Apple's Schiller goes on defensive, blasts Android ahead of Galaxy S IV launch

Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) marketing chief, Phil Schiller, is going on the warpath, blasting Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android platform and touting the iPhone just ahead of rival Samsung Electronics' introduction of its Galaxy S IV Android smartphone. Schiller gave a series of interviews in an attempt to blunt the impact of the S IV, actions that analysts saw as a defensive crouch for Apple. 

apple phil schiller


In interviews with the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg and Reuters, Schiller sought to cast doubt on Android's capabilities and repeatedly referred to the Android ecosystem as "fragmented." At the same time, he said third-party market research shows that people who own iPhones love the product.

The rare interview blitz is notable because in the past Apple has not paid much attention to rival product announcements, though it often compares Android phones and tablets unfavorably to the iPhone and iPad at its own product launch events. "Apple is doing things that we have never seen them do in the past," ISI Group analyst Brian Marshall told Bloomberg. "Part of it is good because we could use more communication and dialogue, but at the end of the day it's clear they are concerned."

Samsung has claimed the world's top smartphone and handset spot by volume the last several quarters, though analysts said in February that Apple actually claimed the top smartphone spot in the U.S. market in the fourth quarter, beating out Samsung. Much of Apple's success was driven by demand for Apple's iPhone 5, which was released late in the third quarter of 2012. "What I see is a reality that we're doing really well, and it's not always being reported," Schiller told Bloomberg.

According to research firm Gartner, Android powered 69.7 percent of smartphones sold during the fourth quarter of 2012 compared to 51.3 percent a year earlier, while Apple's iOS followed at 20.9 percent, sliding from 23.6 percent during the fourth quarter of 2011.

Schiller told the Journal that Android fragmentation was "plain and simple."

"With their own data, only 16 percent of Android users are on year-old version of the operating system," he told Reuters. "Over 50 percent are still on software that is two years old. A really big difference."

Google declined to comment, according to Reuters.

Whereas Apple controls the distribution of iOS software updates, Android software updates are generally distributed by carriers to specific Android handset models, a process that requires time and testing. Indeed, Android version 4.0 and higher only recently overtook Android 2.3 Gingerbread in terms of adoption among Android users.

Schiller said fragmentation is hurting consumers. "And that extends to the news we are hearing this week that the Samsung Galaxy S4 is being rumored to ship with an OS that is nearly a year old," he told Reuters. "Customers will have to wait to get an update."

"Our products are innovative, and customers are buying them," Schiller told Bloomberg. "At Apple we know that it's not just enough to have products pumped out in large numbers," he told Reuters. "You have to love and use them. There is a lot of data showing a big disparity there."

Yet it will be Samsung's show tonight in New York City. Samsung does not have a presentation impresario the way that Apple had former CEO Steve Jobs, whose style Apple CEO Tim Cook has emulated. J.K. Shin, the president of Samsung's mobile division, and a company veteran of almost 30 years, will preside over the event. For Samsung though, Shin's understated style won't matter if the Galaxy s IV proves to be as a big a hit as its predecessor, the Galaxy S III.

For more:
- see this WSJ article (sub. req.)
- see this Bloomberg article
- see this Reuters article
- see this separate Bloomberg article

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