Four and Half Years On

And the winners are…

Apple of course. I say that (and I always have to repeat this) with no especial pleasure. I am not wedded to the company and have no shares in it. I admire them so long as they are admirable and admirable they have been for a long, long time. They have made mistakes, but no fatal or even wounding ones. Each error is blown up hugely because no company on earth attracts such headlines. They are accused of hype and simultaneously of an obsession with secrecy, but the fact is that those who hate them are the obsessed. Ha! Their antenna doesn’t work if you hold your hand in a certain way. That’ll destroy them. Oh, alright. Look! This iPad sounds like sanitary-wear and is only a big iPhone, they’ve really goofed this time. No? OK, Ha! They’ve deceived Australia about 4G! And Feel! They’re overheating! I’m not as good at this as the supreme leader in the field, the Macalope, a genius at teasing the Applephobes of the world. Tip of the antlers to you, Macalope, old thing.

The Big G

Google of course can also count themselves as winners. They had the foresight and muscle to come up with a much better answer to Apple. In cahoots with 83 other companies they formed the Open Handset Alliance at round about the time I was writing that first blog. The first Google phone, the G1 came out in October the following year. I reviewed it, along with the fateful BlackBerry Storm and loveable BlackBerry Bold here.

As it happens Google makes more money from the advertising revenue creamed off Apple iPhone and iPad use than it does from the ever increasing market share that Android is achieving. Four times more money! Nonetheless Android has shown that Apple’s iOS and its walled garden and tightly fenced APIs aren’t the only way. The always open everywhere APIs that Android allows can of course result in some malware, flaky and downright deceitful apps as well as being a headache for developers. Try being an x-platform website author, for example: arbitrarily different handsets and tablets that use physical buttons for forward and back would make you tear your hair out. Surely manufacturers must stick to what should be an obvious industry standard: onscreen touch arrows for navigation. Random physical buttons make it all but impossible for developers to produce sites that work on all platforms. They have to buy every device to test their site on and build extra routines for each one that has a different dumb physical button. Enough already.

Nonetheless, there’s an exhilarating quality to the Android ecosystem. Much of this has been due to the third winner in the recent phone and tablet wars. If you’ve got a ribbon…

Taiwan on…

HTC, the OMG of OEMs. They were swimming about in the shallows making WinMob phones like the HTC Touch and the 3600 that I much preferred back then in 2007. But they reacted so swiftly, imaginatively and positively to the Apple threat that they could be renamed RRF – Rapid Response Force. Cheerfully and smartly produced, they sometimes sail close enough to the wind to rouse the ire of Apple’s patent lawyers, but I’m afraid I just can’t be doing with all this patent nonsense. It should stop now and everyone will benefit. Except the lawyers. Boo hoo.

Aaaannnyway… HTC made the first Android phone, that G1 that arrived at the arse-end of 2008, and have come up with some of the best Android phones over the intervening three and half years, the Desire, the Sensation, the XL (available with Dr Dre Beats) and now the quad core 1.5 GHz 1080p HTC One X (there’s a dual core S version too) which I hope to review soon… not available in New Zealand yet. It obviously won’t be the One as despite its high specs, it’s still 3G. What will they call the 4G model? The This Really, Really, Really Is The One, Promise?

Sometimes HTC (which rather endearingly stands for High Tech Computer) can be maddening. How the hell do you get the back off this one without tearing your nails? How come the Rhyme has run out of storage memory when all I’ve downloaded are Evernote and Dropbox? And must they offer a silly proprietary Twitter client? But all in all, their rapid response, their neat and zippy designs, their “skinning” of Android with HTC Sense, their server-side Hub and their competitive pricing and constant new launches have kept them very much in the game. And sometimes they come up with something so original and silly you have to clap your hands (while giggling) – The Charm – you can watch the whole gloopy film or start at about 1’ 13″ – daft but sweet.

But no one is safe in this sector — no one. HTC’s Q1 profits are down 70% this year. Analysts are less pessimistic about their future than they might be, but there is no doubt a huge amount is riding on the One and their other new launches. If anyone is going to be squeezed out of the OEM game, Nokia and a certain other company are determined it won’t be them…

Which leads us to our next winner.

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This blog was posted in Techblog

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