iPhone

Is Android buzz starting to tarnish the iPhone's luster?

A small update to Android makes the not-an-iPhone device that much more enticing and offers hints that there just may be an "iPhone killer" out there.

This is a guest post from Sam Diaz of TechRepublic's sister site ZDNet. You can follow Sam on his ZDNet blog Between the Lines, or subscribe to the RSS feed.

I pinched and zoomed the Google Maps images on my Nexus One smartphone this morning, the same pinch-and-zoom feature that iPhone (and iPod Touch) owners have been using for some time.

The pinch-and-zoom experience on the Nexus One, which was unlocked with an OS update released yesterday, was nice. It wasn't one of those write-home-to-mom, earth-shattering experiences -- but it was nice.

To be honest, Google didn't really need to enable multi-touch, as the technology is known, to sell me on the Android experience. I was already impressed with Google Maps -- as well as several features - on Android devices and already considered them to be superior to the iPhone experience.

Actually, as long as I'm being honest, my fanboy love for Apple products has actually been slipping in recent months. Sure, I still love my Macbook -- but I'm intrigued by what Google might be able to pull off with its Chrome OS, which is in the works still. (Did you catch the recent buzz about a Google Tablet?) I absolutely like my iPod Touch for playing games, watching videos and listening to music - but I no longer feel like something in my life is missing without an iPhone.

In fact, just a few weeks ago, I might have said that I'd be the first one in line when the iPhone hits the shelves at the Verizon store -- but that's no longer the case, either. I've liked Android from the very beginning but I must say that I'm impressed with what Google and partners have done to up their games with the device designs, the user interfaces and even the choice in carriers. In a relatively short time, Google has made great strides in making the Android experience better.

And, as long as I'm being completely honest, I was less than impressed with what Apple announced last week with the iPad, a device that I consider to be little more than an oversized iPhone. I'm usually bullish on Apple's product announcements -- but not this time. It just didn't do it for me. Maybe Apple could have won me over at last week's event with news of a Verizon partnership for the iPhone or some peek at anything new for the iPhone/iPod Touch. But this event was all iPad.

It wasn't enough.

Apple has a reputation for putting out quality products worthy of the premium price tag on them. But I can't help but wonder if Apple is starting to become a bit -- dare I say -- stale with the iPhone.

Sure, there have been enhancements and new versions and so on. But there's no variety there. All of the devices look the same, the moans and groans from developers about the process to get their apps approved is getting old and I really wish I could expand the storage on the device without having to upgrade to a more expensive model (as opposed to buying a higher-capacity SD card.)

Apple changed the game by raising the bar on smartphone functionality. Way back when, I argued that Apple could have dominated the world with smartphones the way it did with mp3 players -- but that the exclusivity deal with AT&T would hold it back and give the competition the time it needed to bring an alternative to market.

These days, Apple seems to be pushing its catalog of apps, pointing to the milestones it reaches with downloads (though it doesn't break out the difference between paid apps and free apps.) Sure, Apple may offer more apps than anyone else -- but do I really need that many apps? The Android marketplace offers a nice catalog, too, and companies that I've talked to about their mobile strategies mention Android apps as being just as much a priority for them as an iPhone app.

So many companies flopped when it came time to challenge the iPod. Now, with the competitive target aimed squarely on the back of the iPhone, Google has stepped up to change the game and give Apple a run for its money.

Speaking of which, Motorola announced a new Android phone this morning, called the Devour (see image on left). It will run the Motoblur interface and be available on the Verizon Wireless network. My colleague Andrew Nusca has put together a quick peek at it, calling it Droid Lite.

Hmmm. Another Android to device to choose from, huh? My Apple fanboy membership card is sure to be revoked now, don't you think?

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9 comments
.Martin.
.Martin.

hahaha never heard it worded like that :p what luster? I never even slightly considered an iPhone. I always saw it as a try-hard smartphone, something that was only a 'fad'

Note to Self
Note to Self

I never wanted the iPhone, not when I first saw it, and not after the initial excitement about the 3GS passed. Of course, I may have teetered slightly towards iPhones each each successive upgrade, but once I grabbed T-Mobile's G1 (and mind you, IT' THE G1!) I fell in love with Android and never had any desire to look back. It's even better, dare I say, than Windows Mobile! (No, I'm serious. I used to like WinMo.)

emitretsam
emitretsam

Google competition will be good for the mobile market. Apple step up and innovate - consumers ultimately benefit from better devices and lower costs. Now only if the Telecomm companies would provide better contracts versus subsidizing the equipment.

dcolbert
dcolbert

Apple arrogance caused them to fall behind the curve in the early 90s, almost leading to the demise of the company. They did not adopt industry standard bus, i/o interface, and component devices They stuck with SCSI bus, with ADB, with Apple Talk. They were very slow in adopting a decent TCP/IP stack. I'll give you a great example. At the time you could still get an 8 bit ISA 56k modem for about $15, an external serial modem for about $45... or an Apple serial Global Village modem for about $120. We forget what it was like back then - but Apple was on the virge of being a memory like Packard Bell. They did not innovate because they were comitted to their model of an almost completely closed architecture. Steve Jobs returned and revitalized the company and completely redirected their previous focus. Apple existed as the darling of the print industry for a decade, but by the late 90s, the Windows PC platform offered every advantage of the Mac platform, plus dozens of advantages of the PC platform. Apple was also similarily losing their grip in the Educational sector. Their niches were unravelling. The company that emerged from the ashes of the previous Apple, using Intel chips, an OS with a CLI built on Unix, and an emerging focus not on PCs but on consumer electronic gadgets, redefined what Apple really is. They became an implicitly, but unspokenly "political" company... and worked dilligently to court a youth and academic market - based in large part on marketing appeals to emotion. The thing is - that under the surface, their business strategy remains the same strategy that failed for them in the early 90s. There are certainly different mitigating circumstances going on now - not the least of which is the leadership of Steve Jobs being arguably better than the leadership at Apple during the period of their darkest days. But the fundamental core business model and corporate philosophy of Apple remains unchanged - and I think that is ultimately what caused them a lot of trouble the first time around, and is likely to cause the same kind of trouble, eventually, this time around as well. Apple's business model is great for launching innovative products that quickly get significant traction. In the long haul, it becomes easy for more open competitors to offer more compelling products, with better features, less expensively - and Apple is generally unwilling to do what is necessary to compete at this more mature stage. I suppose you could argue that Apple would rather be a media and advertising company at this point, and that like Google, devices, apps, and platforms are just a means to this end, this time around. Either way - though, the long term prospects for Apple hardware products seem to be unchanged. They're unlikely to release their iron grip, and eventually that will result in diminishing market share... again. (It is worth noting that you can see similar results in another company with a similar trajectory - Sony. From once dominant in many aspects of consumer and even PC electronics, to kind of regarded as generally a bad choice - primarly because of an iron-fisted, proprietary grip on too many aspects of their consumer electronics).

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

How? Removed Multitasking Removed Choice of Programs Forced you to use App Store Forced you to one vendor Added some bells I would say that is a reduction in 'functionality'.

zdnetnme
zdnetnme

I'd like to take this a level up. Apple' arrogance will cost Apple dearly! one week with our new "apple" product (just a small 27" IMac) we bow down and beg off. Our huge Thank You goes to ... 1. Apple' non-appreciative and non-caring "world class customer support" 2. Apple' comment that ONLY CLIENTS need to remember how they need to communicate (apple staff, apple forum moderators, in contrary, don't even need to read and understand, neither should they be obliged to HELP, but to top this world class support, should be allowed to act insulting and cynic, of course). 3. Special thanks to MR Peter Breis from Australia - who reminded us of Apple' super power and our Stupidity as a "Windows" user. Peter... we accept your suggestion and will stay with Windows! Apple - you certainly don't make an adequate partner for us, no matter how much better your system is, we will never trade quality for "Arrogance and Neglect". Your level is too low!

dcolbert
dcolbert

I am a long time Windows Mobile user (so long back that I remember when it was WinCE... yeah, their OS was originally called "wince". My first PDA was a Casio Cassiopeia 115). After years of loyally sticking with Windows Mobile because of several purchased apps that traveled faithfully with me from device to device, I recently abandoned WinMo after my 6.1 XV6800 Verizon device's contract expired. A lot of this was driven by iPhone envy. Seeing the app store flourish with such a wide range of quality, and maybe more importantly, FUN apps certainly made it apparent how little Microsoft had done with app development on Windows Mobile platforms. having to pull out a stylus to answer the phone and navigate menus started to feel awkward and conspicuous. The fact that most of these apps were free or priced very, very reasonably compared to Windows Mobile apps was just salt in my wounds. At some point, abandoning 3 or 4 apps that cost me a total of around $90 just seemed logical for the benefits that moving to a competitive smart-phone platform offered. But iPhone, in large part because of AT&T, and in small part because of concerns about the closed-in nature of the Apple developer and hardware model, never appealed to me. When Droid landed on Verizon, it answered all of my concerns. Mobile apps should generally be very affordable. This seems like something that content publishers have struggled with for years. Consumers feel that digital content is less "tangible" - and it *is*. Publishers feel that they should be able to get as much, if not more, for digital content, maximizing profits because they remove many of the costs associated with manufacturing and distributing physical media. We need look no further than how uninspiring album cover art has become since the move to digital media, and the emphasis that Apple is trying to place on enhancing digital "extras" that "add value". Apple, Amazon and Google seem to understand this - that digital content should be less expensive than physical counterparts. Nintendo seems to get that scaled down, mobile gaming should be less expensive than full fledged console gaming. Windows Mobile developers never seemed to connect these dots. They offered mobile digital content, mostly apps, at prices comparable to what similar apps would cost on a desktop PC. For a dedicated user, some apps, like Resco File Explorer Suite, were so necessary that you simply paid up. But generally, I didn't buy Windows Mobile apps. I wasn't going to pay $30 or more for an app for my mobile phone. So, while the iPhone certainly had and has some puzzling limitations that were a step backward from what even the earliest smart-phones were capable of, they made up for it, G-Man, with a compelling interface that made far more sense than using a Stylus, and with quality apps priced reasonably. I wish Microsoft had come to market with a phone with those features quickly enough, that would have continued to support the legacy WinMo apps that I've invested in. But they didn't. And Droid arrived and delivered the best of both worlds (with a few small sacrifices).

eddyrox1
eddyrox1

let us not forget that they(apple) brought about a huge difference in the thinking of the concept of smart phones. sad thing being that the arrogance factor stepped in and well... that was the end of progress from that point. ps i never did want an iphone... but i so want the nexus one. :(

Nsaf
Nsaf

It is not what alot of people thought it would be...You cannot demo one since T-Mobile does not carry one in their stores. I learned my lesson by buying one without trying it out. Believe this coming from a MS and Google fan (unusual), but this is no iPhone killer.