Anybody who watched the keynote from WWDC 2014 yesterday has a pretty clear sense of how Tim Cook (and Apple) feels about Android. Of course, given that they are in direct competition with each other it should come as no surprise. Keeping in mind that it is Apple’s developer conference and it was Cook’s stage (and therefore he is entitled to make a certain number of anecdotal-style remarks), the question that emerges is: Was Cook right?
Some things Cook said were fact. According to sales figures, 130 million of Apple’s customers in the last 12-months were first-time buyers to the brand. Cook followed up this statistic by stating that: “Many of these customers were switchers from Android. They had bought an Android phone, by mistake, and then sought a better experience. And a better life. And decided to check out iPhone and iOS.” Truth? Probably for some of them. But how ‘many’ is ‘many’? Cook goes on to insist that half of the customers gained in China over the last 6 months were Android converts –but doesn’t mention how that assumption came to be, so it is difficult to know how believable it is.
Install bases are easier to compare accurately. Very few Android users (when compared to iOS) are using the latest versions of the operating system. This is due in large part to the fragmentation of the operating system and diversity in manufacturers. For many Android devices, the latest operating system isn’t even an option. Cook makes a solid point on the heels of this fact: it doesn’t matter how awesome the features are in the latest version of Android if hardly anybody gets to take advantage of them.
Malware is another easy hit for Cook to take against Android. It may be a little dramatic to borrow the quote from ZDNet author Adrian Kingsley-Hughes when he called his competitor a “toxic hellstew of vulnerabilities,” but it’s accurate to state that more malware and viruses exist in that environment than in iOS.
So was Cook right? It may be more accurate to say, Cook wasn’t wrong. Many advocates of Android will try to fight back with statements regarding there being more Android devices activated in the world than there are iOS devices –but does it matter if few of those are in the hands of enterprise users (who are arguably those upgrading regularly and spending money in the app marketplace)? More than deciding whether Cook came out victorious, I prefer to think of it as a ‘call to arms’ of sorts, with Apple encouraging Android to step up their game (because as is often said, competition motivates innovation).