Why Apple should consider more frequent iPhone updates

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New numbers from Nielsen released on Thursday show that Android’s market share grew in July while the iOS share stayed relatively flat. One stat in particular from Nielsen stuck out: Among early adopters, 40 percent would opt for an Android device as their next purchase, while only 32 percent would go for an iPhone.

Since the early adopter crowd is the group most likely to cycle through devices quickly, this makes sense. Android handset makers usually don’t adhere to any hard-and-fast update schedule, and they often release multiple devices or iterations of the same device within a single calendar year. If what you’re after is the latest available tech, Android has the edge, regardless of whether or not the overall user experience of iOS is arguably better.

Of course, it helps that Android has around a dozen hardware partners in the U.S. alone offering a variety of devices across all major carriers, but even among that crowd, some single device makers are beginning to pull away from the field with aggressive hardware upgrade plans.

The best example is Samsung, which announced a new 5.3-inch smartphone on Thursday at the IFA 2011 European tech conference. The new Galaxy Note, as the monster phone is called, also has a 1.4 GHz dual-core processor under the hood, as well as a pressure-sensitive touchscreen that can be used with a stylus for accurate drawing, sketching and writing. The huge 5.3-inch display boasts an impressive 1280×800 resolution, on par with many netbooks. Bristling with new shiny bits, it’s an early adopter’s dream device.

The features mentioned above won’t appeal to all, because as Steve Jobs has rightly pointed out in the past, most consumers are after an overall experience, not a list of specs. But one group, namely the early adopter group, is very much focused on the list of specs, and Samsung is showing that you can do well by appealing to that level of interest.

Early adopters buy early and buy often. The nature of Android devices makes it more possible for those on the edge to stay there, no waiting required. Given the rise in popularity of smartphones, combined with a generation of device buyers that grew up using them, we might see more and more consumers comfortable with device updates that are much more frequent than once (or less) yearly.

Apple doesn’t adhere to a strict yearly schedule with its Mac releases; approximately every six to eight months, it introduces minor overhauls and spec bumps when new processor tech is made available to keep its machines more or less current in terms of specifications. Doing the same with an iPhone might make sense and attract the wandering gaze of customers focused firmly on the horizon of mobile tech.

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