An interesting shift has happened in the smart phone marketplace.  It’s no longer about choosing the best hardware and then going with whichever network subsidizes the hardware, you can now choose the best network before choosing your smartphone.

In Canada it’s not as much of an issue as the iPhone is spread across all the major networks, but in the US, where it’s tied to the much maligned AT&T, the other smartphone options make choosing a Google Android handset on a superior network a reasonable choice.

However, when you’re asking people who have been using the iPhone for a few years and are seeing their contracts expire, expecting them to switch to a new line of hardware is ridiculous.

The iPhone and iPad changed the landscape of gadget design.  It’s immediately obvious as the look of every model of smart phone has adopted the Apple theme of touch screen and icons and simple buttons.  As each new device is released, cries of “Apple Killer!” accompany it. 

While the hardware may be a worthy competitor to the Apple product, the ralliers are missing the point.  When it comes to the war with Apple, the battle is not in the hardware, it’s in the App Store.

The iPhone had a 2 year head start on the Google Android system.  Over that time users not only became familiar with the iPhone interface, they loaded their phones with apps and music from .. iTunes

Dozens to hundreds to thousands of dollars could have been invested in apps and music and movies that users now interact with on a daily basis.  These apps and media are locked to Apple devices, throwing away the iPhone for a Blackberry Torch means not only learning a new operating system, but reloading (and repurchasing) the apps to the phone.

Years ago you could switch between Motorola or Nokia or Sony Ericsson phones with ease – the only trouble was transferring your address book.  We had nothing extra invested in the phone other than the actual handset itself.

Phones are now personal computers, stacked with my software.  My iPhone is filled with apps that i have spent hundreds of dollars on that become a part of my everyday usage.  My brother has an Android handset and while it’s beautiful, I’m in line this week for the iPhone 4, not the EVO.

Great smart phones are coming in to the marketplace, and while they can grab users new to the smartphone universe, the churn to get people to switch from iPhone to any other device will be a slow pull, because of the app investment.

catch the buzz … pass it on.

buzz bishop future shop tech blogThis post was originally published on The Future Shop Tech Blog.

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