Long-time techie Chris Swan started experimenting with unlocked Android phones this month. On a recent trip, the ZTE Blade he brought got a lot more use than his iPhone 4, in part due to a better built-in 3G connection that could reach faster speeds online.
One of the reasons I’ve found my usual apps (Gmail, Google Reader and Twitter) so much better on the Android devices is the HSDPA support in the hardware – they just make better use of brief periods of occasional connectivity. Android also seems to do a better job of caching stuff – so Google Reader works when my train is in a tunnel in ways it didn’t before (even on my laptop). I guess the flip side is that it uses a fair bit more data, but when I can get 2Gb from Three for £5.11 it’s not bothering me too much. One of the ironies here is that my Android phone makes my iPhone better (when I use it as a hotspot and connect the iPhone by WiFi). It seems crazy that Apple don’t put proper modems in their phones (and I must say I haven’t seen bad battery life on the Blade).
-Chris Swan's Weblog, March 24, 2011.
Swan's experience highlights one way that the smart phone race is more like the PC wars and less like the music player market. Hardware innovations happen a lot more and matter a lot more to phone buyers. A phone like Apple's that only comes out once a year can quickly find itself outmoded.
That's why the iPhone 4 was a bit of a dud coming to Verizon. The iPhone 5 will be a big hit there and elsewhere, at least for a quarter or two, though if lacks 4G Internet service, that could be a limiting factor.
There's been plenty of speculation that Apple will extend its phone line with some lower or higher end models. Sounds like a very good idea.