iAndroid? aPhone? Would Apple ever dream of making an Android OS-based smartphone? According to an interview with Wired at the Apps World North America conference, Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak thinks the company should consider it.
For Apple and Android loyalists, this concept probably lands somewhere between heresy and hell freezing over.
In Wozniak’s exact words to Wired, he said, “There’s nothing that would keep Apple out of the Android market as a secondary phone market. We [Apple] could compete very well.”
On paper, this move could actually be beneficial for Apple, in a strictly business sense. There’s always potential for garnering more market share, even if that means venturing into a secondary phone market. The move would be completely unprecedented, as Apple has never touted any technology but its own since the company’s inception.
So how on point is this assumption? Could it really work? And perhaps more importantly, would it ever really happen?
Combining The Best Of Both Worlds
As the main draw for such a smartphone combo, Apple would be able to use the Android OS that has become a growing force in the smartphone market, thanks to companies like Samsung having introduced a plethora of phones to the market. Google provides its Android OS as open source software, so Apple could easily adopt the Android platform, as other companies such as Amazon have, and tailor it to suit its own hybrid smartphone.
What Apple still has to offer is a sense of design, sophistication and even prestige that comes with owning an Apple product. Apple’s outer hardware and its system design combined with an Android OS could be just what Apple needs to push its product line over the edge and dip into a profitable secondary market.
In Wozniak’s words, “People like the precious look of stylings and manufacturing that we [Apple] do in our product compared to the other Android offerings. We could play in two arenas at the same time.”
Another benefit of Apple products is the upgrades the devices receive on an annual basis. Every year, Apple’s smartphones, tablets and often iPods, MacBooks and other devices see a revamp to some extent, with updated processors and screen resolutions typical selling points for new models. An Android-Apple hybrid phone could offer users more frequent upgrades than a traditional Android phone, whose updated releases tend not to be as regular.
To Wozniak, innovation does not equate to features, and he respects the restraint that Apple has practiced to that effect: “People don’t really choose their smartphones based on features. I think Apple is superior at being able to say no.” He finds that companies like Samsung have introduced features for features’ sake rather than providing any real additional value to its products.
Real innovation takes time to create and develop, and to Wozniak, Apple has that system down pat, even if analysts have begun to wonder whether or not Apple’s still “got it” based on relatively lackluster product releases in recent years. This is mainly compared to years of the first-time releases of entirely new product categories like the iPod, iPhone, and iPad.
Why Such A Move Would Benefit Apple
Apple still corners a majority of the market at 40.6 percent of smartphone subscribers as of October 2013. Samsung comes next at 25.4 percent, and all others are in the single digit percentages. So why would it at all be beneficial for Apple to adopt a different OS and develop a new hybrid phone?
As Wozniak suggested, an Android OS-powered phone could be a positive secondary market because it could continue to steal more customers from Samsung and other companies. These customers generally turn to the Android platform out of either distaste for the iOS platform or the simple fact that Samsung et.al appeal to the lower end market, which Apple currently does not. This hybrid phone could be an olive branch of sorts to attract still more of the smartphone market to the Apple brand.
While Apple does own about 15.6 percent of smartphone market share, that’s compared to Android’s more than 70 percent, so plenty more smartphone subscribers exist who could potentially be swayed to the Apple brand. What a hybrid phone could also do is get these new users hooked on Apple’s design and potentially make them loyal customers.
This doesn’t just pertain to smartphones either. If Apple can attract customers away from Samsung and other companies in the smartphone market, they may keep them when those customers go to purchase tablets, smartwatches, and other such technologies in the future.
In a strictly business sense, a hybrid phone could actually be fruitful for Apple if this method was deemed viable for the company’s future. But with that being said, the next question is whether or not Apple would ever actually spring for such a production and marketing risk.
Could This Ever Be A Reality?
In short, the likelihood of Apple creating an Apple-Android frankenphone is slim to none.
For a change, the endless back-and-forth patent battles could be avoided by accessing Google’s legal-to-use open source software. That being said, Apple is likely still uninterested in watering down its strong, independent brand with technology developed by another company -particularly a direct competitor.
In fact, if Apple were to ever look to Android as a foundational technology for a new product, some might venture to say that Apple was clearly on its way out—unable to come up with proprietary innovations that could turn out new products and propel the brand forward on its own.
While a move like this could appeal to customers who prefer lower-end, less expensive models, Apple is much more likely to develop its own cheaper phones rather than piggyback on Android to achieve the same ends.
Apple likes to keep it all in the family, and it is unlikely that the company would ever dream of opening the gates to the floodwaters of backlash that would inevitably come along with such a move. Such a product would be a veritable PR nightmare, particularly among its most loyal, longtime customers, and Apple, as careful and calculating a company as it is, would likely never let such a thing happen.
So for all the Android-Apple hybrid phone hopefuls out there, you’re unfortunately going to be disappointed in the lack of movement such a comment is likely to stir, even from a former Apple bigwig like Wozniak. But while the iAndroid/aPhone product line will remain untouched, perhaps it won’t be long until Apple finally releases its own lower-end model to expand its customer base that way—the organic way.