The smartphone connection

How Apple and Google are promoting customer loyalty

By The Tech Dad

My wife and I both work in the tech industry, so itís not surprising that our house sometimes looks more like a Radio Shack storeroom than a family residence. However, I get the impression that we are far from alone in that respect. These days, itís virtually impossible for any family with kids to avoid the constant accumulation of laptops, iPods, smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices.

What is perhaps more surprising about our gadget collection is its diversity. We have several PCs, a couple of Macs, two iPads, an Android tablet, a variety of iPods, and more smartphones than I care to think about.

Despite the presence of our daughterís BlackBerry Curve and the obligatory Kindle, our gadgets essentially divide along predictable lines: my wife is a huge Apple fan and I prefer Android. That doesnít mean that Iím not an admirer of Apple products Ė I have an iPod touch and I love the convenience of iTunes Ė but when it comes to staying connected, nothing is going to separate me from my HTC Rezound and my Sony S Tablet.

It seems to me that these strong individual preferences are going to become even more entrenched in the months and years ahead. While Apple, HTC, Motorola and the rest will continue to compete for new smartphone customers, existing iPhone and Android owners will be inclined to stay put. If you have an iPhone, then itís likely that your next phone will be an iPhone too; and if Androidís your thing, then it will probably be your platform of choice for many years to come.

One of the obvious reasons is familiarity with the two very different operating systems. Whether itís e-mail, calendar, web surfing, photos, or video conferencing, each platform has a distinct approach that makes it hard for customers to leave and start over.

And then there is the cloud. If you have a Mac, an iPad or an iPhone, life has never been better. The latest iOS 5 introduced iCloud, a new cloud storage and sharing service which automatically syncs content across all your Apple devices. Although not quite as harmonized, Google is also introducing an array of cloud features alongside its standard apps, including services for music, books, documents, and more.

It makes all the sense in the world for Apple and Google to keep offering complementary services, so it's more difficult for customers to leave the comfort of their chosen eco-system. We can argue all we want about the merits of Siri, notifications, and video chat apps, but when it comes to choosing a smartphone platform, itís becoming harder than ever to break that tried and trusted connection.

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