I don’t usually write stories about individual companies, but this hit me like a ton of bricks in the last 24 hours so I thought it was worth touching on briefly. Now, I wouldn’t call myself an uber tech nerd, but I am fairly tech savvy. I’m also generally a first adopter meaning that when some new technology hits the shelves I feel compelled to be one of the first users to test it out no matter how much it costs me (stupid yes, I know). I bought the original iPhone for however much it was outrageously marked up. I stayed up til 2AM EST while on vacation so I could order the iPad when it first became available (sad, yes). So I wouldn’t say I’ve been ahead of the trend, but I am not exactly out of the loop.
I’ve been in love with all of my Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) products over the last 5 years. And then this past weekend my iPhone started having some issues. The touch screen was acting up and the power button stopped working. I had jailbroken the phone and rigged it up in a way that was very specific to my tastes so the thought of getting a new phone was like breaking up with a long-time girlfriend (ironically, my obsession with technology has often been the greatest threat to my relationships or so they say). But then the screen’s brightness went out and it was hardly legible. I was driving home yesterday afternoon and decided to stop at the local AT&T (NYSE:T) store to order the new 4S. There was no debate about it. I was getting the new iPhone. I was programmed to get it and I would rig it up the same way I loved my current phone.
When the sales guy started his pitch about the new Android phones I thought to myself “buddy, I was in sales for years and I know what you’re doing and why you’re trying to sell me the phone that AT&T wants me to buy.” But I listened. And then he showed me. And then when he realized I didn’t care about how much I was going to spend he quickly pushed the most expensive phone in the store. I thought to myself: “this guy thinks he’s dealing with a total moron.” And the moron kept listening. And the moron kept getting more and more interested.
He went through the Samsung (OTC:SSNLF) Galaxy S2. And then his partner came over and said I should get the Motorola (NYSE:MMI) Atrix 2. He said it was better than the Galaxy, cheaper and had just arrived. I was skeptical because I had messed with some of the Android phones before and never found them as user friendly, visually appealing or as dynamic as the iPhones. So now I was thrown entirely off my game. It was like I had walked up to the bar to order a White Russian and they were out of Kahlua. You have to think quick because you always feel like you’re wasting the bartender’s time if you don’t order quickly. This is how mistakes are made. But I wasn’t buying a drink. So I stopped him in his tracks and said: “look, I have this super nerd friend who knows all of this much better than I do. I’ll be back in 5 minutes.” So I consult the friend and he tells me he made the switch from iPhone to Samsung Galaxy and that he had heard great things about the Atrix, but didn’t know much about the Atrix 2. So I walked back in and said “Can I return this thing when I hate it?” He said yes. I told him to ring me up.
So, my relationship with the iPhone officially ended and I became an Android user. And I have to say – Apple finally has real competition. I’m still learning how to use the phone, but I am incredibly impressed by the Atrix 2 at first glance. First, the phone is sleek, light and just as aesthetically pleasing as any iPhone. This was always a major gripe of mine with the first few Android phones. They were clunky or felt odd. Not the Atrix. It’s very light, has a massive display, but doesn’t feel huge. You barely even notice it in your pocket.
The touch screen experience is every bit as impressive as the iPhone. This was always another distinguishing feature on the early Android phones. The user experience via touch was clunky compared with a super smooth iPhone. That’s all been rectified. And the screen is crystal clear as if you’re staring into blue ocean water.
As far as the technology goes – the Andoird OS is really impressive. It’s every bit as fast as the iPhone, but the Android OS has the potential to outmatch the Apple OS. The voice recognition is a big plus. And Google’s (NASDAQ:GOOG) built-in voice navigation is a huge selling point. You are basically buying a Garmin GPS navigator for free. And this doesn’t even mention all the other benefits of the voice recognition such as talk to text and search. It’s all seamlessly intertwined with Google so the synergies are obvious right off the bat.
The apps are no different. As far as I can tell, Android has everything that the iTunes store had. The web experience on Android is every bit as convenient as the iPhone and the phone is 4G so it’s blazing fast. One strange thing was navigating to a flash website and having video actually play. It makes a huge difference.
The hardware appears every bit as impressive as any iPhone. The camera is a monster at 8 megapixels with HD 1080P video. It has a powerful LED flash and front and back cameras. The only real weaknesses I see at this point are the battery life and the memory. But again, you can actually take the back off of your Android phone and insert larger memory chips (~$30) so that’s not much of an issue. The battery is a problem on most smartphones and if you’re a nerd you just get over it and make sure you have car chargers, office chargers, etc.
All in all, I am impressed with the new phone. And I think Apple has reason to finally be scared of the competition. The Android OS has always had the capability to outpace the Apple OS. It was only a matter of time before the hardware caught up with the software and created the same seamless experience.
All of this makes me wonder if the Apple fad isn’t getting a bit blown out of proportion. Back when I bought my first iPhone it was unique. I would find people staring at my phone in public because it was a rare item. Today, everyone and their mother owns an iPhone. It reminds me of the Motorola RAZR when it first came out and everyone owned one. I am not saying that Apple is ready to be crushed by Google, but it finally has some competition. The days of 20% annual unimpeded growth might finally be at risk. And that’s the problem with being #1. There’s only one direction to go.
Before he passed away, Steve Jobs said he wanted to crush Android:
I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go thermonuclear war on this.
Unfortunately, Jobs passed away before he ever had the chance. And from my individual experience, it looks like Android has the potential to go thermonuclear on Apple…
Disclosure – I have no interest in shares of Apple.