There is something about Americans which requires us to categorize and list everything. Top 10 cars. Poll numbers for politicians (including those who have no chance whatsoever; and it’s a growing list), Letterman’s famous Top 10 Lists, top movies of the week, bestselling books, top automobiles and trucks (ever notice how each manufacturer seems to a get a slot on the Car of the Year list every few years?), the top 100 rock’n roll songs, the top college football teams.
We have a love affair with lists. We compare and contrast our tastes and make judgements based upon where something falls on the list, and no list is every unanimously approved by everyone, and every week there’s a new list to digest.
Here’s another one.
This is Matthew Miller’s Top 10 Best Smartphones for the upcoming holiday season (as if all smartphone owners wait until the holidays to buy a new phone). This list is flawed, of course, but it is enlightening in that it’s representative of what is wrong with such lists.
Here’s the list (in order).
- iPhone 6s – 6sPlus
- Samsung Galaxy Note 5
- Google Nexus 6P
- Samsung Galaxy S6, S6 Edge
- LG G4
- Microsoft Lumia 950/950XL
- HTC One A9
- Blackberry Priv
- Google Nexus 5X
- Motorola Moto X Pure
From a hardware perspective, all of these smartphones are good phones, but only a few will sell in numbers sufficient to return a profit to their manufacturer (and, to be fair, Google does not manufacture their Nexus phones).
For many on the list hardware specifications are better than Apple’s new iPhone 6s line (screen size and resolution, RAM, storage flexibility, battery size, CPU cores) and often priced to nearly half that of an iPhone.
Miller’s list is published on ZDNet which is a hardware-centric publication, so it should not come as a surprise that the Top 10 Best Smartphones on the list have plenty of mentions about the hardware, and little about the software, yet he points out what a few hundred million iPhone customers already know.
Apple not only has the most apps, it has the most apps with the best user experiences. The iPhone 6s Plus isn’t perfect, but it’s as close as you can get.
That’s acknowledgement that applications actually play a big part in using a smartphone and Miller finds something worthwhile in software for nearly every model on the list. What should be obvious after rummaging through the list is this; smartphones today are bristling with advanced technology and capabilities completely unheard of and not even predicted a mere decade ago (thank you Apple, for the original iPhone which set the standard and direction for today’s smartphone models, most of which, remarkably, look like iPhones).
What is also interesting is where Apple sits on the list– #1– and that every other smartphone on the list runs a version of Android. Is this Mac and Windows all over again? The answer is… almost. In the Mac and Windows war it was a personal computer vs. an operating system. In smartphones it’s iPhone vs. Android, a smartphone vs. an operating system, and while manufacturers cram every sort of hardware technology into the package, only Apple’s iPhone is set apart with a different user experience; just like Mac and OS X vs. traditional personal computers running Windows.
Such lists are flawed because the user experience is the most difficult component to measure (subjectiveness being what it is), yet that seems to be exactly what Apple focuses attention on. It’s not hardware. It’s user experience; end to end, top to bottom.