Why Apple's influence is both a boon and detriment to the smartphone market at large

Apple has a massive influence on the smartphone market. The first iPhone was groundbreaking, revolutionary even. With the emergence and growth in popularity, Android has become a worthy competitor and really the only other choice if you don't want to walk the iOS road. There are plenty of Android phones to choose from, each with its own special touch from the manufacturer (for better or worse), since Android is open.

One could argue that at this point, the influence goes both way between iPhone and Android. iPhone was the first to implement 3D Touch (Force Touch), and Samsung developed something similar that debuted on the Galaxy S8. The iPhone X display was made by Samsung (albeit tweaked and perfected by Apple). There's a bit of a give-and-take happening now, since Android is getting bigger and better all the time.

But Apple still walks tall as a sort of gold standard among smartphone makers, and at this stage in the game, I don't really dig it, nor do I dig what the future might hold. And rumors surrounding Android P have me fretting a little.

iOS: There can be only one

Apple's operating is succinct, elegant, and a bit bland if you ask me. But it does exactly what it's supposed to, with minimal effort and minimal learning curve. Android, depending on the phone manufacturer, can be clunky, bloated, and sometimes just a complete mess (LG G5, anyone?). But Android is at its worst when it tries to emulate or downright copy iOS.

The worst culprit? Huawei's EMUI. Now, I don't really enjoy the iOS user experience at the best of times (too restrictive, things don't work as intuitively as some Android features), but Android with an iOS dress on is just lipstick on a pig. EMUI, which Huawei implements on most of its branded devices as well as its Honor subsidiary's devices, is a sort of iOS/Android hybrid, with fairly elegant, clean-looking app icons (for the most part), but some confusing features and a Settings app that looks like it was a rush crib job off of the iPhone's Settings. Huawei's phones still work just like Android (aside from some weird lock screen notification restrictions), but the look is a jumbled mess.

If anyone really wants their Android phone to look like an iPhone (just buy a f**king iPhone, ya goof!), there are launchers for that.

That damn notch

"Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn't stop to think if they should." The divisive (ugly, in my opinion) notch on the iPhone X is a strange design choice that has been a dealbreaker for some and a complete non-issue for others. I was fine with it, because I'm not an iPhone user, but ohhhhh looky here! Look! LOOK.

Android P will feature a 'dramatic redesign' and support notch displays (Android Central)

See what you've wrought, Apple? Android users laughed (because who really bought the frickin' Essential Phone), presumably safe from the "horns". NAWP. Android P's getting a radical redesign and it's going to support notched displays.

Where will you go when all your phones are belong to notch?

I bet you this Galaxy S8 on my desk that Samsung's coming out with a notched phone in the next year or two. Bank on that. And then what? Then nowhere is safe from the notch. This is that South Park election episode all over again. We're gonna have to choose between a giant douche and a turd sandwich, and the worst part is that we will. I will. Because we have no other choice.

I know this seems like a lot of doomsaying and melodrama, but non-fans of the iPhone X, I ask you: Where will you go when all your phones are belong to notch?

Bye-bye, fingerprint sensors

Face ID setup

Face ID setup (Image credit: iMore)

Oh, it's gonna happen. Samsung uses iris scanners and facial recognition already. Face ID is the iPhone X's main unlocking method (Input a code like an animal? No thank you!). The Honor View 10 has implemented face unlocking features, and it's only a matter of time as more and more Android manufacturers follow suit.

There have been rumors swirling for a few years now about fingerprint sensors beneath the screen, and one Android phone maker has already implemented that feature on its forthcoming phone, but I honestly can't see that being implemented en masse by Android manufacturers. That being said, it's not like Face ID is easy to copy (30,000 dots don't lie!).

It'll be a sad day when fingerprint sensors go the way of the dodo, but the fun part is that there's nothing we can do to stop it. Just like that other "relic" we recently lost…

They jacked my headphone jack

iPhone 7

iPhone 7

The iPhone 7 brazenly dropped the 3.5mm headphone jack (the Moto Z was the first phone to do it, but come on — it was the iPhone). The world gasped. Pursists fainted. Those looking to the future fist-pumped. The rest of us sat around and wondered the cost of a decent pair of Bluetooth headphones.

Bluetooth audio has come a long way over the last few years, but there's still something reassuring about a wired connection.

Then Google released the Pixel and openly mocked Apple in its marketing. Then the Pixel 2 was revealed to be sans headphone jack, and Apple (silently) screamed "I told you so." Samsung has yet to drop the jack on its flagships, but we all know that's just down the pipe. HTC has ditched it on its latest phones. It's coming for us all — it's just a matter of time.

Not that I'm overly concerned: Bluetooth audio has come a long way over the last few years, but there's still something reassuring about a wired connection and that final tether to the past being snipped is somewhat disconcerting. That or I'm a big ol' luddite and should just suck it up.

An SoC to be coveted, marveled at, and emulated

There's no denying that Apple's chips are to Android makers' chips what Pringles are to Lays. They're both pretty good, but Pringles fits more chips in a smaller container (and they're stackable!). Specs are all but meaningless when it comes to Apple's chipsets because its engineers are somehow able to do so much more with less when compared to Android chips. The day an Android manufacturer discovers how to marry Apple's engineering with Google's OS will be a sad day for Apple indeed, but I don't see it happening.

Apple is (and may always be) king of updates

Something that's irked me since I switched to Android three years ago is the sloth-like speed with which Samsung puts out Android updates. Because Android is open and each manufacturer has its own version, it takes them forever to get the latest updates out to every device in their repertoire. Apple's update system is by far the best thing about it and the feature I'd like to see aped the most in the Android world. That fact that every iPhone or iPad gets the same update at the same time is convenient, it's secure, and it's so much more fun when a new OS is released. I've been waiting on bloody Oreo since last August!

Google is starting to crack down, finally, announcing that, starting in August 2018, all new apps will need to target Android Oreo.

As a result, companies who sell phones with old versions or forget about those phones when it comes time to update them will stand out because the products won't have access to new or newly updated apps. Google says they encourage developers to do what they can to make apps backward compatible, but we all know how things go when they're only suggested or encouraged. (Jerry Hildenbrand, Android Central)

That's heartening, but not quite enough. Hopefully Google continues to work toward faster Android updates, because I'm getting kind of sick of waiting for what other Android users have, especially when I'm using one of the "best flagships on the market".

The lines begin to blur

iPhone and Pixel phone

iPhone and Pixel phone (Image credit: iMore)

Russell Holly wrote a great piece on just how similar iPhone and Android are becoming, and that's truer and truer all the time. You can get Portrait Mode in iPhone and Google Pixel 2, and each has top-notch cameras, AR, and more. So as the lines blur, is it such a big deal anymore? I see the scales shifting in the future, where Apple is influenced more than it influences, but for now, it still takes those risks before Android makers are ready to. Are the differences only slipping away because of a lack of vision on Apple's part since the death of Steve Jobs? Maybe. Is it because we've reached a point where we're finished reinventing the wheel? Probably.

What do you think?

Sound off in the comments below!

Mick is a staff writer who's as frugal as they come, so he always does extensive research (much to the exhaustion of his wife) before making a purchase. If it's not worth the price, Mick ain't buying.

  • “That **** notch”.
    I couldn’t agree more. I have been unable to buy into the iPhone X since it’s release. In fact, I was looking at one again yesterday afternoon. While there are some really cool things about that phone, and the fact that it is the direction of iPhones going forward, I just can’t get past that stupid looking notch staring back at me, taking up screen space, every time and all the time that I use the device. I walked out with my same old iPhone 5S again. I’m also not a fan of the screen aspect ratio, I like the screen on the 8+ better. No option for wired ear buds sucks too. I’d like the new wireless set if they actually lasted some time but they do not. I have a couple of 5-5.5 hour flights coming up later this year. Apple’s wireless “solution” lasts a whole whopping 2 friggin hours?! At that price...2...Frigging...Hours...?!
    Here’s hoping for some changes in these departments ASAP. Tho I’m not wagering anything on it. :-(
  • The more you use the iPhone X, the more you forget the notch exists. It doesn't excuse it being there, but at the same time it's not really as annoying as people make out. What do you mean by "no option for wired ear buds"? You can still use the adapter.
  • Unless you like to watch Netflix or you tube... But since hardly anyone does that you're golden with the unibrow!
  • By default those videos won't be obscured by the notch, unless you zoom in
  • Lighting earbuds are wired and sound way better than the old analog earbuds
  • Sound quality is subjective but literally any spec bump would help the abysmal traditional earpods.
  • « Apple’s wireless “solution” lasts a whole whopping 2 friggin hours?! At that price...2...Frigging...Hours...?!«  No they last longer than that...
    And you have a dongle or the earpods with lightning... it’s really not a big deal. For the notch, it’s just an interactive bezel. Use the phone and you don’t even think about it. It’s not taking space on the screen really. It’s like if you have the statut bar on the bezel itself so in a way it saves a bit of screen space ;)
  • You forget about the notch when you've used the phone for a day or two. And like you said, people are used to having a fixed status bar at the top of the screen anyway.
  • The thing to keep in mind about the notch is it's not just going to be on iPhones. This thing is going to be on the Apple Watch, the iPad, MacBook, iMac etc eventually. Macs will probably follow later, but when the home button disappears from the iPad it'll have a notch. And it makes sense to take a bit of screen from the top (or side) than it does to have a thin black bar at the top or bottom. When I look at the S8 compared to the X, the X looks way more futuristic. The camera needs to be there (for selfies alone. Nobody has figured out a way to put a good camera lens behind the display. Frankly people have been saying that the iPhone looked stale ever since the 6S. Apple finally did something visually distinct (which will soon become passe as soon as it's ripped off by every Android vendor) and people whine. Also claiming anything on Android is intuitive is ... pretty laughable. The most intuitive things on Android were all lifted from iOS. There might be things that work more to your liking, but intuitive means I can put it in front of someone who's never used the product before and they don't get frustrated. At this point Windows is more intuitive than Android, and that's saying something. Your chips paragraph was a bit confusing. Were you acknowledging that Apple has a lead in specs by a full generation? I'm pretty sure this year's Android phones are still struggling to catch up to the iPhone 7 in terms of performance, and that's on bench marks, real world performance is probably still more comparable to the 6S in most cases (Which wouldn't be so bad, my SE has the same processor as the 6S and it's still a zippy little phone). I get that you like Android, which is fine, people are allowed to like OSes I don't like. But the major advantages that Google's platform has is that it's cheaper to get into, and there are less restrictions on what types of apps can be on the platform. Apple's limits on what can be in the app store can be frustrating. I'd love to be able to side load apps from my Mac if I've confirmed that I'm okay with the risk they could pose on my phone. But at the same time, I realize I'm very far in the minority on that front. At this point aside from people who want to torrent or run emulators on their phones (both things that I'd actually like to be able to do on my phone) the iPhone is a better phone for most people unless they're on a pretty intense budget.
  • Ok, having both the Pixel 2 XL and the iPhone X I would like to give my perspective on some of your comments. "Also claiming anything on Android is intuitive is ... pretty laughable." I'm sorry, but in this you're wrong. On basic tasks (calls, sms, browsing the web/Facebook/twitter) iOS and Android are very much on equal footing. Of course, if you want to dive in stuff like alternative launchers on Android, then, yes, you're going to need some degree of knowledge. And there are some things that Apple goes out of its way to complicate. Changing keyboards, for example, is harder to do on iOS. And downloading and applying ringtones outside the App Store is a nightmare.
    On Android you can use the app Zedge to pick a ringtone you like and to apply it you simply click "apply/set". That's it!
    On iOS, also using the Zedge app, you have to download the ringtone, connect the phone to iTunes, export the ringtone to your computer, re-import it to the phone's ringtones folder and, finally, apply it in the settings. Also, it very much depends on what you're used to. If you're used to the Apple ecosystem, then, yes, using an iPhone is probably going to feel more intuitive at first. But, for people like me, who used Android exclusively for a few years, I can tell you that there's quite a learning curve when you're trying to find how to do the same stuff on iOS. "At this point Windows is more intuitive than Android, and that's saying something." Again, same point as before, like, 90% of the world is powered by Windows. If suddenly those people had use macOS, trust me there would be quite a few angry people looking for the "start" menu. In the end both have their advantages and shortcomings, and picking what’s best for you comes down to a lot of factors, not just price.
  • Forgot a few points: "real world performance is probably still more comparable to the 6S in most cases" Actually, the opposite is true. While the A11 beats the SD835 in benchmarks, on day-to-day tasks, both the iPhone X the Pixel 2 XL are extremely smooth are very rarely stutter. "the iPhone is a better phone for most people unless they're on a pretty intense budget." Again very relative. It depends on what you're used to and your degree on ecosystem lock-in. For about 400$ (which I wouldn't consider a pretty intense budget), there are tons of great Android midrangers, more than suitable for standard tasks.
  • One of the big differences between iOS and Android, is that iOS is very restrictive to what apps can do, which generally isn't a problem and offers a great security benefit. I think most of us have given a laptop to a parent or grandparent, and had to remove a virus from it because they clicked an ad, or went to the wrong website to download a piece of software. The worst you can do on an iOS device is download an app and get spammed with notifications, so on a general level iOS devices can be more preferable you're less likely to screw them up
  • On the latest versions of Android (from Nougat upwards, I believe) the all-or-nothing "Unknown Sources" permission was replaced with an individual, per-source, authorization.
    You have to purposefully dig deep in the settings to activate sideloading. And there are quite a few ways to sideload apps on iOS using enterprise certificates, which, of course, is also not "easy", but my point is that simply stumbling upon and installing an app outside the Play Store is much harder nowadays than it used to be.
  • I have to imagine your experience with iOS seems a bit limited. For example, ringtones. Just get the app from Rogue Amoeba. Simplicity itself.
  • You mean this? https://rogueamoeba.com/support/knowledgebase/?showArticle=FissionRingtones You still have to connect your phone to iTunes and use the Fission app to export the Ringtone. Also Fission is a mac-only app. I'm a windows user. On Android you do everything within the app itself, nothing else required.
  • The only thing I can think of that's unintuitive on iOS, is the iTunes syncing. I would much rather just plug the phone in and be able to drop files in like every other device. But the rest of iOS I find more intuitive than Android. I don't find changing keyboards any more complicated on iOS than on Android, both of them you have to download the keyboard from their app store, then go into settings to enable it. iOS has the extra "Enable Full Access" which is actually a security feature to prevent keyboard apps from sending keystroke information to servers, and you don't necessarily have to enable that unless the keyboard you're using has functionality which requires it to log typed information to a server.
  • Samsung will never have the lazily designed unibrow notch. Can't see it. If anything, the next iteration will be all of these sensors imbedded under the screen where the OLED turns off directly above to allow the sensor to operate and then goes back to full screen.
  • It's not lazily designed considering it was done on purpose. Apple could have chosen to have a slightly bigger bezel at the top, or at both the top and the bottom of the phone. Instead, they chose to extend the screen as much as possible whilst keeping the same size, which created the notch.
  • Notch: It will be reduced, softened, and eventually eliminated. The vision is for s clean slate. Headphones: I just want a lightning cable. Some headphones already ship with an Android cable and an Apple cable. (Then add the port to the Macbooks.) TouchID: I think there will always be a niche audience for that, and sellers with slim profits will be willing to cater to them. Sandboxing: You didn't talk about this, but Apple proves that you don't need an open system to be successful. In fact, it boosts security. Android could follow this trend, locking things down in the name of faster updates. Reduced openess and flexibility comes in many forms (I hear that's a trend already), but OEMs would love that (so long as they can add bloatware). It's the worst of both worlds.
  • « Apple's operating is succinct, elegant, and a bit bland if you ask me«  And not blabd if you ask me :)
  • Using elegant and bland in the same sentence seems like an oxymoron to me. Sure on Android you can make everything look psychedelic and use a cursive font, it won't be bland, but it certainly won't be elegant. The elegance of iOS is what makes me enjoy looking at it every day, and I certainly don't think it's bland, especially after the iOS 7 revamp
  • « things don't work as intuitively as some Android features«  I think the opposite... what things exactly.
  • The only thing I can think of, is being forced to use iTunes syncing. Aside from that, I find iOS much more intuitive.
  • « I see the scales shifting in the future«  Why? You have a new technology that allows ws you to see the future?
    I don’t think Apple today with Cook is very different from before. Jobs would have done more or less the same (but no one knows so that’s not an argument actually)
  • I certainly don't see the scales shifting. iPhones are everywhere, people know they're reliable and incredibly easy to use, they can use services like iMessage and FaceTime that "just work" because they're built into the OS and they can literally just add the friend to their contact list and away they go. AFAIK Android still has nothing to rival iMessage in terms of functionality and seamless integration into the OS and SMS system. I don't think they have a built in video chat app like FaceTime either, I know Google Duo exists but I don't think it comes with every Android phone, which defeats the purpose
  • That's a very US-centric perspective. In the US Android and iOS market shares are very similar, but on most other countries Android has 70 to 85% share, so iPhone are not everywhere. A consequence of this is that outside the US no one uses iMessage, only Whatsapp and FB Messenger. Regarding Allo, it comes pre-installed on every new Android device. It's been that way for about a year now. Of course it's gonna take a while for it to reach FaceTime levels of popularity, especially because, again, outside the US, everybody uses Whatsapp and FB Messenger for video calls.
  • This all adds up to this is not Apple's problem. This is a lack of imagination, tech savvy, and plain honesty with the others. Apple's influence, if it was truly followed, would lead to other phones being different in their own way. Apple did not influence anyone to become a copy cat. That's lazy thinking and that's exactly what they do. As for the criticisms of iOS and the iPhone itself, well, everyone has an opinion, just like everyone has a navel. If Spock were to comment here, he'd repeat the Vulcan proverb: "Infinite diversity in infinite combination." No room for copy cats there.
  • My only big criticism with iOS today, is the need to still use iTunes for transferring things to the phone. On an Android phone, if I need to put something on it, I just plug it in to any computer, drag the file over, and that's it. On an iOS device, I have to have a computer with iTunes, and then there's the whole iTunes Library issue. If you want to add one new song to an iPhone on a new computer, it'll try to erase everything on the phone to sync with the computer's library. So I end up having to export all the songs off the iPhone via another application, import then into iTunes, then add the new song. But that's my only criticism. I have _a lot_ more criticisms with Android, hence the reason why I have an iPhone.
  • "I see the scales shifting in the future, where Apple is influenced more than it influences, but for now, it still takes those risks before Android makers are ready to." This was true a long time ago. I would say most of what Apple adds to the iPhone, an Android phone manufacturer has put into a phone at least 1 or 2 years prior.
  • Usually I find that, when Apple implements something later, they implement it in a more intuitive/user-friendly way. Apple care an incredible amount about design and UX, so they will spend a lot of research on how to implement a new feature in terms of how the user will interact with it, and how it will look, which is partly the reason why they get features later than Android
  • For the most part, I think you're correct. But still, for the past (at least) 5 years, every Apple keynote feels like a summary of what they're finally putting into the iPhone. Yet, they still have the audacity(?) to call it innovative. I remember watching the first iPhone keynote (and the next few after that), now THAT was innovative! I think the only cutting-edge feature they've added recently was animoji. Hooray.
  • Android vs. iOS - Coke vs. Pepsi. Would you just get over the notch, the missing headphone jack, etc? These are trivialities, and a sign that both platforms are very mature, and very successful, that we can agonize over minutia like this. What matters more is how well or poorly the OS performs, how secure it is, and how vibrant an application platform it is. Both platforms have lots of apps (one could argue that iOS users are more likely to pony up money for software, but....this is somewhat murky). However, performance:
    "Specs are all but meaningless when it comes to Apple's chipsets because its engineers are somehow able to do so much more with less when compared to Android chips" No one ever seems to bring up the fact that Android apps are written in Java or Kotlin, using the JVM to run on. They run on a virtual machine (admittedly, Google's, not Oracles, but it's a Java Virtual Machine, nonetheless, with a memory garbage collector). Java enthusiasts like to defensively claim that it runs almost as fast as (or, it's claimed, in some cases, faster than), native code, but.....it's hoohah. It doesn't. iOS apps run as native code, right against the bare metal. They crash, they have stray pointer problems (with objective-C), they do all the wondrous and strange things native apps do. There is no garbage collection - it's a reference-counted model. Objects are freed immediately as soon as their ref count goes to 0, and it puts a little (not much, but a little) more onus on the application programmer to do things correctly, as compared to the garbage collected model. I know, I know, this is all geek-speak, and utterly irrelevant to normal users.....except.....it's simply not. It's completely relevant to why iOS behaves so differently from Android, and has a lot to do with the performance characteristics. iOS is far from perfect, but the distinction of native vs. managed code is a far more significant one than 'closed' vs. 'open', or 'customizable' vs. 'locked down'. This is why your iPhone usage experience *feels* different than an Android phone usage; it's a fundamental architectural decision that Google made when making Android. They chose to use an application model that's more suitable for servers than low-power mobile clients. It simplifies things for app developers. But it doesn't squeeze the last iota of performance from your hardware.
  • Given my experience with Android and iOS, I found that Android applications crash more, although this was a fair number of years back when I used Android. I think if you're a true developer, you should know how to develop native apps. What's the point in making things easier if it's going to decrease performace? Especially on a mobile device, where you want to make sure the balance between performance and power management is handled well. It's crazy when you see Android phones that have to have much higher specs in order to compete with doing the same tasks on iOS. If Java had true garbage collection, it would delete itself.
  • I like iOS, but Apple needs to fix the **** notifications. I don't need a notification for every **** notification I get. Stack them like Android. If I have 15 Facebook notifications, just notify me once and stack them all in the same notification. Don't give me 15 different Facebook notifications.
  • I think you really need to do a little work on your app notifications. I turn most of that garbage off and limit to really important things I actually care about. The last thing I need is 1000 Facebook notifications. That's OFF. I just don't need it. I'll go directly to Facebook for anything new every few weeks or so. I don't live my life on Social Media.
  • I think he was just using Facebook as an example. I completely agree with Retinella.
  • I personally would like to be notified for each notification, since two notifications from the same app generally aren't related. Grouping sounds like a good idea though