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.
Written by Sam Diaz, Inactive

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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