Does Android’s innovation boom put iPhone to shame? [Friday Night Fight]

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Why buy an iPhone when you can get so much more?
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

After Samsung and LG announced exciting new iPhone rivals at Mobile World Congress this week, we’ve had heated debates behind the scenes here over whether Apple’s smartphone can still compete against the big guns in an increasingly competitive smartphone market.

Friday-Night-Fights-bug-2Without features like wireless charging, water-resistance, and expandable storage, will it be harder for Apple to reverse slowing iPhone growth? Or are these things just gimmicks that the iPhone doesn’t need, and will have been forgotten just a few years down the line?

Join in this week’s Friday Night Fight between Cult of Android and Cult of Mac as we take our spat public and ask you to wade in!

Killian-FNFKillian Bell (Writer, Cult of Android): Mobile World Congress just wrapped up in Barcelona, and I think it has been one of the best in recent years.

The standout unveilings were obviously the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge, and LG’s new modular G5 — all of which go on sale next month. They bring new designs, cutting-edge specifications, and innovative new features like the always-on display, water-resistance, and the ability to add new functionality in a flash.

I recently wrote a piece on how these devices further increase the gap between Android’s flagships and the iPhone. Apple’s device is no longer the best in its field, and consumers get so much more — often for a lot less — when they choose an Android. If it stays that way, the Cupertino company is going to have an even harder time putting a stop to slowing growth.

I know you’re an Apple fanboy, but surely not even you can defend it here, can you?

cartoonluke_360.pngLuke Dormehl (Writer, Cult of Mac): It’s interesting. Your piece was originally prompted by a story which had circulated online showing how the ports of the new Samsung Galaxy S7 don’t line up. When this was pointed out, many people came out of the woodwork to note that this represented a key difference between Apple and Samsung: namely, that Apple cares about getting stuff right, while Samsung too often doesn’t.

I’ll be honest: I like having both Samsung and Apple’s approach to innovation out there. Apple takes the time to get things right, while Samsung throws features at the wall to see what sticks. Samsung has loud “innovation,” but Apple has the longer-lasting innovation, where it is willing to wait until all the faults are ironed out in a particular piece of technology.

Apple has rarely been first to market: whether that is the graphical user interface, an MP3 player, an app store, etc. What it does as a company is wait until it can execute its ideas to the standard it would like. That’s a strategy that I, as a customer, can get on board with.

There are definitely some interesting devices coming out of MWC, but if it’s okay with you I’ll stick with Apple. You can talk about Quad HD displays and water-resistant designs if you want (and I’d definitely like to see these on future Apple handsets), but there’s one big problem: It’s still a handset running Android. And it’s still a handset I wouldn’t feel comfortable is going to be supported for as long as an iPhone is.

All the features in the world won’t change that.

Galaxy S7 is pretty, powerful, and packing huge improvements.
Galaxy S7 is pretty, powerful, and packing huge improvements.
Photo: Samsung

Killian-FNFKillian: Look, just because Samsung’s ports don’t line up, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t get stuff right. You only have to look at the handsets it is putting out now and those it released three years ago to see it’s a different company today. As I mentioned in that article, if Samsung was to copy the iPhone today — as it did years ago — it would be taking a big step back.

And I don’t agree that Apple is rarely first to market. In fact, one of the things that made the iPhone great early on was the new and innovative features you couldn’t get with other phones. It was the first with a proper app store, a stellar camera, a high-resolution display, a fingerprint scanner that actually works, and a pressure-sensitive screen.

But these days, the innovation isn’t coming fast enough. Not only has Apple given competitors chance to catch up, but they’ve overtaken

Why would you spend $650 on an iPhone 6s, when for the same money, you could have an arguably more attractive device with the best smartphone display on the market, a better camera, wireless charging, expandable storage, and water-resistance?

You’re the perfect Apple fan, because you’re blindly loyal to the brand. Your immediate dismissal of anything powered by Android proves that. So you’ll keep buying iPhones whether they’re the best phones available or not.

But unfortunately for Apple, there are millions of other iPhone users who are open to switching platforms for better devices that offer a greater experience.

cartoonluke_360.pngLuke: Except that, sadly for you, while there are “switchers,” most of them seem to be switching from Android to Apple — and not the other way around.

I can’t help but notice that you’ve not addressed my point about Android software here. I think very, very few people could use an Apple phone and Android phone, complete with the latter’s massive fragmentation problems, and argue that the quality is just the same.

What you get with Samsung phones are new features, some of which do offer something you won’t get immediately with Apple — but ultimately aren’t going to be as well-implemented as the equivalent on an iPhone.

The other thing that’s unfair about what you’re saying — which I should point out before we finish — is that you’re comparing, in the iPhone 6s, what is now a six-month-old handset with a brand new one. You want a fair comparison? Let’s wait until the iPhone 7 and see which comes out on top when it comes to reviews, unit sales, and profitability.

By that point you’ll be begging to go back to discussing Samsung’s wonky port alignment.

LG G5 can be upgraded on the fly.
LG G5 can be upgraded on the fly.
Photo: LG

Killian-FNFKillian: Oh, yes, the software thing. I’ll admit companies like Samsung could be better at delivering the latest Android updates in a timely manner. But they have more devices to serve than Apple does. Besides, almost all of them have vowed to provide updates for at least two years, so your handset isn’t going to get old before your contract ends.

If you have an issue with the Galaxy S7 being newer than the iPhone, let’s choose another Android device. How about the LG G4, which is a year old now? With that, you still get a sharper Quad HD display, more RAM, a better camera, and expandable storage. The same can be said about the Sony Xperia Z5 that launched last September — and that’s also water-resistant.

I’m not an iPhone hater. I have an iPhone 6s, and I’ll use it when I want to play iOS games or check out new apps. But when it’s sat there on my desk next to the Galaxy Note 5 or the Galaxy S6 edge+, it just doesn’t seem anywhere near as exciting, or as advanced.

I’d like Apple to catch up with the iPhone 7 — I really would. I just think we’ll be waiting a lot longer for things like Quad HD displays — which greatly improve the VR experience, by the way — wireless charging, and water-resistance. If Apple wants to prove me wrong, I’d be delighted.

Let’s hand this over to the readers now, then. Does the iPhone seem as exciting to you after MWC, or are you disappointed that Apple’s devices don’t offer the same features you can get from rival offerings with the same price tag?

Friday Night Fights is a series of weekly death matches between two no-mercy brawlers who will fight to the death — or at least agree to disagree — about which is better: Apple or Google, iOS or Android?