The Smartphone Competition Equation.

Crossposted to

A few years ago Earl bought me the first generation iPhone for Christmas. This was an absolutely delight for me for a number of reasons, the primary one being that the idea of having access to the internet in my pocket was sort of a geeky good time. I’d dial up the weather, look up things on Google just because I could and avoid the at-the-time trend of sending a text message by banging out letters on a 3×3 keypad. The original iPhone was my favorite of the iPhone designs because it had a solid, metal presence to it that made me make grunting noises like Tim Allen.

I upgraded to the iPhone 3G when I had the opportunity to do so, so I could do everything I was doing with my original iPhone, only faster. Admittedly, it did feel like a step backwards in the hardware department in that it didn’t feel quite as nice in my hand as I would have liked it to. That phone still lives today in the cubicle next to mine at work, because I sold it when I realized that the city I worked in did not have 3G service with AT&T. This was before Verizon offered the iPhone, so I switched to Verizon and got the original Droid.

I liked the feel of the Droid in my hand but the whole experience didn’t feel as polished. The Android OS felt unfinished and the camera did not take as high quality photos as my iPhone 3G. It was within the first week that I wished I could go back to AT&T and start using an iPhone again, but I couldn’t because of my new Verizon contract, so I stuck it out until that magical day one February when Verizon announced that they would be carrying the iPhone 4. I stayed up that night until I was able to order it and did so. I was so happy to be on the iPhone again.

Last spring I lost my mind for a little while and got bored with the iPhone and opted for an Android-based HTC Thunderbolt. That lasted a week. The phone rebooted spontaneously, usually while I was doing something, the battery barely made it until lunch on a full charge and I felt like I was talking on something the size of a phone book. Plus, I was really missing the quality of the photos taken with my iPhone 4; the Thunderbolt had more megapixels (8MP instead of 5) but the lenses weren’t as good and the quality of the photos suffered. And on Android (which still felt unpolished to me) I didn’t have a way to get to Instagram and I was missing Instagram.

I switched back to an iPhone 4 within a week and I haven’t looked back.

Yesterday, Instagram was opened up to Android users. From a social perspective (and when you think of the user as the advertising revenue product instead of a customer) this makes absolute sense. Folks on the Android platform can now share their photos on Instagram and interact in this formerly iPhone-only space. It’s a good way to share with more friends but the quality of the photos from the Android phones appears to be not as good, in my opinion. A couple of folks have posted comparison photos and the results are very apparent.

Compare these two photos from John Gruber.
iPhone 4S:
Galaxy Nexus:

My friend John Matthews is really good at iPhoneography. He is an iphoneography purist in that he takes all of his photos with an iPhone and his entire workflow takes place on his iPhone. That’s cool! In fact, that’s wicked cool! I guess I have come to think of Instagram as more of a place for folks that thought along these lines to share their photos. Yes, there is a huge social element to Instagram but to me it was a place where iPhone folks could share their photos using their favorite smartphone platform.

Plus, I have that whole Apple snob thing going on1.

I keep reading stats about how the Android platform is the most prevalent of the smartphone platforms. My question is, if Android is bigger and better, why didn’t someone build their own Instagram-like ecosystem instead of clamoring to get onto the ecosystem already built for iPhone? Why didn’t someone innovate, establish an Android user base and then later open it up to iPhone users so they could sigh with “ok, we’ll let you in the party”.

As my interest in iPhoneography increases (especially with the nicer weather), I’m going to be on the lookout for a social networking site where likeminded photographers (amateur and professional) can share their photos without having to guess as to what type of phone was used and what kind of optics the camera had and the like. Does anyone have any suggestions?

1 Yes, Sheldon, that was sarcasm.