Apple should be worried by Android
Apple's marketing chief Phil Schiller, according to The Verge, continued the rhetoric of Android not being a very user-friendly ecosystem, and I mostly agree with him on that statement, but it does not mean the status quo won't change. The Verge article I am quoting is:
Apple doesn't seem particularly worried about the imminent launch of Samsung's Galaxy S 4 — at least publicly. In an interview today, marketing chief Phil Schiller reiterated that Android doesn't make for a pleasant user experience. Speaking to The Wall Street Journal, Schiller echoed Apple's old talking points including Android's continued fragmentation woes, which he described as "plain and simple." Perhaps most damning of all, he took a shot at the very appeal of Google's mobile operating system, saying "Android is often given a free replacement for a feature phone and the experience isn't as good as an iPhone."
Schiller also criticized Android for an apparent lack of integrated software solutions. "When you take an Android device out of the box, you have to sign up to nine accounts with different vendors to get the experience iOS comes with," he said. "They don't work seamlessly together." The executive's derisive remarks come just 24 hours ahead of Samsung's press event where it's widely expected to unveil the Galaxy S 4. Schiller didn't address Samsung — Apple's largest competitor in the smartphone space — directly during the interview. He did have some data to share though: Apple's internal research reportedly shows that four times as many iPhone users switched away from Android thanto Android during the fourth quarter of 2012. (The Verge)
Innovation at high pace usually means having less red-tape, and yes that usually means less control in change-management, which affects usability. Apple take on a more measured approach, releasing incremental changes, but the pace is far minuscule and since 2007, has allowed Android to gain momentum and overlap it on interface design. It has taken Android a long time and even up until last year, I would have considered Android un-usable, poor battery life, and still to today, many things about Android do irritate me.
They are mostly political rather than technical, the fact that open means phone manufacturers and carriers can get away with putting their bloatware on the phones, not providing updates so they can sell a new version of their phone, I'm looking at you Samsung. I have been using the Nexus 4 for the past month and I have to say, I love it, it's fantastic, but does not quite hit the spot I need, to move permanently. It's not far off either. It does get the updates straight, but still small minor things need to be fixed, such as the Bluetooth Stack etc. The user experience is great for a geek but not for your normal average non-techy user.
It's only a matter of time before Android gets the User Experience right, and when they do, the rest of their product offering may be far more superior to Apple's.
What can apple do?
Well besides change their cycle of iPhone releases, so they release more phones, they need to release various sizes, to cater for everyone. I know it goes against my development instinct of keeping it easy for programmers to target one screen size, but its the consumers we are developing for, not the other way around. But I don't think Apple has the hardware completely wrong, hardware isn't where they lack significantly in innovation, it's the software.
Apple needs to spend more time on software rather than hardware, allocate more employees to innovate the interface. Take the intent idea from Android to allow apps to relate to each other more, allow third party email apps to be set as your default email client, allow for more fairness with third-party apps. Would you want your desktop to only support one email client natively? no..
Look at bringing in widgets, or allowing for more customisation of notifications at least, to allow third party apps to add a widget (similar to the weather app) to the pull-down notifications. In fact, Apple, you don't even have to pay for R&D, you have the Jailbreak world, which allows developers a sandbox to do whatever they want. They have some great ideas, so cut some red-tape and get things going!
Even Steve Wozniak, in his book iWoz (which I read) says he felt Apple were too restrictive in innovation, and not receptive to suggestions, so I think you guys need to move up a gear. Im an Apple fanboy, your hardware is second-to-none, especially laptops and the iPad, and the developer ecosystem (and customer ecosystem with iCloud and being able to back up your phone so seamlessly). The top should not allow for complacency, this is marketing 101 and Schiller, while your optimism is great for shareholders, it's not a confidence-instilling notion for us developers, because it's naive and an excuse to not innovate, even if it was true.