On the day of Android’s five year launch anniversary and my fifth consecutive year of using exclusively Android devices, I switched to a yellow iPhone 5c.
Like a well worn pair of jeans, it’s easy to grow accustomed to a mobile phone OS. Changing into a new pair is always a little uncomfortable at first. In that same way, migrating from Android to I iOS, I discovered the quirks and kinks of each OS:
The iOS keyboard always shows uppercase letters, no matter if the letter being typed is upper or lowercase. On Android, the letters on the keyboard change case as you type.
On iOS’s Gmail client, you swipe to the left to archive a message. On Android, it’s to the right.
To switch between applications on the iPhone 5c, double tap the home button and swipe left/right. On my Droid Razr M, tap the app switching button and swipe up/down.
The default background color on iOS is white. On Android, it’s black. The volume rocker and power button are on the right side of the iPhone and the left of the Android.
These phones mirror each other, Spy vs Spy embodied in circuitry and aluminum and glass.
Having spent five years isolated on one platform and switched immersed in the competing platform, I’m surprised to see how similar iOS and Android have become. The corollary to this similarity is of course how easy it is to switch between the two.
We’ve reached the point in mobile phone evolution that Freud would call the narcissism of small differences. As Clive Hazell puts it, [In] postmodernity, consumer culture has been seen as predicated on ‘the “narcissism of small differences”…to achieve a superficial sense of one’s own uniqueness, an ersatz sense of otherness which is only a mask for an underlying uniformity and sameness’.
Setting aside the processor arms race, the main product differentiation in mobile hardware has evolved to mobile phone customization. Will you have a backplate made of chartreuse plastic or rosewood?
Of course, Android’s ecosystem is mildly inferior driven by lesser revenue opportunity that I suspect will be resolved with the growth in user base time affords.
Because the differences between the operating systems and hardware are trivial and the sizes of the user bases are comparable, it seems to me that over time the Android and iOS will become true substitutes in the way MacOS and Windows never were.