The State of the Smartphone Market, April 2012
Apple is continuing to dominate the smartphone market, but not quite as much as I had originally predicted. We know that Android devices, by their very nature, outnumber iOS devices. I imagine that Android users are numerous for three reasons:
- Android devices offer variety, and flood the market with differentiation
- Android devices are far more advanced with chipsets, screen technologies, and LTE (on top-tier devices, of course)
- Older Android devices offer a cheaper entry into the market for first-time smartphone buyers
So, in order to attack these points, Apple has a pretty clear need to fill with what is hopefully named the iPhone 5. “The New iPhone” will be an irritating and unnecessary brand nomenclature change.
In order to attack those Android advantages, Apple first needs to have two or three differentiated devices at different sizes. The iPhone 3.5”, iPhone 4”, and iPhone 4.5”… obviously branded differently. Second, Apple needs LTE. Badly. 3G felt it’s age two years ago. Just slapping the 4G logo on your AT&T devices doesn’t work, guys. Finally, Apple needs to bring the price down. I know old models are going for cheap, but we all know the iPhone 4S was originally planned as a low-end phone before the 5 was postponed. Can you imagine, the iPhone 3.5”, now for $50? LTE, quad-core, for cheap?
It certainly wouldn’t be the Apple way of doing things.
Ice Cream Sandwich is pretty.
I have been running it stock on the Galaxy Nexus for a few months now. When compared to Gingerbread, ICS is leaps and bounds more consistent and cohesive of a UI paradigm. The pitfall of the Google app model is now all that’s holding back the platform from being a unified idea.
Giving developers free reign to do what they like with their apps is a very unique approach in this market. On the plus side, apps like Cerberus and custom launchers can exist that have deep system access and can even change the core software experience itself. Other app stores can also open up the options for users even more. However, with great choice comes great learning curves with devices such as these.
Android is still difficult to pick up and understand.
And while I love the open source model to death, Google needs to figure out a better way to tell a cohesive story. They’re on the right track with 4.0.
The HTC One X was just released in Europe, and is coming soon to the US on Sprint (sort of) and AT&T. This phone is a fantastic piece of hardware. Perhaps the best ever made. What it isn’t, is a Google phone. Google’s UI ideas, Google’s native applications, and Google’s design principles have been changed and distorted to what HTC wants. Is that a good thing? I suppose. Differentiation can’t hurt, when used to improve.
However, it doesn’t improve upon stock Android. And this model continues to destroy any mindshare Android may have with consumers. What is Android to people? Something about Google, lots of phones have it but they all look different. The fragmentation delays updates, confuses UI paradigms, and ultimately confuses users looking for a new phone.
Google needs to take control of Android before it completely loses authority over it’s use and direction.
Nokia, Nokia, Nokia.
Boy, did I underestimate Nokia. The Lumia 800 and 900 are possibly the most attractive devices ever created. Essentially, Microsoft has Nokia to cling to. HTC, Samsung, LG, and the other Windows Phone manufacturers seem to have given up on pooling resources into Windows Phone. Seriously, HTC? The Titan II? You didn’t even bother making any changes! It’s now with LTE and a different camera. That’s cause to be ashamed.
Windows Phone is starting to show some lag behind the competition, and I’m not quite sure how to solve that problem. There are so many little features that make Windows Phone great. The Metro UI paradigm and consistency. Group contacts. Social integration. Xbox Live. So what do they need to add?
Here’s what’s missing: excitement. It’s not the “cool” brand to have. Some of that may have to do with the Windows name, but I think there’s a deeper problem at work. Windows Phone just isn’t being picked up by the power users. If Microsoft makes an effort to embrace the tweakers, computer nerds, and server guys, then the rest will start to trickle down.
So, Microsoft, start asking your small but loyal userbase what exactly they want.
Enthusiasts define what’s cool.
RIM is dead.
I’m calling it.
Current devices have no appeal whatsoever. The OS was dated 5 years ago, and the only unique thing BlackBerry brings to the table is BBM. BBM, a chat protocol easily replaced with iMessage, Kik, WhatsApp, or even AIM or Facebook Chat.
BBX, or BB10, isn’t supposed to hit consumers for another several months. What will that bring that will be enticing enough to convince a user to jump from iOS or Android? What will make that new BlackBerry look better than the iPhone 5 or Galaxy S III sitting next to it?
RIM hasn’t been one to impress me for many years, and I see no indication that they have changed their ways.
We’re inching, ever so slowly, toward the “Big 3” of the smartphone choices. The impending fall of RIM may give Windows Phone the boost it needs to make a presence known. This market absolutely needs at least three players to stay competitive. In the not-too-distant future, we’ll have our three left standing.