Thoughts about the future of Apple and the iPhone.

Yesterday, through videos of the Apple’s World Wide Developer’s conference, I thought a lot about Apple and its future. I think they made some very good moves yesterday.

Some people are very passionate about their operating system, and the debate between the two will continue. I came up with a frame work to understand them both — cars.  The first internal combustion engine vehicle was made by Karl Benz. The first mass-produced car was of course by Henry Ford. What became of Mercedes Benz and Ford Motor company best describes iOS and Android rather well. Data collected by Time Magazine   suggest a similar pattern to my thoughts. Apple is the phone for people with money, and people who like to part with money.   It is the high-end car, with high customer satisfaction, and with all the cool features.  People pay for apps for the iOS, and people pay for their iPhones. It is not the cheap, mass-produced car. The mass-produced car, is approachable for anyone, and looking at non US sales of smartphones shows that well. But these people tend to be cheap. People with android phones do not pay for apps, they download only the free ones, where Apple consumers will see more downloads of paid apps, though many free ones too. I don’t think Apple and Google really are competing for market share, any more that Ford Fiestas and Mercedes-Benz C300’s  are competing for the same customers. We are seeing a market segmentation.

As an  iPhone app developer I see a different perspective. For me,  and I would not be surprised for others, Android’s supposed strength is also its biggest weakness: open source. Open source means as a developer and as a user I’m allowed to get at all the guts of the software in the device. It it a lot of power, and some like that much power.  Android has it, Apple doesn’t. Apple is actually very cranky about this, not letting me get into the guts of anything. In exchange for that, Apple gives some very powerful, fast and easy ways to do what I need to do — and do them very quickly.  Open Source  usually means I do have to get into the guts to get anything done, and that takes effort and time.

An example of this is what I refer to as the Hello World test. Back in the early days of computing, the very first program someone would write is some code to prove the system works by getting it to output the phrase “hello world”. It is the simplest program anyone could write.  One of the first places Hello World is mentioned is in The C Programming Language by Kernigan and Ritchie(1978). In the computer language C it is written as:

main(){ 
   printf(“hello, world\n”);
}

Simple enough even for those who don’t know computer languages. The words hello world  print to the screen.  In both Android and iOS, this takes no code.  But if you add a button to your device and then have the button  print hello world on the button, there is a huge difference in the two operating systems. In Android, this takes three files that need typing out. The first two are complicated  XML files explaining the layout and the text you want to put in. Then you get the  program.

public void onCreate(Bundle savedInstanceState) {
 super.onCreate(savedInstanceState);
 setContentView(R.layout.activity_main);
 Button1.setOnClickListener(this);
 }
public void onClick(View v){
 Toast toast = Toast.makeText(this, "Hello World",toast.LENGTH_LONG);
 toast.show();
 }

iOS on the other hand you do almost everything by clicking and dragging things around (it is writing all that XML for you) and then writing the following line of code:

<pre>self.button1.titleLabel.text = @"hello world";</pre>

The development environment does everything for you. Android requires you to do everything manually, so to write the above code for Android might take a quarter of an hour for what on iOS would take three minutes.

When you remember that people are far more likely to download only free apps from Android than they are if they have a iOS device, the economics of the situation seems clear. A developer could spend a lot more time writing an app that one will get less money for on an Android phone  platform than one will get on a iPhone spending a lot less time and money writing. Economically for a developer, it does not makes sense to write an Android app first. The way you might get money for an Android app is some will pay for something that has a huge social pressure to buy, such as the current hot game to play or a social media platform. Who will buy such a thing is iPhone users, and the platform for making such a thing profitably is the iPhone or iPad. As far as an app development is concerned it is a good business  strategy to make an app on iOS first, then if it gets popular, port it to Android.

It’s clear to me that Apple gets this. While many of its critics want it to be more like Android, Apple is not buying into those critics. Granted, Apple has updated the user interface to more modern design practices, to reflect the  look of Android and Windows 8. While I cannot give details, it’s whats under the hood for us developers which says volumes. Apple has made it even easier to make very cool games and applications very easily.  Apple’s moves are for being the first platform someone develops in, because it is relatively easy and because the developer will make money. They too then make money and become the driving force behind what comes out next.

Customizing Ford Mustangs  is a hobby for many, and so too is open source on Android for those people who like that sort of thing.  While Android might be wonderful for the hacker and the enthusiast, for those who need to quickly get product to market, to involve their design teams more in development than just software engineers,  and to make money at it, Apple remains the first platform choice in app development.

2011 was a hard year for both Apple and me, and exactly for the same reasons. For me, it will always be remembered as the year my mom died and my life changed radically.  Apple lost its parent too with the death of Steve Jobs. It is said  by those who study grief that it takes two years to mourn the loss of a loved one, and one’s loses direction during that time. I know that is true for me: the last two years were a very big struggle. I believe it was for Apple too, making some serious mistakes. But in the grief process, one finds their new identity, the post-parent identity. I have mine, and I believe Apple has theirs. Apple acknowledges Android’s existence, and Samsung will continue to sell a lot of smart phones. The data in the Time article above indicates most others selling Android smartphones are now losing money. As Tim Cook mentioned in the WWDC keynote, most users haven’t upgraded to a new version of Android in three years, while most of the iOS base keeps current.  Apple is a company that doesn’t need to be #1 in sales of units. Apple makes insanely great products, and people buy insanely great products. Apple, almost two years after Steve Jobs’ passing, has remembered that identity, and has set itself to be the company that makes the insanely great. I think this is only one of many steps we will see in that direction. Apple will continue to be the company the people who will pay to get the insanely great premium products will go to, like Mercedes Benz or Bang and Olufsen.

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Trainer, App developer. Author. Artist. Proprietor of makeapppie.com and Host of Slice of App Pie Show

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3 comments on “Thoughts about the future of Apple and the iPhone.
  1. Hello Shlomo, just found your blog from your Instagram feed, interesting post! Do you have any recommendations for resources to use to learn the basics of iOS app development?

    • shlomo626 says:

      I’ve used several, but the best start is the Stanford University CS193P course found on iTunes University. Paul Hegarty, who worked for Steve Jobs at NeXt, teaches all of the basics and some of the less basic things in development of both iPad and iPhone. Search for Paul Hegarty in iTunes and you should find it no problem. There is a 2011 and a 2012 version. There is also a free e-book on iBooks called iPad and iPhone Development by Daniel H Steinberg which goes along with the 2011 class, but probably would work with much, but not all of the 2012 class, since Hegarty switches up a few things.

      There are a few websites that are good. Big Nerd Ranch is good, and so is Paul Wenderich.

      A word of caution about websites: many are ios4 and below. There was a major change in iOS5 which affects everything called ARC. Anything written before ARC, or says to turn ARC off avoid as a beginner. It’s a whole set of problems of manually tracking your variables, pointers and properties you just don’t need to deal with. Keep to things written for iOS 5 and above, you’ll save yourself some headaches.

      And two more pieces of advice:

      If you want to explore this world, sped the $99 and get a developer’s license. The first and most important benefit is that you can use a real device for testing. Anything that uses hardware like cameras or GPS wont work on the XCode simulator(though GPS can be faked badly). The second is you can also sell (or give away for free) apps in the AppStore. And you have access to all of the documentation, even the stuff not released to the public yet, including all of the videos of the WWDC sessions, which also are great learning tools.

      Much of Apple’s documentation is downloadable from the internet. Some secure documents (like iOS 7 stuff) is developer only. But one document you will want to read is the iOS Human Interface Guidelines. Review on line or Download a copy as a good introduction to user interface design. This is Apple’s style manual and they can use this stuff as grounds to reject an app from the store.

      • Awesome, thank you for all the information. Very useful and I’ll be taking at look at the stuff you recommended. I signed up for a dev license 2 years ago… just haven’t had an idea for an app that I wanted to invest time in developing yet!

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