That’s the intriguing prospect reported by Christopher Williams in The Telegraph. Apple’s ecosystem is seen as a one-way route by many in the industry, including the mobile carriers and operators. Those in the European Union are concerned that Apple is creating a data lock-in for users that keeps them buying iPhones when they come round to upgrades. That places Apple in a very strong negotiating position because networks simply have to stock iOS devices to meet this demand.
Apple iPhone 6SThere’s less of a lock-in over the Android platform, partly because the OS is available on so many devices, but also because the open nature of the platform means that data is easier to extract by third-party applications and tools. The competition for Android devices means the carriers have a strong position to get the best deal possible from each manufacturer.
That’s not available when taking to Apple, thanks to Apple being the sole supplier of iOS devices, and the difficulty presented to the average user in a potential move from an Apple device to an Android device. Arguably there’s a similar hurdle for users going the other way, but Apple has taken care of that with its Move to iOS application released in September 2014. So why would Apple, which as a vested interest in keeping users in the iOS ecosystem, offer them an app-based escape route away from iOS and back to Android?
Williams reports, via a senior industry source, that “Apple has privately agreed to develop a simple tool to help consumers shift data such as contacts, music and photos if they move to Android. Major European telecoms operators are concerned that only a tiny fraction of customers ever move off the iPhone, in part because of the technical hassle of transferring data.”
Apple iPhone 6 Plus vs Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge
Apple may feel that it has little to lose and a lot to win by offering this route for user data.
This could be seen as a very easy PR victory.. not only offering Android to Apple, but also Apple to Android. It could be spun as a community effort to act in the best interests of customer’s data. It could also be used so consumers could ‘try an iPhone’ safe in the knowledge that Apple will put everything back on their Android smartphone at the end of a trial period.
Apple should also be confident in iOS to stand on its own. As Tim Cook noted, the percentage of users switching from Android to Apple is at an all-time high. They are making that switch for a reason. Just because there is a path back to Android, the strength of iOS (at least in Apple’s view) should be enough to keep them on Cupertino’s platform.
Finally, Apple will want to avoid any potential investigation from the EU Commission in the future. Such an investigation could take years, be conducted in an environment where documentation and strategy would have to be openly discussed, and act as a distraction in the upper levels of Apple’s executive team. Making an ‘exit app’ would be a strong statement against such an investigation.
If Apple was to release this application in the future, I would see it as a very proactive move from Cupertino.
It would strengthen Apple’s positioning of iOS. It would be seen as an operating system that users could easily move to, but also to switch away from – with Apple’s legendary customer satisfaction scores it’s unlikely that Apple would see a mass exodus of users from the platform. It would allow Apple to have a simple answer to accusations of user lock-in. And it would continue to promote Apple as acting in the best interests of users and their data, giving them control over all aspects of their information.
I don’t think the question of this app existing or not is the right one. If it does exist, Apple should release it as quickly as possible. If it doesn’t exist, it should be a priority.