The smartphone war is heating up..

HTC Hero - Android PhoneEver since Palm brought out their personal organisers and mixed them up with phone capabilities, there has been a battle for the enterprise market. And because it was the enterprise market much of the battle was like some Mid-African conflict. You know its happening, but it doesn't get any focus of the rest of the world since to everyone else it does seem to matter who "wins".

Now that Apple has come on to the scene and have worked their usual marketing magic, "smart-phones" seem to been brought to the attention of the little people, and with it a promise of amazing new ways to use the computational power of their once mundane mobile phones/devices. As the battle is brought to the front door, so is the limelight, and as more and more of the masses fall into the same sudden realisation of what these devices can for their lives, it is like they just experienced some sudden apparition. What a lot of people don't realise is just how long the war has been raging, though its only in the last year, may be two that consumers finally understand what part software plays when it comes to any electrical device.

What is frustrating is that people got the idea that their iPhone has lots of programs to pick from that can suddenly make their phone become a toaster. They quickly finish their mocha coffees and then all "hail Apple for such an amazing invention". I suppose its probably quite fascinating and mind boggling if you have never realised that everything electrical in the home these days has some kind of ware helping make the device actually function. However, what is the most frustrating is that devices like the Windows PDA and Mobile, which was out some decade or so before Apple had that glimmer in the eye, also had more applications than you can wave a stick at. For the 50,000 odd applications for iPhone, there are 250,000 for windows, but that seems to have been lost somewhere in the hype (please keep in mind that when they say 50,000... 100,000... or even 1,000,000 applications, a massive percentage of that are probably apps that do just the same thing or just barely do anything at all). I'm not meaning to sound all pro-windows here. Microsoft once again had a monumental chance to take all the cream, but no-doubt were once again totally engrossed in what everyone else was doing they forgot they had to come up with ideas too.

My point here is that applications are important, and what your smart-phone can do for you is really all about what developers have done for your device. And this brings me on to a new contender in my own personal decision in which side I'll take in the smart-phone war. I'm not choosing a smart-phone because I can turn it into a fish tank or a drum kit. Such things are completely crap after 20 seconds and moreover totally unfulfill a reason I have a smart device. Because there are so many device and choices out there these days means I can be a lot more selective about what I'm actually after, and I think if you are looking at what smart-phone you really want, you should ask your self the same questions. Spending 400-500 quid for a phone (or more than twice that if you got suckered into buying the iPhone, fool) you have to make sure you are really buying the right ones.

So far there are the Symbian (Nokia), iPhone, Windows Mobile, WebOS (Palm) and Android (Google) that make up the smart-device platform top dogs. I have to point out that the lines between them are really blurring out as they get more and more alike, apart from Symbian which is quickly looking outdated but its also the oldest and more estabilshed meaning that it just does the job it is required to do bloody well and without all the frills.

Recently I've been looking at the HTC Hero which is based on the Android platform, and I was always skeptic about it in the past. I didn't like love the interface. Then again, I also hadn't really looked at it in more detail than the homescreen features which is about where most reviews and demos seem to get hung up on with most devices. What I missed was that this platform was actually really good for my needs. I do more email and web browsing than phone calls and texts (by a hefty difference I'd like to point out), and this platforms improved interface by HTC, its already reasonable email support and its excellent web browser (tests show vastly better than Windows and iPhone) has really grabbed my attention. Filling in the small gaps is important to me and definitely gets me swaying heavily in favour of any platform, and the third party application support for this considerably new OS has is showing massive promise (Several thousand already). There isn't a single app out there that I can't find to fulfill my needs, and most of them are free or half the cost of iPhone apps or quarter of that of Windows or Symbian. This could be because of the push for open source development Google has been doing, but what ever it is, its working.

What I am surprised about is the cost. I was expecting it to be cheaper than the latest HTC windows counterparts since the platform isn't licensed like Microsofts (still almost half that of an iPhone I'd like to point out again). But it does have a few differences such as the 5 megapixel camera, the 3.5mm headphone jack, the digital compass and the capacitive rather than resistive screen (though lower resolution which was disappointing to see! It has the same resolution as the iPhone). These might push the costs back a little, but I think it was more down to a business decision for equilibrium across their product line than actually overall manufacturing cost. Pitty if that was the case, but understandable.

I'm looking forward to getting my hands on one for a proper test, much like I am still for the Palm Pre, and finally getting to write a conclusion to this long long debate.

Wed, 29 Jul 2009 14:50