Smartphones Arms Race

In the wider corporate context, the world of Enterprise which has been the bedrock of BlackBerry’s business success has been slowly slipping away from RIM. As a result they announced only yesterday that they will be allowing their Enterprise Management Suite to work with other platforms. A sign of weakness, but also a recognition of the inevitable, as most commentators have agreed. This move may allow them to stay in the game, even if they will never again be quite the force they once were.

The two HTC phones I’ve been playing with reveal the startling turn around rate that goes on in Taiwan, where HTC are based. They seem to bring out new Android and Windows phones four times a year. It is getting very hard to tell which kind of Desire or Sensation you have and what the difference between them is. The Sensation XL With Beats, is as big a phone as I’ve seen in a long while. For all its size, the 4.7” LCD screen doesn’t excite with colour richness in quite the way that the AMOLED displays of many rivals do, I’m thinking of the Samsung Galaxy for example. There’s an 8 megapixel camera, all the HTC Sense scenes and widgets and pages full of the useful free bundled software that Android users have come to expect. There’s a video store called Watch which has a reasonable selection of films for downloading and, most importantly of all, there are the Beats that give the device its strange name. You will probably be aware of Dr Dre and his Beats earphones; well, a pair of these come with the Sensation XL and baked in is his personally tweaked “Beats Audio Technology”. I have absolutely no interest in such things to be honest. The sound appeared to be excellent, but maybe it suits someone with a different kind of music collection.  I don’t suppose the hip-hop legend had Wagner and Glenn Gould in mind when tweaking the audio for HTC. With a single core 1.5GHz and 768MB or RAM such a large phone seems significantly underpowered. And when the next flavour of Android comes out (mine is running Gingerbread 2.3.5) it will be a question as to whether this behemoth will be up to the task of coping with whatever demands Honeycomb and Icecream Sandwich make of it (in case you wonder what I’m drivelling about, Android name each full new release after a cake, ice-cream or pudding. We started with Cupcake, Donut and Éclair who knows where we’ll go after Honeycomb).

HTC Sensation XE with Beats Audio™

So, not a bad phone, but not a great one. Its slightly smaller sister, the dual core Sensation SE seems a more sensible solution to me, a very similar device but with just a bit more oomph.

Compared to either the Rhyme seems absolutely tiny, although in truth it is about the size of an iPhone. I can’t quite make the Rhyme out. It has two new hardware features; one is a docking station that turns it into a beautiful alarm clock if you locate it on your bedside table. The other is most extraordinary. It is a long string with a small white cube on one end and a mini-jack on the other. The idea is that when your phone is in your bag, you attach this “glowing purse charm” into your earphone socket and leave the white cube outside the bag. When the phone rings the cube glows and you can follow the string down into your bag and find your phone. Here’s a film if you can’t make sense of the way I’ve tried to explain it.

HTC Rhyme

This accessory and the fact that the default colour of the phone is a lush kind of purple alerts us to the distressing truth. HTC is making a phone for women. Women are always fiddling about in their bags for their phones and so they need a “glowing purse charm” to help them out. At least, this is the implication: but let’s be frank, the sight of women diving into their bags trying to locate their phones is not so rare. Motorola didn’t do too badly with Razr devices aimed squarely at pink-loving, fun-loving ladies, and far be it from me to decry HTC’s attempt to attract a female following too. As a phone the Rhyme is not a stand-out. It is perfectly fine, it is, as are all Androids, especially those front-ended by HTC Sense, much more customisable and pimpable than rivals, so if you don’t like the default screen you can easily change it. Well, fairly easily – there is a shallow but undeniable learning curve and I have seen people throw their Androids across the room because they couldn’t work out how to get two clocks with two different time zones onto their home screen at once.

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This blog was posted in Techblog

One comment on “Smartphones Arms Race”

  1. LadyGirlPerson says:

    Ah, Stephen, this is where you lost me. Unlike you, I’m not phone savvy. I have never owned one.

    My friends swear they are going to buy me a IPAD? What ever that is….

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