed time and time again have also affected its reputation.
In the changing mobile phone industry, new players are emerging. Can Android and iOS systems continue to be the dominant smartphone operating system?
1. How did Android catch up with iOS?
In the melee of smart phone operating systems more than ten years ago, Apple iOS, Nokia Symbian, Microsoft Windows Mobile, Google Android and BlackBerry OS have won over a group of loyal users, among which Android is not the most promising player.
On January 9, 2007, the first-generation Apple mobile phone equipped with iOS gained many followers as soon as it came out. iOS is indeed a revolutionary product, and its advantages are very obvious: smooth operation experience, rich applications, exquisite The system interface is difficult to compare with other systems, iOS pushes the smartphone and mobile OS to a new stage.
Google realized that the crisis was brewing, but it was a step too late. About 18 months later, the first Android phone, the HTC Dream, hit the market in a hurry.
In the field of mobile phones at that time, Nokia was still popular all over the world, so that the Symbian system had an absolute advantage in the mobile phone market. This also made the then Nokia chairman, Joma Ollila, claim that “a competition is unfolding between Nokia, the industry hegemon, and Apple, the challenger.”
It seems that not many people turn their attention to Android, and there are even comments that Android will not last for a year. Android is also considered to be a copycat role, and it was questioned early on that it had too many traces of iOS.
But to people’s surprise, a variety of mobile phones equipped with Android quickly became popular.
According to Gartner’s statistics on mobile phone sales in 2010, the world’s top five mobile phone manufacturers are Nokia with 460 million units, Samsung with 280 million units, LG with 114 million units, and 47.45 million units sold. Department of RIM and 46.59 million Apple.
Among them, Samsung and LG both produce smartphones that contain Android. In addition, the mobile phone sales of Sony, Ericsson, Motorola, HTC and other manufacturers that maintain cooperative relations with Android are also among the top ten in the world.
Hardware manufacturers are charging ahead, helping Android’s market expansion. In fact, on the day the Android system was released, Google took the lead in establishing the “Open Mobile Alliance”, which brought together mobile phone manufacturers including HTC and Motorola.
Google’s open market strategy for Android has also won a large number of partners. In contrast, Windows Mobile charges a license fee for each device, and Apple’s iOS is closed. Both mobile phones and systems are self-developed and not open source. From the very beginning, Android greeted mobile phone hardware manufacturers with a free and open source attitude, and since then these leading manufacturers have also helped Android’s market share to increase to a new height.
In the two or three years since the launch of iOS and Android, the smartphone operating system has ushered in a turning point in the pattern of changes. The three-nation hegemony originally staged by Google Android, Apple iOS and Nokia Symbian has evolved into a dragon and tiger battle between Android and iOS.
Before that, relying on Nokia’s huge market sales, Symbian had long held the position of the “first brother” in the mobile operating system market, but with the stagnation of Nokia’s mobile phones, Symbian’s market share continued to decline.
The Symbian system once had very distinct advantages, and thus made a generation of popular mobile phones, but its many disadvantages are also very obvious: the system code is outdated, and it is difficult to add new core functions; the use of C++ language development leads to a relatively high development threshold. High, which is not conducive to the construction of software ecology; and at the user level, the use of Symbian system is complicated, and it is difficult for users to get started.
Finally decided to give up Symbian Nokia to switch to Microsoft. In October 2010, Microsoft released Windows Phone, an operating system for smartphones, and the following year the two reached a strategic alliance and jointly developed them.
However, the alliance of the two heavyweight players still failed to shake the status of Android and iOS. As a closed-source system, Windows Phone started late, failed to establish a software ecosystem, and the launched models failed to gain much market share.
In the research report released by Nielsen, Android ranked first in the smartphone market share in 2012, accounting for 46.3% of the market share, and iOS system accounted for 30%.
So far, only Android and iOS are left to compete for supremacy.
2. Competing in the market by imitating each other
But in recent years, the two players of iOS and Android have gradually moved towards the road of mutual imitation.
As early as a few years ago, Apple began to emulate Android, a former follower. When Android was first released, the cross-application and cross-platform account mechanism used to be the advantage, but a few years later, the cross-platform information transfer and cross-device clipboard between Apple’s iOS and other devices were gradually realized, which finally surpassed the experience in terms of experience. Android.
Today, similar changes to iOS have sparked user dissatisfaction. In June 2020, Apple updated iOS 14, which is also the system with the biggest shape change after iOS 7, but it received questions such as “iOS is becoming more and more like Android?” “Is this iOS still the simple and elegant design before?” .
iOS 14, image source Apple Developer Conference
The transformation of iOS, an industry disruptor, is difficult for people to accept, but in fact, with the gradual development and stability of user habits, the iOS system must cater to more users.
At the same time, if either side is ahead, the other side must catch up. Just two weeks ago, Apple launched iOS 14.5, which comes with stricter transparency of app tracking and data protection to a certain extent. Soon after, Google said in the developer Blog that it will follow this feature, and the Android system will launch a “privacy label.”
In addition to imitating each other, the two are also changing: Android, which is open to hardware manufacturers, has become less “open”, while Apple, which has always been open to developers, continues to raise the “Apple tax” and usher in The defection of some developers.
The open source positioning of Android has allowed a large number of hardware manufacturers to expand their territory, but on the other hand, hardware manufacturers are independent, and the fragmentation problem is serious. For a long time, a large number of uncontrolled Android phones have been on the market, which may also affect the reputation of the system.
As early as 2017, there were rumors that Google began to constrain major hardware manufacturers to deeply customize the interface style of ROM. By 2018, Google requires hardware manufacturers to update the system to users on time and in quantity.
Google is trying to prevent the deterioration of the Android ecosystem, and has also cooperated with Qualcomm to complete the upgrade and adaptation work together, and can also unify some of the Android ecosystem experience.
Google has great determination to manage Android fragmentation and unify user experience, but the solution proposed in fact cannot be bought by all hardware manufacturers.
Compared with the previous opening, Google has gradually tightened its control, which has also made hardware manufacturers dissatisfied. In recent years, many manufacturers have successively developed their own mobile operating systems.
Developers who have always preferred iOS before have also had many complaints against Apple.
In the early days, Apple owned iPhone, iPad and other highly appealing hardware, and also built an ecosystem that assembled high-quality software. Through the payment method of downloading and sharing, developers benefited, and iOS was supported by developers.
In contrast, Android developers have been suffering from profitability. Since a large number of Android third-party stores are filled with free, pirated and cracked applications, developers cannot obtain scale benefits through them.
But in recent years, Apple has not been so “open” to developers, which is especially reflected in the repeated turmoil of the “Apple tax”. In 2019, Spotify filed a complaint with the European Commission against Apple. One of the main complaints was that Apple’s AppStore charged app developers up to 30% of commissions, which weakened its competitiveness. In June of that year, the European Commission launched an investigation.
On April 30, 2021, Spotify’s complaint against the AppStore has progressed, and the EU officially launched an antitrust lawsuit against Apple. This is the first time the EU has accused Apple in the name of antitrust. If Apple loses the lawsuit, it will pay a maximum annual revenue of 10%. % fine.
Since the development of Android and iOS, they have been learning from each other’s strengths and making no concessions to their competitors, and they have been competing until now.
3. Win or lose
In the past ten years, in the fierce competition between Android and iOS, it has been difficult to distinguish winners and losers.
On the surface, there is already a gap in the market share of mobile operating systems occupied by the two. As early as 2012, a Jumptap mobile data report indicated that Android and iOS devices accounted for 91% of smartphone traffic on the US mobile network. Among them, Android occupies the first place with a market share of 58.8%.
With the passage of time, Android has formed an absolute monopoly, leaving less than 20% to iOS. According to Statista data, as of 2019, Android leads the market with 87% of the market share. In the global mobile phone market share, the top five Samsung, Huawei, Xiaomi and vivo are all Android camps, and Apple mobile phones will never return to the era of monopoly.
In terms of market share alone, it can be said that Android has won Apple, but in terms of revenue, it is completely the opposite.
According to a report released by App Annie, in the first quarter of 2021, Apple’s App Store revenue was $21 billion, and Google Play revenue was $11 billion, nearly double the former.
However, affected by the “Apple tax” turmoil, it is still unknown whether the App Store’s revenue can be maintained thereafter.
At the same time, after every update of iOS in the past two years, the system is extremely unstable, and it may also lose users.
Some people have summarized various system problems hidden in iOS 11, including iPhone and AirPods unable to pair, iPhone 6, iPhone 7 cycle black screen restart, etc., iOS 11 is even called “the king of bugs”. During the same period, the iPhone fell into the “down-frequency gate” storm again. iOS automatically slows down the iPhone’s performance based on battery performance, but doesn’t notify the user.
Behind the negative controversy, more and more Apple users are no longer loyal to the iOS system.
On the other hand, for Google, the revenue brought by Android has little room for improvement.
China has become one of the largest markets for Android, but the Chinese market is special. Because most Chinese Android phones do not have Google Play, and there are no applications such as Gmail, Google Maps, Google Docs, etc., Google cannot earn revenue from them, and Chinese mobile phone manufacturers are still taking more mobile phone market share step by step.
In addition to the revenue decline crisis, Android’s position is also under more threats.
Android is open source. On this basis, if a manufacturer can develop a better operating system than Android, it will also threaten Google’s current position.
More and more hardware manufacturers with Android-like systems appear, which is not good news for Google.
Especially in the Chinese market, after Huawei was cut off by Google, it had to launch Hongmeng OS. Although the current software ecosystem needs to be supplemented urgently, it is very likely that Chinese users will choose Hongmeng OS in the future, and Android’s market share will also be affected.
In the global market, there are also many eyeing people. On January 13, 2021, Tesla founder Elon Musk announced that he will soon develop a new mobile operating system to replace Android and Apple.
In the future, the field of operating systems will also usher in the next era, and the current speculation points to the future Internet of Things war: a brand new system will support cross-platform operation, not only mobile phones, but also automobiles, smart homes, etc. Terminal Equipment. For Apple and Google, all-round preparations must also be made.
Just as Android and iOS once caught up with the smartphone operating system and left Microsoft behind, these two powerhouses are now destined to usher in the changes of the times and accept the challenges of more emerging players.