Our world is still overwhelmingly populated by feature phones, but it won’t be long before smartphones take over (only question is when). Just yesterday we were discussing how GPS enabled smartphones, if given to government officials or even private sector people, can overcome the problem of them actually going to the places they’re supposed to go to (the example was the agriculture extension officer who does not go to the actual place where the plants are, but gives instructions from the office or the road).
So here’s an update on the smartphone wars:
The competition is only going to grow more heated. Android doesn’t just use different carriers, different manufacturers, and different software than the iPhone; it represents a different vision for the entire mobile industry. Apple exerts complete control over the iPhone. It builds the hardware. It designs the operating system. It runs the marketing campaigns. And it curates and polices its App Store, refusing programs it deems potentially offensive or a threat to its own business. (A quick sampling of apps that Apple has rejected, at least temporarily: Google Voice, iBoobs, and a political cartoon app from Pulitzer Prize winner Mark Fiore.)
Android, by contrast, prides itself on its lack of control. It gives away its operating system for free to anyone who wants it—though manufacturers must submit their phones for testing if they want to access its app market or run optimized versions of Google apps. Android doesn’t review apps before they’re added to its marketplace, pulling them only if users complain, and manufacturers can and do modify the look and feel of the OS on their phones.
This is not just about phones. Mobile devices are quickly becoming our primary computers. In the fourth quarter of last year, sales of smartphones topped sales of PCs and laptops. And tablets—such as the iPad and new Android devices like the Motorola Xoom—are widely seen as potentially replacing the personal computer. The split is reminiscent of the PC platform wars back in the 1980s and ’90s, only now Apple is competing with Google instead of with Microsoft. Customers are squaring off into separate camps, identifying themselves as iPhone or Android users much as desktop users declare themselves Mac or PC people. And just as in the formative days of the PC industry, the result of this showdown will ultimately shape the future of computing.