Apple launches 1 iPhone a year, Android shows off 8 last week

motorola-droid-x

No starker contrast could be drawn between Apple's iPhone 4 strategy and Google's Android than this past week where iPhone 4 made its traditional once-a-year debut -- just as Motorola showed off a new Verizon Droid X, T-Mobile Charm, AT&T Flipout, and Samsung announced the Galaxy S-class Sprint Epric 4G, Verizon Facinate, T-Mobile Vibrant, AT&T Captivate, and an as yet unbranded US cellular Galaxy S as well.

Only some of these have been officially announced, but even that number dwarfs Apple's once-a-year iPhone release schedule. That they're coming out around iPhone 4 launch, and iPhone 4 is a strong contender in the market right now (1.7 million in 3 days strong) is interesting. That Google and their manufacturing partners could keep up this pace in 3 months, 6 months, and when iPhone 4 is starting to show its age in 8 months is... something else.

Personally I -- and most importantly my early-adapter-pained wallet -- enjoy Apple's annual cycle. I don't know how Phil Nickinson from our sibling site Android Central survives some weeks. To always have a new phone to look forward to is exciting -- and terrifying. Ask me again in January though, and I might be itching for that iPhone 5...

Do you feel you benefit as an iPhone user from Apple staying focused on that one, integrated, end-to-end handset you own for the better part of a year? Or do you think Google's approach of hardware partners launching new devices, on different network, all the time will lead to greater innovation in the end? Focus can lead to stagnation, fragmentation to loss of direction. Maybe having both approaches in the market, pushing each other, is the best thing for all users?

Let us know what you think...

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, The TV Show, Vector, ZEN & TECH, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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There are 48 comments. Add yours.

kayno says:

Not suprised.. Apple is one company.. Android is everyone else.. Motorolla, HTC, samsung, LG, and anyone else who wants it..

Wes McNabb says:

I agree, Apple doesnt need 10 new phones a year. I am satisfied with my yearly upgrades.

toro says:

How can you make such a comparison? It's almost like saying Apple releases one computer model a year while Microsoft releases 1000 models a year. Does motorola release a new Droid once a year? Apple keeps improving one model, while other manufactures keep cranking out a model after another with different features to keep the competition going.

Farid Rahmi says:

It costs Apple 188$ to build an Iphone 4 (according to Isupply), their profit margin is therefore immense if you consider the non-subsidised price of the product.
This is comparable to what they did when they launched the Mac but quite different than what they did with Ipods where there was true product differentiation.
Although they now also sell unsubsidised Iphone models, Apple seems to stick to big margin high end models only given that most customers don't mind paying off their Iphone via their 24 month contract.
As long as this one (business) model works, why would they bother changing anything ? As soon as competition will get fiercer, expect several products coming your way from Steve because they want the Itunes and App store profits to continue to grow as well of course.
Farid

travisgamedev says:

One phone a year means it has to be good. You can't release one crappy phone a year and do anything. The Android phones can have many "duds" without an issue. I buy an Apple iPhone on launch day each year and I know my iPhone will be a top quality phone every year.

John says:

I am totally stoked about my new iPhone 4. More than I expected!!!!! I think the fact that the android community is putting out more phones, relative to apple, is of no concern. If android tries to push the envelope, it only helps to push apple to top them, just as they did with the new IPhone. It will take a couple of years for everybody to catch up anyway!!!!

dubbdee says:

I can't even keep up with all the phones that other manufacturers release with Android. I like the iPhone and it suits my needs so that's all I care about. All the other phones are designed with different users in mind and that's who will use them.

Ron says:

I don't think that the frequency of updates will be a big help for Android. However, what does help Android is the diversity, both in network availability as well as in diversity of phone styles. For example, many Android devices have a larger screen. For myself, I don't want a phone any bigger than my iPhone, but there are people who would rather have a bigger device and a larger screen. As long as Apple focuses on a single device, they will definitely lose part of the market to the more diverse offerings of Android.

jk7469 says:

I like the fact that apple dedicates a year to ensure a great product but since technology is speeding up at a much faster rate than in the past, I believe Apple has to start looking at a 6-9 month refresh rate sooner rather than later.

Greg Patterson says:

Apple learned from the Windows Mobile failure that proliferation of product leads to no discernible difference and thus no wow factor. Google (young and dumb in the phone-space and many other areas they try to venture into as a night in shining armor), has yet to realize this. If everyone is selling your product everywhere, it just becomes a commodity. Look at other industries like fashion. Exclusivity sells.

Robbie. H says:

Soo confusing with android phones!!! You can try to mimic, but the NEVER can duplicate!!!! iPhone by far is best!!!!! Why does android release soo many??? They never heard of updating??????

Ben says:

^^^fanboy alert^^^
Android does not release "so many". Android is the operating system (OS you know?). Cell phones manufacturers release phones and many of them have adopted Android as their OS.

igorsky says:

Yeah I'm with Apple on this one. Last thing I'd want is to spend $300 on a phone that's obsolete four months later.

Dantv says:

I keep saying it, Google is the new Microsoft. Funny how Verizon wouldn't accept the iPhone when it was offered to them back in 2007 and now they are clinging to Android and Google for dear life. Verizon is pathetic, the more Andrioid phones they throw on the market, the more I want the iPhone. And I won't even bring up the mess that is the Andriod App copycat market. Google is pathetic as well. Switched over to Bing as my search engine. I don't support pathetic wannabe's!

Shrike says:

@Farid Rahmi
Every single phone of the iPhone's class (Droid X, Galaxy S, EVO 4G, Incredible, Nexus One) costs on the order of $160 to $200. Maybe Apple will change one those guys offer cheaper phones. But you know, if it wasn't for Apple and ATT setting the bar of $200 subsidized on the iPhone, every manufacturer will be charging $400 to $500 subsidized on equivalent phones.
You do remember those days in 2007 and prior, where smartphones cost an arm and a leg? What Apple & ATT did was force the carriers to increase the subsidy. Not bad.
What's bad is that the carriers are charging an arm and leg for voice minutes, something that probably costs them less one penny per minute.

Greg says:

I am jumping ship from my 3gs this summer for android. The 3gs is good but I want a larger screen, I don't like iTunes and the ios notification system, and I am tired of having the same phone as everyone else I work with. But I'm keeping our two touches for the kids to play games.

ddx says:

Apple is doing the same thing they have with their computers, yearly updates and they control everything (not as strict as the iOS).
Android is taking the Windows approach, develop the software and let manufacturers build it. Eventually there will be an Android device that fits YOUR NEEDS, which is how the PC market is now. Over time Android will overshadow iOS, especially as the rapid onset of smartphones continue.

Shrike says:

@Rene
The advantage of the Android platform is the diversity. People can get the phone within their "niche". Apple has the best phone on aggregate, but they lose many of the niches. The answer obviously is for Apple to offer up more phones. Maybe a halo 4" iPhone with 64 GB storage in the current lineup. And we've been speculating on a cheap iPhone nano for the longest time.
In the long run, Apple is playing their high profit, lower marketshare game. Something like 15 to 20% of the market, but 80% of the profits. The growth rate of iPhones will slow at some point in time, maybe even this year, and their stock will come back down.

Shrike says:

Google isn't taking the Windows route with Android. If they did, they would be licensing the Android. What Google is doing is offering a free operating system plus ad-revenue sharing to get their OS onto cell phones. It's an attractive deal for carriers and manufacturers. What Google is doing is using its search advertising monopoly to extend the Google brand into the mobile business in order to continue its advertising business on mobiles. They'll do it with tablets, laptops and desktops soon with ChromeOS.
This is like Microsoft in the sense that MS used its OS and Office automation monopoly to muscle into all the markets they've entered. This occurred in the 90s when computing was primarily business oriented. That's the only similarity.
In tactics, what Google is doing with Android is anathema to Microsoft's strategies. MS licenses its wares because that's where they make money. Google gives stuff away for free because they make money on advertising.
Google's business plan here is unbeatable unless competitors can vector into Google ad business. Apple can survive as 15% to 20% of smartphone market, but I don't think they can get much more.

TosaDeac says:

I like the fact that my iPhone4 is now the newest model and can be confident that Apple will not make my phone obsolete for at least one year (and possibly 2 years since it will likely get the new iOs5 when it becomes available next year). Whereas with Android phones it is hard for the typical person to even keep track of them all. I had a guy in my office today say he was holding out on upgrading his broken screened Blackberry Storm for two more weeks until he is upgrade eligible so he can get the Droid Incredible and I had to tell him that he might want to wait for the Droid X or the Facinate or maybe the Droid2 or whatever other Droid SuperFabulousXtreme that will likely be announced in the next few days!

merkdevine says:

I wouldn't use any android device just like I won't use windows 7...I just like apples os's and that as simple as it is

Greg Foster says:

I'm not sure why this is surprising. Apple is managing their phone the same way they manage their computers/laptops. They don't license their software to anyone else for Mac OSX so why would they allow a crappy company like motorola to make a phone with their software?
I appreciate the time and effort that Apple puts into releasing not only their phones but their computers as well.
But either way, I am happy with a phone once a year, that way I don't have cell phone envy every GD week. That's insane. Could you imagine if Apple pumped out even 4 phones a year? How pissed would people be?

solar_plexus says:

Hmmmmm.......
I wonder what would happen if a computer maker decided to make one really good Computer line and not allow anyone else to sell it.
Then, lets say that the competition was really several computer makers with Operating systems that all ran basically the same software. Then lets say that folks started buying the (less impressive) "Clones" because they were cheaper and customizable. Then lets say that developers, en masse, decided to develop for the platform, where more users were heading. Of course the singular company's OS is superior and their computers are the best built. And they have a nice 10% market share, but would they ever be able to take over the computer world?
Now apply that strategy to SmartPhones.
I feel like Apple, offering only one phone a year, may be good for its users, but limiting it will eventually lead to the erosion of the platform. I mean, if you look closely, the shift is already just barely starting. Its easy to look at the store lines and say "Oh Wow the iPhone still sells gangbusters." But when the market share continually slips because most of the folks buying iPhones already had iPhones and most folks buying Android Phones came from other platforms, it makes me wonder if 5 years form now if Apple will still command such a strong market share.
(yes I know there are differences in what happened with the MAC vs PC war and iPhone vs Android but its an analogy...lay off. :))

Greg Foster says:

I get what you're saying about marketshare but...and let me phrase this correctly. Apple is a company run by shareholders so yes they need and want to make money. However, Apple has never been the company to say, "Well let's try it Team X's way and see if it works. Apple will never release 8 phones a year, let alone 8 phones per week!!! It's not going to happen and if that's what people are looking for, they'd better go ahead and buy a crappy Android right now.

George Costanza says:

Way, way too much effort constantly reading about and comparing an endless glut of iClones. I'll stick with the iPhone and the Mac regardless of whatever I may, or may not, be missing.

behrlover says:

The only problem with people thinking Android is a wireless device. It is the OS of the device, the device itself either is put out by Samsung, Motorola, HTC, or whom ever else decides to put the OS on it.

Draino623 says:

People are sooo retarded........Android phone are not becoming obsolete. Most of the new Android handset have similar specs. Different designs mean I can choose a phone that fits me. Don't get me wrong I love my new Iphone 4, but as soon as AT&T releases a worthy Android phone i'm jumping ship. If you ask me the Iphone 4 is obsolete. The only new tech it has is the "Retina" display. The iphone is a dying breed. It's time that Apple starts to "Think Different". Long live competition!

Evan_Beezy says:

I think it's just good competition. Apple improves their product as they feel necessary but Android seems to be setting the standard and the pace for when updating is necessary. Due to all these WVGA android phones Apple made the Retina display to one up them. Just maybe next year they'll increase screen size. But because of all of googles manufacturers there are low end, feature based, social, and high end android phones. That many devices doing so many things forces Apple to attempt a one up on each one so it's just healthy competition - sent from my palm pre...help

bvonscott says:

Ive had lots of phones before, and played with lots of the new ones, and nothing still compares to the iPhone. As far as my PC, I will never own a Mac. I like Windows, and I like that I can build my own machine out of the parts that I want. I dont want to build my own phone though, I want it already done. Anyways, Im always trying to convince people that Verizon sucks and AT&T + iPhone is the best. I get a kick out of it.

Evan_Beezy says:

I think it's just good competition. Apple improves their product as they feel necessary but Android seems to set the standard and the pace for when updating is necessary. Due to all the WVGA android phones Apple made Retina display to one up em. Just maybe next year they'll increase screen size. Because of all of googles manufacturers there are low end, feature based, social, and high end android phones. That many devices doing so many things forces Apple to attempt a one up on each one so it's just healthy competition - sent from my palm pre...help

Shrike says:

There isn't any new "tech" in Android phones or iPhones. Only implementations. Anybody saying Android has better "hardware" is only deluding themselves.
CMOS technologies, that which makes all of the semiconductor chips in computers, moves in ~18 month cycles. Generally all chips made with similar tech (65 nm, 45 nm, 32 nm) will be within spitting difference of each other.
If you'll note, all modern high end phones today have basically the same Cortex-A8 processor and similar GPU cores and similar perf per Watt.
Having a 4.3" screen is not new technology. It's an implementation with tradeoffs. A big screen is nice but it forgoes maybe have the customers as it makes for a large screen.
Basically everything has tradeoffs. Having a large screen will kill the battery for situations where screen is being used a lot like web browsing. Having a good camera with a good lens will make for a bulky phone. Having an external antenna design is great for better reception but it trades with the user being able to attenuate the signal more so than an internal one if held or touched a certain way.
Same thing with software.
Apple's raison d'être is creating a nicely integrated product that's enjoyable to use for a large portion of the population while staying competitive with hardware and software features.
You can't fault them for that. Few companies try to do that. Few companies can even do it.
Since tech moves in these ~18 month cycles, they are fine with yearly updates. They won't be left behind.

Nick says:

This is the PC vs Mac of the mobile space now. Android is going to start taking over with the crazy amount of activations they are getting per day. The competition of Android vs Android devices is the thing that is making the top tier device for android life span just like a month. It was the Evo and now hearing about the Galaxy S and how its hummingbird processor is better than the snapdragon o.O? Then of course there is choice, with all the android devices out there, you have all kinds of choices. Do I want a qwerty keyboard or virtual, do I want a small screen vs large screen, and of course you have carrier choices. I'm stuck on so and so, is there an android device for me. We are pretty much at a point where no mattter which carrier you pick, you'll have a great smartphone. Sprint=Evo, T-Mobile=Samsung Vibrant, Verizon=DroidX, AT&T=HTC Aria. Just pick your carriers first, then your phone, either way you'll be happy with the choices now.

Jeremy Zimmerman says:

I'll take the best of breed from Apple and live with it for a whole year or two without getting antsy about it.
Best of all, I'll keep using and enjoying my iPhone 4 in 2013 with iOS 7 while most droid phones are in the garbage.
I know Apple's schedule and don't get caught up in the hype of all the latest Android gadgets. Until they design a cohesive product and have the guts to issue software updates and os upgrades for 2-3 years, they'll have nothing on Apple.
A buggy phone that can't be upgraded, is no longer manufactured, and is abandoned by the operator and manufacturer is little more than a paperweight.

Chris M says:

Apple has an excellent strategy on releasing 1 phone a year. Many buddies of mine's comments over here have explained thoroughly why I support them with this.
I have a MacBook (cheapest model) from last year. And thank god it still runs like new, so i don't feel the need to upgrade... When i had PC's every month i was angry or so because my PC was already slow and all of that, and newer, cheaper PC's had come out with like 4 times the specs... It's all a matter of usability friendliness and.. I don't know, awesomeness. I like Apple because of those things. The little, maybe crippled things they do - they do it amazingly well. And that's what counts/works for me.

Nick says:

Talking about Apples and Android, here you go since I'm sure we won't see this video make the front page. A little video to help get some laughter :) I know some that we all know some friends that are like this :)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FL7yD-0pqZg&feature=youtu.be

Angel says:

I like Android, but definitely my preference is the iPhone 4 with iOS 4. My cousin has an Incredible and I had an iPhone 3G. I loved it! But Apple just does it for me. I used to get a new phone every few months until I got an iPhone. First a larger screen came out, better camera, and all the other laundry list features. For me, it does everything and was up to date with technology enough. Android has a lot of very cool highend features, but I really would never use tethering, make hotspots, or anything. It is very nice to be able to update when necessary. I would love to use the laundry lost features on an Android OS phone, but all those more advanced features I definitely could care less for. In the end, I love my iPhone 4.

Macboy74 says:

I agree. If you get an android phone now its obsolete in two weeks. I'm not sure who said it here but the specs are not always the same on every new android phone with each maker. And I love how people say the iPhone is a dying breed and there stock will soon go down??? Huh people say this every year. How's that working out for them. I had a evo for a week cause I wanted to see what android is all about. The os was choppy, laggy, too do a simple task took at least 4-5 steps, the battery sucked big time charged it about 13 times in the 6 days I had it. It also had the screen peeling problem. Thank god I was never intending to just iPhones ship. Loved all three old iPhones I had and loving the iPhone 4. Android can puck it..

Ferrigno says:

It has to be hard for google to keep up with so many android models... You buy an android phone today and after 8 months they wont even remember you or your phone, i buy an iphone and I know i'm all set for at least two years....

Kev says:

Why are we discussing phones? Android is an OS, so let's keep it that. Apple's OS is specific to the hardware thus optimizing the user experience. Google's OS is adopted by phone makers and put on different devices. The user experience is not as good but it is good enough to beat out everyone else, that plus being on multiple carriers is what will make it popular and profitable. Its good to have a choice.

Njoy says:

I have had the iphone and recently made the switch to the EVO. Frankly I just find the iphone boring now. The same old interface with no customization is getting old. I have checked out the iphone 4g and compared to the EVO I was just not impressed.

Bob says:

having so many launches is a plus point for Android as it helps to keep android in constant media attention which is not a bad thing, since android is still not well known in US let alone worldwide. Also the other thing to note is that this is a perfect example of long tail strategy, sell a few of lot of products, rather than a lot of a single product. Long tail seems to be working for android, a single launch seems to be working for Apple so why change it ?

Janey says:

"People are sooo retarded……..Android phone are not becoming obsolete. Most of the new Android handset have similar specs"
Uh, no, that's not always the case. Phones that were brand new this past October were obsolete by January. Stuck at Android 1.6 with no upgrade path other than "root your phone and install this mod made by this kid in Molvania" while newer phones were shipping with 2.0. Oh and newer apps requiring 2.0, so why the phones still work, you had a brand new phone that was left in the dust.

ny3ranger says:

I dont think people will be able to handle more then 1 iphone per year. I think apple customers have gotten used to their cycle and it would be terrible to buy an iphone and 2 months later a better model came along. I think you would have some angry people. Google/Andriod strategy is not the same as Apples. So you cant really compare. Google is the MS of this space and no doubt they will have higher numbers. But I think for it just works like the Macs you will have apple and the iphone. Apple should just forget the numbers game from here and work on the best user experience. Everything else will fall into place. Capture that 20-30 percent of the market and keep adding markets. TV, game unit and automobile integration unit is next.

Stressedhitman says:

Seriously, companies can keep releasing all the Android phones they want, but until the OS can run smoothly and the app market gets some quality apps, IT WILL STILL BE A F*$KING JOKE !!!!! LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL !!!

jcdaniels says:

This is the main reason I am jumping from Android over to Apple.
I'm a big time Apple/Mac fan who has always liked the iPhone but could never make the switch.
After 4's announcement (before signal issues) I was excited to switch. I might wait a few more weeks and see how the next shipments are before jumping.
Anyways, back on topic. I have a HTC Hero .... still on 1.5 due to being on a rural carrier with no promising sight for a 2.X upgrade. Why would I want to to keep a phone that after 6 months is already so far out of date?
Like previously mentioned, most iOS' are guaranteed for at least 2 years. Way better than 0 months (since when I got mine 1.6 was already available for those on Sprint)

Ben says:

Stressedhitman,
maybe you need to take a break from your normal duties of hitman, you are stressed lol ? are all iphone fanbois stressed out like you

Brian says:

The iPhone is a great device but a crappy phone. I've been an iPhone user since day one, but I finally jumped ship and got the HTC EVO with Android. I couldn't be happier. Not one dropped call yet. I was dropping 4 or 5 a day on AT&T. Apple needs to drop AT&T and get onto another carrier.

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