Apple’s share of the smartphone market does something weird to people that blog about/love Apple products.
Instead of being royally pissed off that Apple has a tiny sliver of the overall smartphone market, those people are too happy to point out that Apple makes more money than any other company in the smartphone market.
While it’s certainly important to be profitable, at some point it becomes obscene, and self-defeating.
That’s where Apple is at right now with market share. It has just 18% of the smartphone market. Android has 74%.
If you work at Apple, or you love Apple’s products this should be burning you up. You should be furious that Android, which you believe to be an inferior product, is on more phones than iOS, Apple’s software.
The essence of posts like that: Apple is winning the smartphone war because Apple makes the most money per point of market share.
Measured that way, there’s not question Apple is winning. Apple has 57% of the industry’s profits. Samsung, the only profitable Android phone company takes the rest of the industry’s profits.
But is that really the best way to measure Apple’s success? Is that really the best way to measure winning? I would argue that it’s not.
In 1986, Steve Jobs told Joe Nocera, “My self-identity does not revolve around being a businessman, though I recognise that is what I do. I think of myself as someone who builds neat things. I like building neat things. I like making tools that are useful to people.”
In 2007, Jobs said of Bill Gates, “I think the world’s a better place because Bill realised that his goal isn’t to be the richest guy in the cemetery, right? That’s a good thing and so he’s doing a lot of good with the money that he made.”
And more recently, CEO Tim Cook said of Apple’s employees, “They come to work each day with just one mission — to make the very best products on earth.”
Based on these quotes, the goal for Apple shouldn’t be to be the company with the most money in the bank. It should be to make the best products in the world, and get them in as many hands as possible.
A victory, so to speak, would be if iOS was the most popular operating system in the world, and Apple was comfortably profitable.
Apple has so much money right now that it basically doesn’t know what to do with it. A company that is defined by brilliant, world-changing ideas has decided the best use for its $145 billion in cash is a rather pedestrian stock buyback and dividend to shareholders.
So, what would be better for Apple, and for the world? To continue padding its bank account, or to try to lower the price of the iPhone, cut deals with more carriers, and truly attack Android?
If you like Apple and its products, it seems like a no-brainer. You should want Apple to go for marketshare.
But won’t Apple’s stock get crushed? Have you seen it lately? It’s been crushed.
But won’t Apple cease to be the world’s most valuable company? Perhaps, but to echo Jobs, that’s not the goal. The goal is to make great products. And what good are great products in the hands of just a relatively few people?
Anyone that wants to get lost in battles about winning or losing should look at both of those companies. It’s hard to say either company is losing. And based on pricing, it’s easy to say consumers are winning because both of them are in the market.
Apple’s philosophy has always been to be consumer-centric. It wants to make easy to use, broadly accessible products.
But on some level, it’s failing consumers when only 18% of the global smartphone population has an iPhone.
I don’t believe this is because only 18% of the population considers the iPhone the best phone on the market, and I know people that love Apple don’t think it’s the reason, which is why the seeming joy over Apple’s profits always rubs me the wrong way.
It’s great Apple’s uber profitable. It would be even greater if more people could afford its phones.