/ Technology

‘Boring’ smartphone market needs a shake-up

Android and Apple logos

‘What version of Android does it run?’ That was the most common question at this year’s Mobile World Congress. It’s not only indicative of Android’s prevalence; it shows the limitations of our smartphone options.

Just about every single phone we saw (and the vast majority of the tablets) was running Android. It struck me how little choice you had if you didn’t want to hold hands with the little green robot.

Android and iPhones… ZZzzzz

Google’s open operating system was meant to give us choice, but it seems increasingly like we’re just getting a tidal wave of identikit touchscreen phones with irrelevant additions added by manufacturers in a vain effort to differentiate themselves.

Android has been great for making smartphones affordable, and I think that’s fantastic, but when I next go in search of a phone I’d frankly rather have more options than the dull choice of Android or iOS.

From where I’m sitting, on the flight back from the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, I can see three people fiddling with Android phones and two prodding iPhones.

Where the hell is Windows Phone 7?

For me the most disappointing part of MWC was the lack of Windows Phone 7 devices. Yes, Nokia talked of its upcoming partnership with Microsoft, and even released a mock-up of the first joint effort. But that was little more than a hastily thrown together design that could easily have been among the endless ranks of Android handsets.

I don’t understand manufacturers’ reluctance to throw their weight behind Windows Phone 7 – it’s a beautiful operating system, well designed and easy to use. More importantly it will give us an option on shop shelves that isn’t the ubiquitous, unimaginative and now quite boring choice between Android and iOS.

Come on guys, give us some variety out there!

Comments
Member

Hi Tim, How many more options for mobile operating systems do you want?! Is there a problem if smartphones are just like computers, where we have two big rivals (Windows and Mac) and some minority entrants in the form of Linux variants?

Only in this case we have Apple with its iOS vs Google’s Linux-based Android OS. And let’s not forget BlackBerry. Interestingly, in the smartphone space it’s Microsoft who is playing catch-up with Windows Phone 7. And attempts for other handset manufacturers to come up with innovative mobile operating systems haven’t exactly been successes – Bada and Meego for example. Meanwhile, Symbian, once the OS of choice for LG, Mitsubishi, Motorola, Nokia, Samsung, Sharp, and Sony Ericsson, is now in inexorable decline.

I agree there are a lot of identikit handsets out there, especially when it comes to WP7, but conversely I’d argue the choice of smartphones has never been better. Consumers can pretty much pick and choose the features and styling they want, and the beauty of Android is that it is so infinitely customisable.

Member

Seriously, who, other than some speccy geek who has yet to discover the joys of the opposite sex, really cares about what operating systems there are available for smartphones? I can’t even believe people exist out there that have such conversations and worry about these things. Blimey, that must be a real exciting party… zzz 🙂

All consumers care about is what they can do with their devices, in most cases run decent apps, have enough storage, play music, surf the ‘net and maybe even use it as a phone.

Member

I have an android phone, I used to have an iphone at work

The problem with Android being “infintely customisable” means that the apps do not follow a consistent look and feel and are often full of bugs.

I am not saying that iphone apps are without their bugs, but I just think that a uniform way of usability is a much better strategy and one which I believe retains iphones dominance.

Smartphones have way too many interdependencies and none of them offers a complete experience, hence all the different types.

Surely one of them can offer a battery that lasts more than a day?

Member

Sorry, what’s boring about my iPhone? I love it..
Try playing Papa sangre. That’s not boring. What buggy apps?

Member

I dont think anyone said iPhones are boring. I love mine but there ARE buggy apps! But thats the app designer’s fault not the OS.

By the way whilst I like my iPhone I cant help but feel that its essentially an iTouch with phone features added as an afterthought. My old Nokia N95 was miles better as a phone and camera. But of course the iPhone wins hands down for everything else.

Finally, people may disagree but surely there are more riveting discussions than one about phone operating sys…. zzzzzzzzzzzzz

Member

You’re one to talk Fat Sam, I thought you liked a good debate about everything and anything!? 😉

Member

ha ha, yes, that is true 🙂

I think this conversation reminds me of those who used to discuss tactics of Dungeons and Dragons in the school playground – as John Bishop would say, ‘the type of kids I’d throw stones at’
🙂

Member

I agree that the vast majority of consumers care more about actually using their phone and things like running apps over what’s written on the spec sheet – but without an operating system you won’t be able to run any apps at all and it greatly depends on your OS as to what apps are available.

I don’t think desktop operating systems are comparable, mobile phones have become a fashion accessory in a way a desktop never could and the operating system – no matter how geeky it might seem – has become a big part of this. It effects how a phone looks, what it can do and – to a point – how cool the phone is.

I don’t think iPhones are boring, but they have become so pervasive it’s almost become the default choice if you want a high-end phone. It’s nothing special to say ‘I have an iPhone’ anymore and part of the fun of technology like mobile phones is saying ‘look at what mine can do’.

If everyone else has the same devices where’s the fun in that?

Member

I find nothing boring about smartphones, I’ve had 2 Android smartphones and 2 nokia smartphones and I love Android both devices are completely different and have unique features and far from boring. If anyone thinks it’s boring they must have a really really exciting life to find android boring. Nokia smartphones are amazing their just let down by the OS nokia continually install on them, Symbian is dead and yet they continue to include it on their phones.