How Android handset manufacturers will respond to the iPhone 5s

What Apple has added to the new iPhone is a good predictor of what Android handset makers will be focusing on over the next year or so.

Details of Apple's new flagship handset, the iPhone 5s, are out, and while there remains a whole lot of questions about the handset – many that only a teardown and time will answer – one thing that I've been pondering today is how Android handset manufacturers will respond to the new iPhone.

The key to answering this question is to look at two things:

  • What are the new features the iPhone 5s – and to a lesser extend, the 5c – bring to the table?
  • What did Apple focus on during the launch even and in ads for the new handsets?

Taking both these points into consideration, I predict that this is what the future (next 12 months) holds for Android handsets.

  • Fingerprint readers galore! Love them or hate them, you're going to be seeing fingerprint readers popping up on Android handsets following the inclusion of the technology on the iPhone 5s.
    The first Android handset to feature a fingerprint reader was the Motorola Atrix 4G, which was later dropped because of a lack on interest. Now you can be sure that there is going to be considerable interest in fingerprint readers, and handset makers will be rushing to the drawing boards to add them to devices.
  • 64-bit processors – Mobile has started making the transition from 32-bit to 64-bit, and while the iPhone 5s is just the beginning of that move, it is a significant one.
    Apple talked a lot about the move being "forward thinking" and the hardware being "desktop-class," and while this might come across a hype or puff, those words hang in the air for a long time.
    But this poses a problem for Android handset makers. The 64-bit chips aren't ready, and neither is Android. It is likely that Android 5.0 will be the first version to fully utilize the new ARMv8 architecture.
    For now, this gives Apple a clear lead over the competition, and the gap is unlikely to the closed until 2014 at the earliest.
  • Colors – The iPhone 5c now comes in a rainbow of colors, and gold has been added to the traditional black and white (sorry, space grey and silver/white) for the iPhone 5s.
    While Nokia's Lumia handsets have been coming in a range of colors for some time now, but outside of a few higher-end devices, Android devices have been quite conservative.
  • More focus on the camera – The iPhone is not only a smartphone, but it is also a popular camera, topping the list on social media sites such as Flickr. Since the iPhone 5s now features a much-improved camera, we can expect to see Android OEMs putting a lot more focus on this feature.
    Samsung has already been putting a fair amount of effort into the cameras on its devices, but most other manufacturers are shipping devices that have mediocre imaging hardware, and offer little more than the bare minimum when it comes to the software. Putting a better camera, and hooking that up to more intelligent software will undoubtedly become a priority now that Apple has raised the bar.