The answer is simple music on the phone
Now that the hype cycle has worn down a little around the iPhone 5 launch, its time to take a step back and pick a favorite in the smart phone wars. Is "Phone A" better than "Phone B"? What is a NFC chip and why do I care? Who owns the LTE connectivity patents and who owns the bounce back patents? Do we really care? Techcrunch
and endless other bloggers have covered the iPhone 5 in every technical nuance possible. Samsung has an aggressive media campaign telling us all that the next big thing is already here and it's their phone. Its all down to the marketing now. Apple has the edge with its slavish army of fan sites and fanboy bloggers. But the intense marketing efforts signal that we have entered a commodity phase of the smart phone cycle. Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile are locked into a similar war of making marketing claims for vastly similar services. The mobile services all offer substantially the same thing, and now, these services are being offered in substantially identical devices.
What does this all mean to us the average users? Quite frankly, not much. But who wins here? Is it an IOS or Android world? Who owns the future? My children dont covet the iPhone for its LTE connection, its great camera, or the array of other cool features. They covet it because it works with their iTunes accounts flawlessly. Their music, if they were allowed to have iPhones, would always be with them.
Having resolutely not drunk the Apple cool aid we are an Android family. The lone holdout is my oldest daughter (of 4) who has somehow managed to not shatter her eggshell of an iPhone and has been able to keep it. When ultimately her phone falls prey to gravity and shatters like all iPhones are meant to, she will get an Android phone as her compensation for the care she will have previously lavished on the phone in a futile attempt to keep it from shattering.
Apple, Samsung, HTC, and others all make great phones. These phones are engineering marvels. To call them a phone is really no longer accurate as they are no longer primarily used for speaking. Verizon in the next year will likely make more money on data from these devices than they will for voice. To the eyes of the consumer these devices are all nearly on equal footing in terms of look / feel / functionality with the one glaring fault of syncing music from computer to phone. My experience is that to the key late teen-twenties demographic, this is the beginning and end of the discussion. This is the feature that decides what product they want. In a very unscientific polling among this age group I found that few people I spoke with use their handsets to watch video, no one paid for a subscription service on their phone, and they only spoke with their parents when they actually talked on it. When they arent group messaging or sucking down huge amounts of data on Instagram and Facebook, they want to listen to their music on their phone. They want their music to travel with them and they want it easy. Most people have the technical literacy of being able to turn the television off and on and answer a few simple questions about how their phones work.
Samsung, HTC, and the others are massively intelligent companies. They must know that the core part of their target market wants nothing more than to listen to music on their phones easily. But just try syncing your iTunes music to your non-Apple smart phone. The result falls far short from the seamless experience when using an iPhone (its Apples party here). They fall short on ease of use and clarity of graphic design. The Samsung Kies software is flat-out terrible. With my Samsung Galaxy 2 I was never able to make it work to get music on my phone. HTC does a slightly better job with its sync program but to update a playlist it appears that you have to delete the playlist and then re-import it to get it to update the songs in the playlist. Further, the radio buttons in the software that indicate whether a playlist is selected are so faint that you find yourself with your nose pressed to the screen in order to see whether the radio box is checked. These extra steps and design inefficiencies doom these phones in this critical market. The only other company that has a great music store and device ecosystem is Amazon. But of course they have no phone (yet).
Since it appears the non-Apple device manufacturers are locked out of building of meaningful and complete interfaces with iTunes-driven libraries, they are jumping into the Cloud to provide music to the masses on their devices. This now leads to a classic conflict. Streaming (Pandora, Spotify, iHeart Radio, MOG,Rdio, Etc.) and Locker services (Google Music/Amazon) battle on, and even if they can survive their terrible economics, they chew up bandwidth. The era of unlimited data is over. According to the NY Times
, teens on average listen to 2.5 hours of music per day. In a month that adds up to 75 hours of listening. 75 hours of music is roughly 1,285 songs which is roughly 3.9 GB of bandwidth. You (or your child) just blew your data plan. The cell phone carriers love the streaming music services (its really an evil conspiracy). They want you to chew up more bandwidth as this equals more revenue.
So in conclusion Apple wins. Their core demographic just wants their music in their pocket in a cool easy package and thats what Apple offers them. The complete music ecosystem pre-dates music on a phone hello iPod. They have a multiyear lead and so far they own music on devices. Those forced to not have an iPhone for other reasons, like my children, spend their time longing for the music on their phones, but they know that if they blow up their data plan they will get their phones shut off.