Switching Smartphones and Carriers Is Getting Harder Than Ever

Want to jump to a new Mobile OS?  Its harder than ever!

Want to jump to a new Mobile OS? Its harder than ever!

Reading over Carly’s post and the comments made something clear to me – plenty of people have at least a vague sense of dissatisfaction with pretty much ALL of the available smartphone choices. iOS is ‘stale’, Android remains klunky, Blackberry is dead-end, and Windows Phone is the also-ran that just can’t seem to win. Many polls suggest general dissatisfaction with all current smartphone brands. Yet when you read about smartphone loyalty, Apple leads the way and in general most people are likely to stick with the brand and operating system they currently use. Which leads to the obvious question … WHY? There are four main reasons I can think of, let’s take a look!

  • Inertia: think about it – do you REALLY want to learn a new OS, re-purchase apps, figure out how email works on THIS phone, deal with all the quirks (like iMessage) and so on? Most people who are not ‘cutting edge techies’ do not find much joy in relearning ‘tools’, they just want to get stuff done. How is this changing? Because now we have phones that do more things with more options than ever before, and how one phone does it can be very different than doing it on another phone – and require you to set up accounts on a variety of systems, and more.
  • Carrier Dominance: In perhaps a half-dozen major cities there is TRUE choice of carriers, in a couple dozen or so more there is the binary AT&T/Verizon choice … but for the majority of folks there is a single dominant choice. For our area the choice is between Verizon, crappy reception and dropped calls. Extend this to a family located in several states, and you have a recipe for carrier compromise that will almost surely lock you into a single-carrier for the long haul.
  • Ecosystems: both iOS and Android app stores have been around for nearly five years, and most of us have accumulated hundreds (if not thousands) of apps on one of the platforms. Rebuilding a library on a new app store is a huge task that isn’t even remotely fun or rewarding, especially since so many apps have different quirks or features or interactions and so on. And as Bryan reminded us in the comments of Carly’s post, while there are plenty of free apps, you could easily have spent thousands of $ assembling your current app line-up … do you really want to do THAT again?
  • Family Harmony: after more than four years of being Android-only for phones, I cannot see myself switching away from iOS anytime soon. Of course we already had a Mac and a variety of iPods and iPads, but it was getting the whole family iPhones that has done it. We iMessage all the time, and I use FaceTime regularly when traveling. More than that, when traveling there is no cell access from work, so I depend on iMessage over WiFi for during-the-day text messages. And FaceTime in the evenings. Also, my mother recently got an iPhone, adding to my brother and his daughter also on iPhones. And everyone in our extended family uses Verizon regardless of OS … making mobile-to-mobile calls free (important between my wife and her sister!).

As a result we hear tech pundits talking about ‘what Apple needs to do … or else’ every year (or month), and others calling Microsoft or Blackberry or Nokia ‘dead’, or lamenting Android fragmentation – and always talking about the dire consequences as people jump ship from one platform to the other. And then it doesn’t happen – or at least not in the way pundits seem to state. Sure the landscape has changed – iOS and Android account for >90% of mobile sales worldwide, with the split varying by territory. Blackbery has been in freefall as companies have made moves to replace the service, and Windows Phone has been slow on the uptake meaning that corporate systems using Windows Mobile have slowly eroded that market share.

If you go back to the pre-iPhone days when folks had a ‘Verizon’ phone made by somebody, you would enter the store every 20 months and get a new phone. It didn’t matter if you had a Samsung and now wanted a LG or HTC – the sales person did a backup and restore and your contacts were all set. Existing things like ringtones, messages and so on … didn’t transfer normally. But with smartphones things are different … and more of a pain, sometimes to the point of not being worth doing.

What is your experience with people switching mobile OS makers? Specifically those who are not on the bleeding edge of technology?

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9 replies

  1. You make some good points, but there’s one thing that makes switching EASIER-tablets. With iPads and Android tablets and even the Surface/rumored 7in Surface, you can choose one OS for your tablet needs and another for your phone. This means that in my case I am not losing out on my investment in iOS-all the apps I have for iOS are available to me on my iPad. I can and plan to keep my fingers in the Windows Phone and iOS ecosystems, and I think that’s a strategy that opens up switching to more people.

    It’s easy to have a Galaxy S4/iPad combo, or an iPhone/Nexus 7 combo, etc.

    • This has been my experience too. More of my iOS-exclusive experiences tend to be on the iPad (magazines for instance), which has made switching to an Android phone that much easier.

      I haven’t spent any time outside a store using the new Blackberry OS (though I very much would like to), but I have with the other three and they are all very good at their current level.

      iOS has the quality app following, WP has a very slick design, and Android has a lot of extra customisation and hardware options.

      That said, the “dissatisfaction” with these four mobile operating systems is pretty amusing. Never before has mobile technology been so powerful, and of such high quality. As this level of technology saturates the market, it becomes so commonplace that people become jaded.

    • I’m in that mixed bag as well, but my experience was that the apps that I need and use on the iPad are NOT the same ones that I focus on on the iPhone. I even commented on this when I made the migration to Windows Phone (http://geardiary.com/2012/06/11/an-iphone-user-tries-windows-phone-and-the-adventure-continues/#.UaG6kJXlnBw).

      That said, there continue to be things like the failure of my Windows Phone (Lumia 920) to link to my car BT system, and a few missing apps, like an Xfinity (Comcast) app, or my banking app that keep me bouncing back and forth between the Windows Phone and my iPhone. Being “anchored” to an ecosystem really wasn’t much of a barrier for me (I also talked about that in my postings).

      Today, I use the Windows Phone using a T-Mobile Sim, and the iPhone on AT&T. I also use an iPad (3rd gen) and an MS Surface and none of them is going away any time soon. I use MS Skydrive (and thumb drives) to move media back and forth. I manage my movies and music on iTunes, and the Windows Phone app for Macintosh plays pretty nicely with iTunes and iPhoto to allow the sharing of content. Google, however, never made decent tools for managing media on Android and forget trying to integrate with iTunes or anything else on a Mac if you’re an Android user (manual management is the main option) – yet another reason the platform has never appealed to me (although I have spent significant time with it).

      So I don’t know if inertia has the power that it used to have. I do think that carrier selection does have some impact, but I think family pressure definitely plays a part!

  2. >More than that, when traveling there is no cell access from work, so I depend on iMessage over WiFi for during-the-day text messages. And FaceTime in the evenings.

    It seems like the iPod Touch would help someone in a position similar to yours transition to another platform?

  3. The idea of switching to a different OS and having to rebuild my set of apps just makes me tired, honestly. And I think this shows the cleverness of Apple’s strategy; they’ve got a ton of people locked in now, and it’s almost a captive audience. In many ways, they’ve kind of replicated the method of Microsoft in the 80s, when all PCs had DOS and Windows loaded on them by default. Of course, Apple has it better: They own the hardware, not just the OS.

    • Doug- that is actually why I argued against those who said the iPod touch was done. Even if it is not generating huge numbers or profit for Apple it gets people into the ecosystem and keeps them there. Honestly I am still surprised that Apple has not released is super-low priced iPod touch. It may not make them money now but, in the long run, it buys them a lot.

      • Totally agree – and it was something we discussed before, the notion of a ‘last gen’ iPod Touch in more rugged casing at $99 – 149 all dressed up for the kiddies!

  4. It really is getting difficult to swap out, at work I have many that use iMessage and you can’t just turn it off an on. Just this weekend I went from an iPhone 5 to an HTC One and oh my did my friends tell me about not being able to get a hold of me.. I carry the HTC One, an iPhone 5 on a prepaid sim, and a Blackberry Q10 on a prepaid sim as well. To say nothing of what I do in Australia and the US.. It gets insane.. But I have to admit, for each country I have a different ecosystem.. In the US its Android, in Australia its Apple, in Manila its Apple, Android, and Blackberry.. I keep saying I’m going to go to one.. :)