Competition is a good thing for buyers. Google’s Nexus One smart phone is good competition for Apple’s iPhone. How does the Nexus One stack up to Apple’s past iPhone efforts?
That Was Then, This is Now
Apple’s iPhone has been all the rage for three years. The introduction came in early 2007, the launch in mid-2007, the iPhone 3G in mid-2008, and the iPhone 3GS in mid-2009.
iPhone advancements have been typical Apple. Evolutionary changes with each new model. Hardware features and specifications are often better on competing models, but the end result is similar to the Mac and iPod.
The whole experience is greater than the sum of the parts.
Blame the iPhone’s popularity on Apple’s inherent ability to blend just the right hardware with superbly crafted software. Add to the package over 100,000 smart phone applications, games, and utilities, and a simplified buying and synchronizing process, and it’s no wonder the iPhone is a huge commercial success.
But that was then, and this is now. Competition is heating up, notably from Google’s Android smart phone operating system.
What Have You Done For Me Lately?
Comparisons of Macs and PCs are controversial because it’s difficult to compare apples to oranges (pun intended). Often, comparisons are made to hardware, and not software, or, at best, with specific OS features.
With smart phones there has not been much to compare. Early Android models were flimsy and lacked Apple’s sophisticated fit and finish. Windows Mobile and other smart phone operating systems are an after thought. Palm’s Pre would have been a darling last year if it were not for Apple’s iPhone juggernaut.
Today, there’s a large, ominous wave heading toward Apple’s lovely smart phone beachhead. Google’s Nexus One appears to be solid competition for the iPhone in nearly every area.
Apple trails the Nexus One in virtually every hardware feature, and leads only in the number of applications available to users. For now. To check out the details of the Nexus One, visit the Engadget review, a good summary from The Next Web, and Google’s own specifications.
Hardware Is Not Software
In summary, the Nexus One is a little longer, a little more narrow, a little thinner, and a little lighter than the iPhone. The Nexus One display is larger (3.7 inches vs. 3.5 inches), with more pixels, a faster response rate, and an AMOLED screen.
The Nexus One camera is 5 megapixels vs. the iPhone’s 3 megapixels, comes with autofocus, an LED flash, and a digital zoom, neither of which are on the iPhone 3GS. Video capture resolution is higher, too, though frame rate is lower.
The basic telephony features are comparable to the iPhone; HSDPA 7.2Mbps (and HSUPA 2Mbps), Wi-Fi (802.11 b/g/n), Bluetooth, stereo Bluetooth, accelerometer, digital compass, proximity sensor, light sensor, software keyboard, a clickable track ball, and so on. The Nexus One has a removable 1400 mAH battery, which provides longer talk time than the iPhone 3GS, but less standby, and less Wi-Fi or audio or video playback (no more grumbling about iPhone batter life, please—it’s pretty good).
The Nexus One comes with 512MB of RAM vs. the iPhone’s 256MB, but it also uses a 4GB Micro SD Card, which can be expanded to 32GB. The iPhone 3GS comes with either 16GB or 32GB of storage (not removable).
Simply put, comparing hardware, the iPhone has a lot of competition, and, indeed, some catching up to do. But, remember—the iPhone 3GS probably began production nearly a year ago, and a newer version is expected this spring.
From what I can see of the specifications, Google’s Nexus One looks and feels like an iPhone 3GS, is virtually identical in size and weight and surpasses Apple’s smart phone in some hardware features (faster CPU, second microphone for noise cancellation, lots of voice recognition components).
There’s An App For That
Where the Google Nexus One falls short of Apple’s iPhone is software, specifically the rich variety of applications, games, and utilities (well over 100,000 in the iPhone App Store). Google’s Android Market pales in comparison to the App Store.
That said, Android Market offers over 15,000 applications, games, and utilities for the dozen or so Android phone models on the market. Due to hardware differences, not all Android Market apps will run on all Android OS smart phones. Apple’s App Store lead is substantial, but it may not matter. For most of what smart phone users need, Google can rightly say, ‘There’s an app for that.’
Another area where Android phones do not compete on equal footing with Apple’s various iPhone models is integration between software and hardware. Apple has a limited number of models with similar hardware functionality (so far as software is concerned). Android smart phones have many different hardware configurations, making it more of a challenge for software developers, and further limiting purchase choices.
At best, a few million Android-equipped smart phones are on the market so far (after nearly two years), and in a limited number of countries, while the iPhone and iPod touch platform is pushing toward 100-million in sales in approximately 80 countries in less than three years.
What, Me Worry?
In summary, Google’s Nexus One, available initially (and now) only on T-mobile (unlocked for $529, or with a contract for $179) in the US (UK, Hong Kong, and Singapore). Clearly, Google and HTC (the manufacturer) are pushing the Nexus One as the real 2.0 version of Android OS, and, more importantly, as a hardware reference platform for other manufacturers.
That does not bode well for Apple. Android OS for smart phones is free, so expect many more cell phone hardware manufacturers to get on board this rapidly moving gravy train. Apple may have set the mobile phone market on fire with the iPhone, but there’s good competition on the streets already.
Differentiation is key to a product’s success in an established market place. Can Apple keep the iPhone platform sufficiently different, sufficiently better in experience than Android? Think of the original Android phones as the Windows 95 of smart phones. That was just a year ago. With version 2.1, one could argue that Nexus One is a screaming fast PC with Windows 7 onboard. In other words, it ain’t shabby.
Apple, it’s your turn. What’s the next great thing? Check out my Jesus Tablet article on Mac360.