Jason Smith

I'm Jason. This is my home on the web where I write. Stick around. It's going to get interesting. 

How do you measure who's winning?

I started reading this article from Apple Insider about the rising web traffic of iOS devices and simultaneous decline in web usage of Android devices, and the fact that it calls into question whether or not Android devices are really selling as well as is claimed by the IDC.

But why are we so fascinated with these "who's winning the smartphone wars" articles any way? And how on earth do you measure it? When I watch the basketball, it's easy to say who is winning or who won at the end of the game or the season. A winner is declared and is given a trophy, and everyone else goes home and cries. They don't start arguing that based on a points scored per dollar paid to the players team x was the winner, or team y had the most fans and generated the most revenue from ticket sales so it could really be considered the most successful, and thus the winner. No. Most points scored equals winner of game. Easy.

But in this smartphone/computer/platform "war" it's impossible to say who is the winner unless everyone agrees on what is to be measured. But not only does each company release varying information and stats, we as the tech observing community keep comparing apples and oranges (pardon the pun). 

To compare Apple's iPhone, iPad and iPod touch to all things Android is to compare one manufacturer making its own products, to dozens of manufactures all licensing an operating system called Android from Google. 

On top of that, there are some "Android" devices that just TAKE Google's open source product and use it without branding it Android at all (e.g. Amazon kindle). Do they count towards Android sales?

So after a few years now we're deep into the mobile computing era, apparently, and the dozens of phone manufacturers producing hundreds of smartphones and tablets all using the free and open Android are outselling the single company Apple. 

It wasn't a given that it's happened, some people believed Apple could outsell all other manufacturers combined, but it appears that that's what's happening at the moment.

Now, few companies other than Apple actually release solid numbers on how many devices they actually sell to consumers, so even this "fact" gets debated as a lot of the numbers released are estimates and educated guesses. I'm not sure what school you go to to get a diploma in guessing, but I'm sure it helps.

Now let me share something with you from an app developer and web "master" perspective. 

I don't care how many devices have been sold. I can see how many downloads my iOS app gets compared to its Android counterpart, and it's two to one in favour of Apple's iOS. So even though apparently there are twice as many Android smartphones getting around as iPhones and iPads, I know Apple owners are more likely to go to the trouble of downloading the app.

Then there's the website. This gets even more skewed. For every visit from an Android device, there's 3.5 visits from an Apple device.

So if you measure this game from a "usage" point of view, Apple wins hands down.

But Apple doesn't make any money when you switch on your device and use it (unless you count the almost non existant iAds), so why are they performing so well on the metric that would matter the least to them. Google's entire business model depends on you clicking on their ads, so one would think they would only consider themselves "winning" if their devices were used the most. 

Then there's the investor's point of view. Depending on the day of the week, Apple is the biggest or second biggest listed company in the world. And they are by far the most profitable phone and computer manufacturer on the planet. Only one competitor has managed to etch out a living in the world of mobile devices at the moment and that's Samsung. They're doing well, by all accounts. But the country they are based in, Korea, doesn't require them to release the same data as Apple which is listed in the US, so even knowing for sure what Samsung make from phones and tablets is cloudy.

But Google is not doing shabby, but it's almost impossible to measure how much revenue exactly they have made from the existence of Android. Lots of industry "observers" even believe that Google earn more revenue through the iPhone than their own Android products. Strange, but not entirely implausible. So if iPhones do well, Google does well.

I've stated before that I do not hate the fact that Android exists, just because I prefer to use Apple. I am glad there is someone nipping at Apple's heels ensuring consumers win in the end with some healthy competition driving innovation.

But articles that say Apple is winning or Samsung is winning or Android is winning or Google is winning are really meaningless at the moment. We don't really know what game we're playing, and how to measure the score. Is it sales, usage, profits, customer satisfaction, screen size?

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