Apple is both a hardware and software maker, which puts it in a unique position in the mobile and computing market. RIM also makes hardware and software but its products are considered far inferior to Apple’s. Other key competitors like Samsung, Facebook and Google only do one of the two. Microsoft has recently entered this mix with the Surface Tablet, but its story has just started in the hardware area. Apple’s distinctive advantage is also turning out to be a problem as rivals are now using its hardware to their own advantage.
If you are an iPhone user, the top apps you use are probably not from Apple at all. While RIM has users married to its Blackberry Messenger, there isn’t any iconic app that Apple can boast of. In fact, the apps used mostly on iPhones are Facebook, Skype, Twitter, WhatsApp (instant messaging) and Google’s repertoire of maps, browser, Drive and plus. The latest additions to this list are Facebook’s Messenger that allows free calls within the U.S. and Amazon’s MP3 Store that seeds music directly into iTunes. While Apple has tried ardently to produce an app that will capture its users’ undivided attention – think, Siri – it has mostly failed – think Apple Maps. Its competitors, on the other hand, continue to improve and enhance their apps to suite iPhone users.
Apple had tried to limit the invasion of apps from prime adversaries in its App store a few years ago when Google introduced Google Voice. But, Apple came out the loser in an FCC inquiry that set the precedent for a more democratic approach to apps. These apps do increase the popularity of the phone – Apple proudly markets its store as the one with the most apps in the world. They also earn the Silicon Valley giant a lot of revenue as the company gets 30% of all the earnings from paid app. But that doesn’t undermine the fact that these apps are a convenient way for Apple’s opponents to tap into Apple’s large consumer base.
From a macro market point of view, this relation of apps to devices shows an interesting layer of cross-brand layering. While your phone may come from any company, there is a uniform layer of apps that you will mostly resort to. Facebook for social networking, Google for maps and Skype for video calling have gotten so entrenched into everyday phone functions that sometimes they feel like they came packaged with the phone itself! And that is Apple’s biggest peeve!