When it comes to mobile operating systems, there are really only two players with significant smartphone-related market share. On one hand, you have the clear market-share leader, Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL), with its open-source Android OS now on defense. In the other, you have Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) closed iOS ecosystem that's growing market share both in developed markets and in the trade-up developing markets.
Although probably not as much ink has been spilled about this current rivalry, especially when compared to former CEO Steve Jobs' Microsoft competition, it appears Tim Cook is just as focused in the battle for mobile supremacy. During Apple's conference calls, Cook especially relishes in reporting the "higher rate" of iPhone users that are Android defectors. And if the last few quarters are of any indication, Apple's doing a good job poaching Android users.
However, if the newest reports are true, it appears Apple has outright declared war on Android. According to Apple's iOS 9 preview (h/t to Daring Fireball's Jon Gruber), Apple has a new app entitled "Move to iOS" which will wirelessly download your contacts, message history, photos and videos, DRM-free music and books, and free apps from Android to iOS.
Apple's taking control of the switching process
For Apple, this is the strongest move it's taken to compete with Android. In iOS 8 and previous editions, many of these functions could be done, just not quickly and not automated. On Apple's website, the company implores Android switchers to visit a local Apple store for transferring contacts.
If you are unable or unwilling to visit a store, the company recommends you wirelessly transfer contacts, videos, and photos with a third-party app, non-DRM music (Google Play's music library is DRM-free) and other content files on your computer with iTunes, or if you are a Mac user you can use Apple's specific Android File Transfer download.
If all this sounds like a headache -- well, quite frankly, that's because it is. In economics, these are called switching costs and are considered a powerful barrier to competition and substitutes. But make no mistake, just because the aforementioned costs (mostly) aren't measured in money, but rather in time, doesn't make them any less important to prospective consumers. The inability to quickly switch contacts and music should lessen the friction for consumers and make it easier to select Apple's next iGadget over Android.
Probably more of a developed market boost
This appears to be more of a developed market play where competition is fierce among a saturated market. This year, Apple expanded its trade-in program from only iOS devices to include Android-based manufacturers as a way to spur upgraders to buy Apple products. The expanded program was initially introduced in the United States and certain European countries, presumably as a way to steal market share from other high-end participants.
For investors, consider this new app as further reducing the friction of changing ecosystems. If done well, "Move to iOS" could further build upon Apple's momentum while hurting Android's performance in the zero-sum developed markets. Look for Apple to continue to grow iPhone-related market share.