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

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

Summary: 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.

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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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Topics: Apple, Android, Google, Hardware, iPhone, Mobility, Smartphones

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76 comments
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  • Freedom.....

    So sweet.
    OhTheHumanity
    • Okay I'll bite, freedom from what?

      We always are free to choose the device that best served our needs.
      When purchasing any device we learn its limits. You were
      never bound to a product so again freedom from what?

      The Droid is a wonderful product but, with all products it has
      downsides. For me two are:
      1. It ships with only 512 MB ROM with 256 MB available for apps.
      Some games and apps take up more room than that. Yes it can have
      up to 32 GB SD card but, from what I've read one cannot load run apps
      from them.
      2. Disparity with the OS. Not all Droids are on the same playing field.
      Cell vendors dictate which OS they will allow us to use. So, some apps
      you may run with your OS I won't be able to run on my OS.

      Again, the Droid is a good device does some very nice things has
      some nice features. That said its downsides, I could list more, do
      bother me.
      BubbaJones_
      • I hear this all the time.

        But have yet to encounter it. Most of the time
        this statement comes from an iPhone users who
        see apps in iTunes in the double-digit MB range.
        The largest app I have seen for android is 3 MB;
        most are quite a bit under 1 MB. Its only the
        executable that must be installed to ROM, other
        supporting files (if required) are stored on the
        SD card. I have over 60 apps on my android phone
        and still have 217 MB of available space.

        As for disparity, I'm not clear on how it is
        handled (or if it even is) but I have not seen
        any application on the market that is exclusive
        to a version higher than mine. I have seen many
        remarks that certain apps don't work with the
        custom *Home* apps and GUI replacements (Sense,
        Blur, etc) but that seems to me to be an issue
        for the makers of those interfaces and not the
        OS(and is also why I'd recommend getting a
        Google Experience phone).

        If I am mistaken, and you have encountered these
        issues on your phone, I'd love to hear about
        them.
        30otnix
        • I agree...

          You hear all kinds of "arguments" from iPhone
          folk that have never used an Android device.
          Normally its then applying something from the
          iPhone world to Android without realizing that
          its an iPhone only issue. In this case its an
          app size issue.

          And the people that do complain about running
          out of space most likely download every single
          app that comes out every day. I have been using
          and Android phone for over a year now and have
          not run out of space. But then again I don't
          just keep trying apps and leave them on the
          phone if I don't like them. I bet the app trays
          on some phones are ridiculously cluttered with
          unused stuff.
          storm14k
      • Freedom from Apple

        Choosing to use an Android device is about freedom from AT&T and its terrible service.

        It's about being free to run more than one app at a time. It's about being free to trash my battery life because I feel like it and being free to install apps that are not officially "approved."

        It's about better and more efficient data synchronization with my PC (one app manually synced at a time, WTF Apple! Palm had a better system in 2002 through its conduits plugins!). And freedom to access the file system.

        It's about freedom to use Google Voice in a native and integrated way. (Web apps don't hack it.)

        Most importantly of all, it's about being free from Apple and a culture that thinks it knows my needs better than I do. I don't like where Apple is headed and I'm not going with them.

        And as a former iPhone user, let me tell you. It feels great to be free.
        Rob Oakes
        • Freedom from Apple phone

          Hey let's rename it the Frapple phone! You read it here first. That has a nice ring to it. Freedom, like in the movie Madagascar, just hopefully not like the penguins who upon reaching the antarctic were like "Now that?" Freedom to do what? Spend more time complaining about the iPhone, LOL ;)
          oncall
        • It's about freedom

          to put your life on Google's servers. If you think the Chinese hackers were scary, just wait.
          jorjitop
      • Exactly....

        What Rob said. He nailed it down pretty easy for you to understand.

        I want to own my devices, not lease them.
        OhTheHumanity
      • Not all Droids are on the same playing field

        WTF are you talking about?

        There is only one Droid. There are many Android phones all with varying specs, but only one is called the "Droid."

        Regardless, this is freedom from Apple patents placing foolish restrictions on technology.
        T1Oracle
        • You are completely wrong.

          DROID? is a Verizon [i]brand[/i] used under license from Lucsfilm Ltd.
          The DROID by Motorola was the first handset in this line, but has been
          followed by the DROID Eris by HTC. They have different manufacturers,
          form factors, technical specs, and not only do they run different versions
          of Android, they run different [b]revs[/b] of the OS (2.0 vs. 1.5). Of
          course both of those run different versions than the Nexus One. So I
          guess you also have the freedom from coherent version control.
          matthew_maurice
          • The original comment

            suggests that there are more than two, so my assessment that he is misusing the name "DROID" still stands. I was unaware that it was a Verizon trademark.

            Regardless, Android is an OS which is on many phones by many manufacturers.

            Also, the limitation that he suggests about memory is flawed because those phones store data separate from apps and thus the "limited" app space is actually more than anyone is likely to need. That is of course, if they don't waste the app space on storing files when there is an SD slot for that.
            T1Oracle
  • RE: Is Android buzz starting to tarnish the iPhone's luster?

    I'm glad to see some self-described fanboys come around. No wonder Steve Jobs was so angry!
    frankenstone
  • world domination

    "I argued that Apple could have dominated the world with
    smartphones ... but that the exclusivity deal with AT&T
    would hold it back..."

    where is the logic in that? what is it with you americans that
    you think you are the world?
    bannedfromzdnetagain
    • unfortunately...

      it is ingrained in our culture, this rampant narcissism...luckily, not all of us are like that...
      nothingness
      • I agree

        I mean, any company that doesn't produce a "world dominating" product is considered a failure (at least to hear some talk) yet we instinctively start to distrust any company that comes even close to meeting that definition of "success". We say Apple "blew it" because they didn't do things that would have allowed them to further dominate the cell phone market yet at the same time so many hate them because they did as well as they did.

        Like the posts above, celebrating their perceived new-found "freedom" that Droid gives them. Freedom that they somehow lacked before, you know like a few months ago there were only 100+ different cell phone models besides the iPhone to choose from. Now they have 101+ to choose from and that makes all the difference. Go figure.
        oncall
    • I don't think you understood what you just read

      what is it with you non americans that make you think everything we say means "we are the world"??

      He said that [b]Apple[/b] could have dominated the world [i]with smartphones[/i].

      If they opened it up immediatelly to all markets worldwide, and not just AT&T at the begining, the time to come up with a competing product from some other company wouldn't have been there.

      In other words, it would have sold worldwide as well as it did stateside, and the competition would have had a next to impossible task of getting a foothold, most likely.

      "World domination" in smartphones.
      John Zern
      • you are an american ...

        the iphone is available in most countries by more than one carrier. you
        probably don't know that because you think that all countries are like
        yours (only with a proper health system). reality check: whether the
        iphone is available in the us only on att or not had nothing to do with
        apple's chance for smartphone wold domination. because the world is
        much bigger than the us of a.
        bannedfromzdnetagain
        • Idioms

          I think the original writer is using an idiomatic expression...not actually referring to the literal "world."
          steeldestroyer
        • What country do you hail from?

          Just curious, as you seem to really not want to read what people post, just do some USA bashing, which if fine if it makes your life exciting, go for it.
          John Zern
        • I believe you missed the basic tenet.

          From JZ:
          <i>If they opened it up immediatelly to all markets worldwide, and not just AT&T at the begining, the time to come up with a competing product from some other company wouldn't have been there.</i>

          Specifically, the iPhone was not available worldwide at its initial release.
          From Wikipedia:
          <i>The iPhone went on sale in the United States on June 29, 2007, at 6:00 pm local time, while hundreds of customers lined up outside the stores nationwide.[1][27] The original iPhone was made available in the UK, France, and Germany in November 2007, and Ireland and Austria in the spring of 2008.</i>

          His point appeared to be that if Apple had been able to offer the iPhone worldwide initially, there would have been no period for competitors to even begin to develop competing products. The way it was rolled out, the US had 4 solid months of exclusivity WRT the iPhone and AT&T was the sole carrier for that time.

          That delay gave competitors time to begin the development of their products.
          Letophoro