Four years ago, Apple’s introduction of the iPhone raised the bar of what can be done with a mobile phone. Since that time, phones have become serious platforms for mobile web surfing, email, messaging and various applications, known as apps. This overview will survey what is available from the major players. Since smart phones are mostly defined by their software, phones and their mobile operating systems that are popular in the United States will be emphasized.
The current iPhone 4 runs on iOS and has changed the way phones are made, with other companies imitating the phone and iOS. The original iPhone and iPhone OS were like a reset button on the leading edge of mobile phone technology. Apple rarely is the first to move into a new field of technology, but is often the one to redefine the standard of quality that customers come to expect. iOS 5 is scheduled for release in the fall.
While the Android mobile operating system is technically under the control of the Open Handset Alliance, Google exercises a large degree of control of the direction and development of Android. That control has also been tightened recently with regard to the “honeycomb” 3.0 and future versions. Android is offered on phones from several companies and is less curated than iOS. It is easier to install unapproved apps, which does open the door to the possibility of acquiring malicious ones. Android is a more “wild west” option and is less mainstream. Some of its devotees include geeks and hackers of various stripes.
When HP acquired Palm they also acquired the webOS operating system. They currently offer the Pre 3 and Veer smart phones. While HP’s offerings only make up a small portion of the smartphone market they offer some innovative features such as built-in cordless induction battery charging.
Not to be left out of any major consumer technology market, Microsoft enters the the smart phone fray with Windows Phone 7. They market the Windows Phone as a way to use your phone quickly and get back to what you were doing instead of having your eyes “glued” to your phone for hours. Windows Phone is also available on handsets from various companies. Some technology pundits with hands-on experience see Windows Phone 7 as innovative and competitive. A new version of Windows Phone with new features, code named “Mango,” is on the way this fall.