The Positive Side of Rivalries

Ever since the iPhone was first released, all of the talk has been about who’s going to win the smartphone wars. Originally, it was a 3-horse race between RIM, Android and iOS (With Windows Mobile following along somewhere in there), but now it looks more and more like RIM is out of the picture, or will be soon. That’s unfortunate, because even though I’m no longer a BlackBerry user, it’s best for everybody that RIM stays in the game.

But why? Wouldn’t it be better for Apple to crush the competition and become the No. 1 OS in the land? No, not really. The more competitive the market is, the more innovations will come out for consumption, and the better we all will be as a result. Don’t believe me? Let’s hash it out after the break.

History Lessons

In every arena, there are rivalries in one form or another. In baseball, it’s the Red Sox and the Yankees. Cars, it’s GM and Ford or Honda and Mistubishi. In computers, it’s Mac versus PC. Some of these rivalries have been going for decades, others for just a few years, but they all involve two parties competing against each other to try to come out on top.

So now, we have Android and iOS competing to be the top operating system in the mobile phone market. I would imagine that most readers of this site would side on the iOS side of things, but both options have their benefits. Android is an “open” system with multiple phone choices across various networks. IOS uses one phone — the iPhone — and only a few carriers depending on your location, and is considered more of a “closed” system when compared to Android. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, but because the rivalry has become so fierce, we’ve had some positive changes on the iOS side as a result. To prove it, you only have to look at one example.

Notifications

Apple was arguably the first to the touchscreen market. Granted, there were touchscreen devices before the iPhone, but the multitouch interface and everything that came with it really changed the game. One hangup though was the notification system. It sucked right off the bat, and it took several years for the iOS development team to come up with something better. The resulting notification system is very similar to Android’s system, and depending on your perspective, did it better.

But no matter which side of the fence you’re on, the iOS notification system was obviously inspired by the Android setup. Had Android or RIM not existed in the smartphone market, Apple could’ve kept the notification system as it is, and improved upon it at their leisure. I’m not saying that Apple lost customers to Android because of the notification system, but there is a chance that it was one of the nice features to a new buyer who had no loyalty to either brand.

Brand Loyalty

Speaking of brand loyalty, that had a play in this whole scenario as well. Like any good rivalry, it has to start somewhere, and it seems to have divided itself amongst the Apple and Non-Apple lines. Some think that Apple people are just fanboys, so they want to have anything but an Apple product in their hand at all times. And because there are no real ties to the hardware manufacturer and since the press has hyped this thing up more than Frasier/Ali, the whole situation has become about Apple versus Android.

So now we have those discussions about whose operating system is better, whose hardware is better and who can do more pushups in 5 minutes. Since the Android system is getting more and more hardware as it goes, that gives Apple a benchmark to reach towards with every yearly release. Same in reverse for Android, making it so each company pushes the boundary in the process. That’s better for fans on both sides of the competition.

The Winners

No matter where you sit, this is a good thing for us as consumers. We all get the best possible hardware out there for our particular maker, and we know that we’ll always have another better option in just a year. It hasn’t gotten stagnant yet either, like the Chevrolet versus Ford system in the car world. There’s still that drive to beat the other company, and as a result, we — the consumer — are always winning.

That’s why I want RIM to make a comeback and for Windows 7 Mobile (or whatever it’s called nowadays) to really kick some butt. Let’s see what their innovative interfaces look like (The windows version looks pretty cool, too), and then see what Apple does to get to the top of the hill. We all know that the iOS system can’t stay the same forever. Just like OSX has evolved in dramatic leaps and bounds, there are still ways to make iOS better than the rest. But how? What’s left that hasn’t been done already? Let’s see what the competition does first, then watch Apple go one better.

Here’s to rivalries.