Apple vs. Android: Why there’s no right or wrong way to innovate

An Apple or an Android smartphone – which do you carry?

Chances are that for the most die-hard of Apple devotees being seen without the latest incarnation, the iPhone X and its exclusive Apple accessories, would be unthinkable.  While for many other consumers around the world, the open source software offered by an Android mobile device opens the door to flexibility and increased choice.

Whichever way you look at it, both Apple and Android businesses have adopted a different philosophy in terms of the technology innovation behind their respective market propositions, both of which are undoubtedly success stories.

Where the battle started

While Apple is able to boast about being the world’s most valuable company, Android can counter this with market domination facts, which, for example, in the first quarter of 2017 saw Android devices account for 86% of all smartphones sold worldwide.

The technology turf war between Apple and Android platforms is a perfect illustration of two key innovation-related points.

First, it’s clear that there is no one right way when it comes to articulating an innovation-led vision, and, secondly, when you do it’s always best to remember that complacency could be your worst enemy.

Apple and Android (which was bought by Google in 2005) have a long history of interlinked technological advances as each has pushed the other to develop and implement the next level of innovation to attract buyers of their products.

The philosophy to innovate

Each has undertaken an innovation philosophy at odds with the other. However while their strategies are at either end of the scale they do illustrate that each can survive and thrive together.

For Apple with its mobile iOS system, it’s all been about the development of a unified and highly customised user experience. Simple (but attractive) designs ultimately keep their dedicated followers on side and integrated across the range of tech devices the company offers, including the iPad and 2015’s Apple Watch.

Android on the other hand, has aligned itself to a completely open-source mobile operating system; one that can be modified by individual handset manufacturers to create custom mobile solutions.  This has led to flexible, choice-led options for consumers who can today select a Samsung, Nokia or Windows smartphone – all with varied price points.

In terms of innovation and aspiration each company has pushed the other.

When Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, unveiled the revolutionary iPhone on stage in 2007, it led to a dramatic rethink at Android.  Instead of pursuing the development of a Blackberry-like handset they altered course, went back to the drawing board and redesigned the first Android phone which in common with its Apple rival had a larger touch screen.  The rest is history, as the resulting technology battle looked at hardware and software capabilities that would truly enhance the user experience and with it inspire customer loyalty.

A battle without winners

While accepting that Apple were the original creators of the smartphone, the growth and popularity of the Android alternative speaks to the ever present challenges presented by competition.

Apple may well have thought they had stolen a lead through their innovation and by doing so could create a dominant market position.  But, were they perhaps a little complacent?

The reality is that the brains at Android could innovate just as well.  Over recent years this has led to the technological arms race that is the trademark of today’s smartphone marketplace with both Apple and Android continually working on the next innovation leap.

While the scale of the smartphone battle may seem a million miles away from the day-to-day experience of many much smaller tech companies, some principles remain.

Innovation is not a singular pathway.  It can branch off and occupy many different routes to success as the Apple versus Android story aptly illuminates.  Likewise, it is advisable not to rest on your laurels and to continually seek out and invest in developing the next innovation-based breakthrough in order to keep ahead of the chasing pack.

Apple thought they had only to be caught by Android.

But there is more than enough success to share around.

Google recently hit two billion monthly active Android devices, helping to ensure that its money-making products like Gmail, Google Search and Google Maps dominate on smartphones.  While at the same time, Apple continues to post eye-watering profits via its massive army of loyal followers which helps to maintain its envious position as one of the world’s most influential companies.

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