With last night's unveiling of three Samsung Galaxy S II variants for the good ole' US of A, we're about to open a fascinating new chapter of the smartphone wars. Within weeks, Apple is expected to introduce its next iPhone (or iPhones) and Verizon is rumored to be sitting on the next Google Nexus device. When all three are simultaneously in the market and on multiple carriers later in the fall, we should get the clearest picture yet of who's winning and who's losing. And there should be plenty of fodder to draw conclusions about why, too.
First, I'm eager to see how the phone makers will do battle on the airwaves. A key part of Apple's success has been its brilliant ad campaigns for the iPod, iPhone and iPad. Does the magic continue with the next iPhone? Seems likely. Android ads have been mixed, at best. Some of the tablet ads from Motorola were so bad you have to wonder if they weren't written by an Apple mole. Verizon's Droid ads lacked Apple's broad appeal but nurtured a sizable and rabid fan base.
Next, of course, is which features will really matter. Two of the new Galaxy phones and the rumored Nexus phone have 4.5" screens, which seems like overkill to me, but maybe lots of people are clamoring for bigger video screens? The Galaxy devices also include some of Samsung's content and software efforts like their Media hub, social hub and Kies Air wifi syncing app to better match up with Apple.
The Galaxy phones also come with 16 GB of on-board memory and a microSD slot to add up to an additional 32 GB. iPhones have topped out at 32 GB in the past despite the 64 GB iPod Touch. No idea yet what other killer features the Nexus or the iPhone will have, though we know Apple's iOS 5 includes great notification and cloud syncing (ripped off from Android). No feature will matter if it's not well promoted with great ads, either.
Finally, will customers care about 4G, or fourth generation, wireless Internet connection speeds? The mobile carriers have done their best to thoroughly confuse people about what actually constitutes 4G. And Apple's naming its current model "4" didn't help as 33% of iPhone owners think they have 4G wireless speeds (they don't).
Verizon's LTE provides much faster downloads than 3G and, I believe, actually meets the original industry 4G definition. It's available on some current Verizon models and in many major metro areas. But there's no sign of LTE on Galaxy phones -- Verizon isn't even carrying one -- and we don't know yet about Nexus and iPhone.
AT&T is rolling out LTE next year but has taken to calling its much slower HSPA+ offering 4G. That is on AT&T's Galaxy phone and could be in the next iPhone or Nexus. Sprint calls its WiMax service 4G and it's on the carier's Galaxy phones. It seems unlikely to be on the next iPhone but it's already on the previous-gen Nexus S at Sprint. And close to my heart T-Mobile? They have almost nothing to say, for some bizarre reason.
So, time to sit back and grab your popcorn. It's going to be a fun fall in the smartphone wars.
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