Why Android and iOS device activations mean entirely different things

As the mobile smart device environment expands, it's become apparent that the two major players in the software world are, unequivocally, Apple and Google. That's the truth right this minute, and there's no denying that these two groups command the most attention when it comes to smartphones and tablets. But what's the difference between what Google's Android has done in the industry and what Apple's iOS is doing? And why do so many analysts continue to suggest that Google's mobile operating system market share matters as much as Apple's?

An obvious point that needs to be made as many times as it must is that there's a difference between selling a smartphone to a person who is going use apps and selling a smartphone to a person who will only be using the device to make calls and texts. John Kirk at Techpinions brought up a good point in saying "it's not about counting the customers. It's about having the customers that count."

If Nokia sold 100 phones with Windows Phone aboard, each of them buying and using apps as well as mobile data day after day, it'd count for a whole lot more to both Microsoft and Nokia than 1,000 Android phones without the Google Play store would to Google. Google Play is the company's app and media storefront, if you did not know.

[aquote]Apple already has your money before you even turn your phone on – Google, on the other hand, does not.[/aquote]

Apple earns cash first by selling the smartphone or tablet – and the operating system inside – then by getting at least a piece of the pie from apps and media sold inside the device from their own stores and services. Apple already has your money before you even turn your phone on – Google, on the other hand, does not.

Meanwhile Google serves a software for free with a profit model that's not quite as easy to see. While Apple's model has them earn cash up front with the device itself, Google has only just begun to take part in such a movement with sales of Nexus and "Nexus user experience" devices through their Google Play online store.

Google also works with a licensing program that not all device manufacturers take part in. If you've got a device with the Google Play store on it, that device has been licensed with Google – if they did not approve of the device, you've got a device with no official Google Play store. Devices running Android with no Google Play store run the risk of making zero profit for Google.

Devices licensed by Google that are purchased by a user that then places said device in a drawer and never speaks of it again also have Google earning zero dollars. An Apple customer, on the other hand, has already participated in Apple's profit model by purchasing the iDevice from the store.

This doesn't mean either company is doing better or worse than the other on its own, as these models are only bits and pieces of a grand plan in place for both companies. If they depended on only one business model as such, far more definitive conclusions could be reached on their prospects. As it stands, Apple and Google should not be compared to one another based solely on mobile operating system market share.

Such a comparison is meaningless.

If Google's mobile OS market share meant the same thing to Google as Apple's does to Apple, they'd be one whole heck of a lot richer.