It’s Good to be Back on the iPhone

I wasn’t terribly vocal about this fact but since June I have been using an Android phone exclusively as my smartphone. Which has been by far the longest I have ever used an Android smartphone for any length of time. I get sent a lot of Android devices and often I pop my SIM into them to use them as my primary phone. This is the only way I feel I can get a true sense of a product and form an opinion, by fully integrating it into my life. Most Android devices I try never last a full week before I have to go back to the iPhone.

The device I used was the Galaxy Nexus running the latest Android OS Jelly Bean. I tried the Galaxy Note 5.3 and the Galaxy SIII for a short time as well but both only lasted a week or so. I much preferred Jelly Bean over the customized versions Samsung put on the Note and the SIII. I was surprised at a number of things I thought were pretty good about Jelly Bean. One I wrote about here, where I talked about Google Now and how Google is building an anticipation engine.

I was also drawn to the larger screen which is probably the strongest feature keeping me from going back to the iPhone. The Galaxy Nexus screen is 4.65 inches and after using it even for a short while, my iPhone 4S felt small. Email was the hardest thing for me to handle with Android. The email client that supports Microsoft Exchange server (which is what my company uses for corporate email) is tolerable at best—at BEST. Email is essential to my work flow because it is my day to day communication with clients. Not only did I dislike the Android email UI, it had weak Exchange support, often failed miserably, and would fail to make a connection to the server several times a week. Leaving me without access to my email while mobile for hours at a time. I am convinced that if Microsoft made a rock solid Outlook client for Android, they would have a healthy revenue stream

The temptation was always there to go back to the iPhone but I committed to trying Android until the iPhone 5 came out and I am glad I did, if for nothing else but to be able to speak more intelligently about that platform’s strengths and weaknesses.

Feels like Home

Then I got my iPhone 5, synced it, got it set up with all my stuff and all of a sudden it felt like I just came home from a long trip. There is just something about iOS that makes me feel comfortable. Part of that is most certainly because I had been using the iPhone since day one, but I also did so out of personal preference and choice. I had concluded that the iPhone was the best product for the needs, wants, and desires that mattered most to me.

Interestingly, I have run into a number of people in my social circles who had the same experience. They took the opportunity to take a break from the iPhone to try some of more popular Android devices. Just about everyone of them switched back to the iPhone 5 and had the same comfortable return and have not looked back.

Often I heard the battle cry from the Android community complaining that the iPhone 5 was just not innovative enough and lacked many of the cutting edge features common on Android smartphones. Many with that sentiment miss an important perspective, one that I truly didn’t fully grasp before using Android for a length of time. This perspective is that comfort and familiarity are actually features. And I would argue that for many consumers comfort and familiarity are just as valuable as a cutting edge spec is to others. The simple truth is that many consumers aren’t interested in going through the hassle to learn a new mobile OS, invest in new applications, and try to set up and get comfortable with a new ecosystem. For many comfort, convenience, and familiarity matter and Apple delivers this plus a great experience, tight integration with other products, amazing industrial design, and a host of other things as well. When you add it all up, it is easy to understand why millions of consumers are staying loyal to the iPhone.

This is why it is important for Apple to cater to their customers, not the customers of other platforms. I believe Apple is perfectly aware that there are groups of consumers out there who simply won’t buy an iPhone. I’m also sure they are ok with that since everyone is free to chose what is best for them. But there are many millions of people who will continue to buy Apple products and it is important that Apple bring them the key features they need and want.

Apple didn’t need to make the iPhone 5 have the largest screen on the market. Rather they needed to make the screen size that is relevant and usable for their customer base. Apple didn’t need to pack every feature and latest spec under the sun. They simply needed to include the ones relevant to their customers.

Related Column: Apple’s 4″ iPhone vs. Android 4″ Plus devices

As I pointed out in my TIME column Monday, personal preference is personal preference. What consumers choose is their business frankly and not the business of others who feel the desire to criticize the choices of those who choose differently than them.

My preference is the iPhone and my own personal experience with the iPhone 5 is that it is practically perfect in every way—for me.

Published by

Ben Bajarin

Ben Bajarin is a Principal Analyst and the head of primary research at Creative Strategies, Inc - An industry analysis, market intelligence and research firm located in Silicon Valley. His primary focus is consumer technology and market trend research and he is responsible for studying over 30 countries. Full Bio

737 thoughts on “It’s Good to be Back on the iPhone”

  1. Ben,

    Thanks for this take on the essence of iOS in the hand that creates the brand loyalty and undergirding empowerment 100s of millions experience while using stuff Steve Jobs and his hall of fame team created and gave to us. (Apple’s billions is a fitting result of the transaction.)

    We remember you, Steve. A fanboi.

    1. If you’re not going to bother to read the article, you shouldn’t bother to comment – or bother us with your comment – either.

    2. Pretty sure I did say there were things I like about Android that I thought were better than iOS. Nice job actually reading the column.

      1. You did and often do. It is one of the reasons I visit TechPionions. From many writers and participants I usually get intelligently balanced and fair information about many systems, Android included, which keeps Apple in perspective. It’s the naysayers who can’t revel in another’s joy that is disturbing. I am at peace with choice for all, though I fail to understand how anyone can put a spoonful of strawberry ice cream past his/er teeth.

      1. Ben, it’s clear that many people have an irrational anger/fear of Apple and its products, and feel no restraint in insulting people who use those products. They will go out of their way to vent their unconstrained anger on blogs that discuss Apple or its products.

        These petty attacks seem to be driven by their remorse over the products they have chosen to use, and jealousy of the exuberance expressed by users of Apple’s products. If these users of competitive products felt a similar contentment, there would be no reason to launch tirades at people who have chosen to use a product different from theirs.

        Conversely, few (if any) users of Apple products act in the same crude and offensive manner towards fans of competing products. Comments from users of Apple products are generally in response to the absurd rantings of others.
        When a person has chosen a product that they are very satisfied using, there is no compulsion to waste their time and effort being obnoxious to those who have made a different choice than their own.

        1. I think you’re right that many people have an irrational anger/fear of Apple. But why? Their perception of Apple may be driven by Apple being one of the most successful companies (and there’s a resentment of big corporations in general) while at the same time having no awareness of the enjoyment of using Apple’s products (since the people we’re talking about would never buy anything from sh—y Apple).

    3. I’m impressed. You didn’t use “sheepie”. I agree with benbajarin completely. Some people like chocolate, some like vanilla. Neither is wrong. Same with smartphones. I like IOS. I have friends who like Android. None of us are wrong, we just have different tastes. Why some people have to denigrate others who happen to like a different phone than theirs is beyond me.

      1. Wait, some people chose vanilla over chocolate? What’s wrong with them? Don’t they know that the statement, “plain vanilla” is not a compliment? Chocolate is certainly the most advanced type of ice cream. All right minded consumers know that.

        1. “Wait, some people chose vanilla over chocolate? What’s wrong with them?” – James Bailey

          Totally agreee. I’m fine with people who like Android, iOS or Windows Phone 7. But people who like vanilla? That’s just weird! They must be…well…they must be Van(illa)-boys! 🙂

  2. When I got my first iPhone (a 3G on Canada’s Fido) i had had a Blackberry 88xx something-something for almost 3 years. The more I used the iPhone, the more the Blackberry (with it’s endlessly nested text menus and execrable non-HTML reading mail client and utterly useless browser) drove home the fact that the cell phone industry as we knew it was done. I did believe, however, that RIM would continue to dominate Business, no-nonsense serious minded users, and that the iPhone would become the de facto consumer phone. I don’t believe anyone saw the iPhone at the top, with a literal horde of Android based phones of all shapes and sizes utterly smothering everyone else.

    In the desktop computer business, Apple is successful but the iMac didn’t lead to a wholesale slaughter of the incumbents. Apple makes more money and is content with the high end, the “premium” users when it comes to the desktop business. However, and I refer to this often to make the stark point about the phone industry, the iPhone upended the entire cell phone industry and companies that did not make haste to come out with a similar product are dead or dying. Samsung was a veritable nobody in phones. I don’t think anyone knew what HTC was (but that might be North American -centric of me). RIM, Nokia and Motorola, the absolute giants of the cell phone industry are now, 5 years later, bought, dead or dying. While the aforementioned Android smartphones crush the last vestiges of their market shares with sizes, options and designs to fill the gaps left by Apple’s iPhone. This did not even occur when the iPod routed all competition in the personal media player market, as few companies cash cows were in that market. They stepped up their offerings to sweep up the low end (Samsung again) or they left the field, or vainly tried to compete in the PMP market by billing their devices as convergent (Sony).

    It’s instructive to keep this all in mind in light of the recent flaps concerning Apple, and especially in light of the techo-hipserati’s “boredom” with the iPhone 5. It’s as if the collective memory of the gadget geek blog columnists starts around 2009. Apple not only (again) revolutionised an industry and raised consumers expectations of what their mobile devices should be capable of doing. In the process, Apple practically obliterated the incumbents in mobile industry in less that 5 years.

  3. I mostly agree about preference and the online reaction to it has gone way over the top.

    But I also think the time has come where Apple could actually release two distinct iPhone models. This isn’t a suggestion that they have 50+ models like Nokia, but just two.

    Because they are missing the people who do have a preference for giant screens. Many them may actually prefer iOS, but the prefer a big screen more.

    I would rather they had kept the same 3:2 ratio (I hate 16:9 infecting everything) and same resolution on the standard device and created a large 4.7″ 1280×854 large screen model.

    1. Ok, this is interesting, I’ve thought a little about it. I agree they can manage multiple models, realistically they are doing that now with 3.5 and 4. They do this with other products like Macs and Macbooks so I don’t think its an issue.

      But I think finding the right size is important. When I did the analysis over the 4 inch screen vs the larger 4.6 inch screen, I pointed out that the larger screen didn’t much value outside of a few things. This relates to Android simply scaling and obviously if Apple did make a bigger than 4 inch device they would let devs make new apps unique to that screen size. If they launch a 7inch or better mini iPad this will happen anyway. Devs will support 4 screen sizes. 3.5, 4, 7ish, and 9.7. So if the framework is there and its not too much effort for devs then it is not an issue.

      The question though is how big is too big. My gut keeps feeling like 4″ on iOS is the ideal size for a smartphone. Of course I could see a 4.5 or great and my mind could instantly be changed but its tough since we have no frame of reference. There was a time I believed 3.5 is perfect and I no longer feel that way.

      So yes, overall I agree with you but the key is to make the most usable and functional screen size that appeals to the largest part of the market.

      1. I’ve also noticed a distinct gender difference in preferences, although I think it has more t do with hand size than gender per se. I see very few women with the the 4″ and up Android phones and I think its mostly because they are just too big to hold comfortably. This is a single data point, but my wife immediately rejected the HTC 1X as too big.

      2. One size fits all, is always going to miss significant elements of the population.

        I don’t think there is much desire for a smaller iPhone, especially since the current model is so thin and light.

        But millions of Galaxy Note sales with 5.3″ screen shows there is significant demand for big screens. I don’t think Apple has to chase having the biggest phone, but it should have something to offer for the people who want giant screens.

        Also I am not sure I want 5″ screen phone, but without a doubt I would want something like a 5″ iPod touch.

        1. “One size fits all, is always going to miss significant elements of the population.” – Defendor

          That’s true, but there are significant design, production and marketing advantages to one size. It’s a trade off. So far, Apple has gained far more than they’ve lost.

        2. Possibly the large phone is perfect for those on a budget. You get a phone and a sort of tablet experience all in one. Now if the apps were appropriate sized or maximised, it might do a pretty good job of a very mini tablet.

        3. Ok, so where would a 7″ish iPad mini fit in your life? Or maybe it wouldn’t? A 7 for me would not be a primary tablet but complimentary to the notebook. The iPad stands alone for me as a complete solution. So although I will get and test an iPad mini, I believe my kids may get more out of it than me. That is just me though and I am confident this will be different for everyone.

          1. 7″ is somewhere in the dead zone for me. I don’t really consider anything above 6″ pocketable.

            For one handed mini-tablet, I would prefer something in 5″-6″ range. Smaller, lighter, pocketable, easier to cradle in one hand, but still a sizable screen for a quick web browse. Great for novel reading.

            Android common, 7″ 16:10 tablets aren’t what I consider pocketable(though some claim it is), and don’t have that much over 5″ device in benefits. An 8″ (which 7.85″ is closer too) 4:3 iPad mini (per rumor) is will really have no pocket pretensions. Not that interested.

            My ideal combo would be:
            ~ 5″ Mini tablet for easy one hand use/reading/pocketable.
            ~ 10″+ tablet with HD screen for reasonable longer more serious web browsing, PDF viewing, comics/magazine reading etc..

          2. Love the website and your posts, Ben (as well as all the other contributors too).

            That said, I think you mean “complementary” here. I realize it is annoying that I point it out — I’m apparently at my tipping point. I’ve seen “complimentary” used mistakenly numerous times on the web. Rarely have I seen the word complementary used at all; it’s as if people think it’s an alternate spelling of the same word!

          3. Very good catch and thanks much for the kind words. Honestly, I just looked up the difference and hadn’t fully grasped that before. Good tip and glad you brought it up.

            Thanks again.

  4. As a long-time Mac user, I was forced to use Windows a few years ago. Windows 7 was actually a pretty nice OS, and I found it to have quite a few really handy features. But at the end of the day, I still choose to use the Mac because it’s comfortable to me. It doesn’t offer the fastest video card, or the most customizable GUI; but it does everything I want it to do, and a whole lot that I would love to do but probably never will.

    When it came time to get a smartphone, I was dumping the Blackberry for either Android or iOS. I tried both, but eventually settled on the iPhone. Much like my experience with the Mac, it doesn’t offer the top of the line specs, but it’s comfortable and does everything I need.

    I’m constantly amazed at how “personal” people take MY choice in phones as an insult to them. I have no idea why someone else would get so worked up over someone else’s choice in phones; they certainly don’t care what car I drive.

    I can’t imagine wasting even 10 seconds of my valuable time leaving stupid comments in an article about Android phones. I’m constantly amazed at how many people are so willing to “show their @ss” the way @3bcc766b6e29e938326edbf4d95b6629:disqus does below.

    1. I find it really ironic that you wasted much more than 10 seconds defending your personal choice of smart phone, insulting a pro-Android commenter, and attack anyone else doing the same thing. There are tons and tons of iPhone users who throw out the same verbal crap against Android users so to assume it’s a one-sided thing is false.

      1. I point that out in my TIME column. We don’t get too much harsh back and forth here as many of the commenters here are pretty respectful, but over at TIME I write a pro android column and get lit up, then I write a pro Apple column and get lit up. Its from both sides.

      2. Agreed. There are lots of Apple fanatics that do the same thing, I don’t typically see it that much, but it’s probably because I have no need to read an article (or the comments) about Android phones right now.

      3. I love my Lexus and hated the Kia so what about this problem???everyone have a choice right???so you all need to learn how to shut your hole and learn to live in peace with each other goddam it.

    2. JimD, it is just simple a delight to have things that just work and work as they should, much like Plato’s forms in perfection, the shadow come true. Apple is the one producing the true form. There’s really not too terribly much to any further debate on the topic, eh?

  5. IMO, you started out as iPhone user, so.. returning to iPhone is indeed “returning home”. If I’m used to phones with keyboard, I’ll miss the phones with keyboard. That doesn’t mean any virtual keyboard isn’t any good, but I can type so much faster with keyboard and I love that. There are tradeoffs. Maybe android isn’t suitable for you because of your “business need”. I have “a few” users who flat-out switched from iPhone to android and they just told me they don’t feel any difference at all. I have to say iPhone is great consumer product where it’s user friendly but android is aimed at giving user more flexibility at what they want to achieve.

  6. Rich, he misspelt it so his post wouldn’t be checked through appropriate channels.
    I hope this article will not deteriorate to the level of Ben’s previous article on the subject Apple 4″ iPhone vs Android 4.
    Anger adds nothing to any discussion.

    1. I agree. I hope it doesn’t go there as well. That is why I linked to my TIME column since I address that ridiculous back and forth and people getting upset for no good reason simply because someone likes a different product than them.

      And yes I censored the word F**boy word, along with a host of other words 🙂

  7. Many of the exchange problems with Android were due to bugs in Microsoft exchange server itself and actually affect the iphone as well. This has been fixed in the latest service pack for exchange server for both the iphone and Android devices. Note: I am not terribly fond of either the iphone or adroid’s default email client when used with exchange. I use Touchdown on Android which is a client that is designed to be an exchange client.

    1. I tried touchdown, even payed the license but man I hated that UI. Visual representation means a lot to me. I know that is not true of everyone but I prefer good UI and more often Apple has done that for me where Google hasn’t.

      And I agree with your point on clients, which is why I pointed out if MSFT brought Outlook to either platform it would be a solid revenue stream.

    2. I think this is why Apple licensed the code for ActiveSync from Microsoft. That code provably works. I suspect that Google tried to write their own code against the spec and it doesn’t work. Wouldn’t be the first time the specs don’t match the reality.

  8. I got a question from Jack Hayes via email and he asked me to pose it to our community. So here it is:

    I keep hearing people say that the iPhone 5 doesn’t have cutting edge specs. Other than a larger than 4″ screen (desired and useful by only a small subset of users) and NFC (desired and useful by an even smaller subset) what bleeding edge tech does it not have? It’s currently the fastest by most measures I’ve seen. Displaymate says it’s the best smartphone display they’ve tested. It’s got LTE. It’s thinner and lighter than pretty much anything out there. It’s industrial build quality is absolutely second to none. So what am I missing that says that this phone is not bleeding edge? I ask this in all seriousness…

    1. I could not agree MORE completely.

      Other than an OVERSIZED, uncomfortable, unwieldy form factor, NFC (which I have YET to see an opportunity to use in the real world), and the ability to “hack” it to “do whatever you want” (which NOBODY can provide a relevant purpose for doing), there is NO advantage to any Android device on the market.

      The only other device I’ve seen that MAY offer an appreciable advantage over the iPhone 5 is the new Nokia’s allegedly “better” camera. I don’t KNOW that to be fact, but in my personal experience with Nokia’s, they do build a pretty high-quality handset and may very well offer a better camera than the iPhone.

      I could not be happier with my iPhone 5. It fits my hand perfectly, even on 3G (AT&T LTE isn’t available in my area yet) it’s fast ENOUGH and the phone itself is amazingly fast. There’s no lag between operations at all. Plus, it almost DISAPPEARS into my pocket when I’m not using it, thanks to the light weight and thin build, all while maintaining that reassuring Apple build quality.

    2. A lot of techies criticize the iPhone because it has a dual-core, rather than a quad-core, processors of, to the extent we know them, relatively modest specs. The problem is that these critics are focused on the spec sheet rather than actual system performance. Because Apple is using custom rather than merchant chips in a design where they control every aspect of the hardware and software, they can squeeze out much more performance than Android OEMs. The payoff is a considerably better performance to power consumption tradeoff, which lets Apple use a smaller battery for a thinner and lighter device. Also, there is a tendency to overlook just how advanced the A6 SOC is because they are focusing on the wrong metrics: clock speed and number of cores. Spec sheet comparers love this stuff because it is quantifiable, but it is device performance that counts.

  9. I am in the opposite camp. I used android for two years before switching over to an iPhone 4. I was only able to use it for about a month because I just felt lost in the OS. I am now back on android and indeed it feels like coming home. The customization and easy user interface confirmed to me that the iPhone just isn’t for me. Like others have said it goes both ways.

  10. Not gonna get deep into specs and whatnot but I really got sick of using a cheap feeling plastic phone. If Hasbro made a phone I imagine that’s how they would feel. The other driving force that made me switch to iPhone (and stay for good) is the common sense features it offers. Android/Samsung has all this crap I’ll never use. I acknowledge that I’m not a developer of tech savvy person so maybe others feel like they need those things but for practical e everyday use nothing can top Apple.

    1. One thing I forgot to say it that when I went into the Sprint store to test drive phones I was presented the Galaxy III and as soon as the guy “peeled” off the back side I pretty much made my mind up to stick with Apple.

      It literary peeled off like an orange. One of the reps tried to tell how cool it was and I think I gave him the face I made when I first changed a diaper.

  11. I may be late to the party, but I’d like to offer an alternative, and perhaps cynical view.

    The average consumer generally wants 3 things from the items they purchase: 1. to look good. 2. to feel good. 3. to be part of “the group”.

    From someone who has taken interest in the mobile technology sector for many years, worked in retail selling mobile devices for a period, and spent many years matching people with the correct tech, the argument about which device is better is fairly redundant because it really is a case of some devices will suit some people best. Rather than the best device will suit everyone. I use a Galaxy Nexus. It suits me down to the ground. I’ve used iOS is various forms from current iPhone 5 to iPads and back. They irritate the hell out of me. BUT, and this is the big thing, firstly, I think Android and iOS still have so far to go, and second I can still talk to people and recommend them an iPhone, or whatever. Because they don’t have my needs.

    What I have noticed is that, ignoring people like myself with specific requirements and probably Ben, the average consumer generally wants what other average consumers want. Back pre-iPhone 2007, I was getting tired of the average consumer only wanting another Nokia. Why did they want Nokia? Because that’s all they knew and “it does the job.” It did do the job. Poorly. Hardware great. Software sucked. The menu system was horribly convoluted even though people claimed it was easy, Nokia would add and subtract features on an arbitrary basis, and they also refused to bring touch screen to anyone but the most expensive communicator series. People got Nokias because they had some good features, and everyone else had them. So they didn’t look elsewhere.

    Thank god the iPhone launched in 2007. The market needed a kicking! I don’t care what anyone says, the first few versions were rubbish. On paper. But what the white paper couldn’t tell you is how good it felt to simply use the phone. Feeling good trumps functionality. Looking good trumps functionality. The market shifts. As we know, millions and millions buy iPhones. But again, people are buying not because they know what the iPhone and it’s competitors are, but essentially because they know people that have them and those people like them.

    If you play a game, the team with the most points wins. End of story. They are crowned “better”. If a tool had one purpose then “better” would be easy. But phones are now computers. I want a “better” computer for my graphics work. Does the general public? Hell no. The general public have general needs and are sheep. Yes I said it. They follow leaders. And marketing. And media. Individuals are smart. Groups are not. They simply have momentum. Apple masterfully changed the momentum of the industry. And I wouldn’t have the phone I have now if they didn’t. But I disagree that they are so successful simply because they offer the customer the best experience. They have a very good experience and very good lock in. People that have iPhones, stay. Many people have come out of contracts and want to scratch their iPhone itch and see what makes people so happy (I’ve met a huge amount of these). But this isn’t necessarily evidence of the best experience. Like Nokia, it’s evidence of mindshare and a good experience of the time. Personally, I am just begging for someone to move the goalposts again and I will jump ship to the next thing that suits me.

    1. It’s actually a very cynical view. What you are saying is that you buy stuff because it suits your needs, but “average” consumers buy stuff for completely external reasons. That doesn’t make much sense. I’m sure some people buy something because it’s what the cool kids have, but I see no evidence they are in the majority.

  12. I’m sorry, this article tells me that you, Ben Bajarin, are saying that Apple’s loyal customers are okay, no, are quite happy with settling for less – for the old, for the mundane. If you look at Apples history, their success is singularly dependent on providing cutting edge technology/support/operating systems/etc. To me, it just sounds like Apple loyalists are trying to support their ‘leader’ and post-rationalize Apple’s decision to cease being the edge of the cutting device. This is simply an observation from a former Apple loyalist.

    Would you like an example?
    For anyone confused about why I’m suggesting Apple isn’t the cutting edge:
    Compare iPhone 5 specs to Samsung Galaxy Note 2’s specs.



    Aside from Pixel density (which is much greater on the iPhone 5) the iPhone can’t touch the Note2.

    Don’t try to convince yourselves otherwise [Apple loyalists], you’re simply lying to yourselves.
    Get over it, Apple has been beat for now. Life goes on.

  13. I started 2012 with an iPhone 4S, intending to end the year with the iPhone 5. Along the way this year, I tried the Galaxy Nexus, the Galaxy S3 (twice), the iPhone 5, and now I’m at home with the G-Note 2. The iPhone was entirely too boring after getting used to the Galaxy S3. I had a tremendous sense of guilt for wanting to get rid of the iPhone 5 when I had it…I mean, there was nothing “wrong” with it. But, as I boxed up my S3 after my preorder iPhone 5 had arrived, I already knew. Using the G-Note 2 though…an entirely different experience. No way I could go back to iPhone at this point, or in the current iPhone form. I’ll never get rid of my iPad, and that might be the extent of my Apple footprint going forward. They made that decision with the iPhone 5, knowing what the different areas of market demand were. The big display market is real. I carry a 450-minute plan and still have rollovers. 5.5-inch display is a perfect fit for my usage.

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