“I need to buy a new phone.”
Sound familiar? These days, it seems that at least one out of every five people you know is intermittently repeating a variation of that phrase.
Then comes the invariable followup: “But I don’t know which one I should get.”
Indeed. Considering that a smartphone – succinctly defined by Wikipedia as “a miniature computer with phone capability” – is what most of us want these days, the opportunity for indecision increases exponentially.
Making a commitment to a phone in today’s consumer climate is a big deal, in terms of both money and time. For a start, expect a respectable modern unit to set you back at least $500, and up to and beyond $1500. The smartphone itself can come cheaper or even free, but only if you’re willing to sign yourself into a one or two-year contract.
Another significant deterrent to upgrading phones is the average Australian consumer’s lack of comprehension about what each smartphone brand and model actually provides in terms of features, usability and service.
This is why people can talk about how they need to get a new phone, for months or even years at a time, before actually taking the plunge. Consumers are traditionally wary of selecting one product because it means they lose the features and benefits of all the others. Especially if they’re unclear about what exactly those features and benefits are.
And there are so many variables to consider when it comes to choosing a smartphone, it’s unsurprising that a lot of people prefer to put the decision off rather than risk making the wrong one.
With this in mind, we at E-Web have undertaken to publish a series of posts designed to demystify the most popular smartphones currently available. Rest assured, you will not need to be technically minded to understand them, or even to have held a smartphone before.
Quick Overview of the Major Players
The graph below, by research company Canalys, displays North American consumer statistics for smartphones. We refer to these statistics because they are more accessible and frequently updated than those for Australia, as well as providing a generally accurate indication of what trends the Australian mobile market will take.
Significantly, the table divides the smartphone market by the “OS vendor”, not by the vendor of the smartphone hardware itself. OS is short for operating system, which is used as an interface between a hardware device and the software that runs on it. A good example Microsoft Windows, which manages software programs on computers made by hardware companies such as Toshiba and Dell.
As the Canalys graph above shows, the three dominant smartphone operating systems on the market are:
1. The BlackBerry series of smartphones, produced by Canadian company Research In Motion (RIM). BlackBerries can only use the RIM operating system, called the BlackBerry OS.
2. The iPhone phones, which are made by Apple. Like RIM, Apple equips its iPhones with their own exclusive operating system, called the iPhone OS.
3. The Android series. Unlike the iPhone and BlackBerry, the name Android refers to the smartphone’s OS, not its hardware manufacturer. Various companies, including HTC, Samsung and Motorola, produce smartphones which are designed specifically to use the Android OS, which was developed by search engine giant Google. They are known collectively as Android phones.
There are other contenders of course, but these are the three favourites we will be focusing on. Be sure to check back for part two of the smartphone series, where we put the spotlight on the latest and greatest incarnations of what was the first smartphone brand to gain widespread popularity – the RIM BlackBerry.