Smartphone browser wars heat up, but Apple still dominant.

Information Week online has a nice summary graph and article showing what appear to be trends in mobile operating system adoption.   Apple’s still dominant with 56%, but that is falling from 70%.   Only Android shows growth and that growth is substantial – now at 25%.

Although it’s now clear that Smartphones are a key global browsing tool and that this use will grow explosively, it is not clear if Apple can retain their dominance in this market – perhaps with price drops on the iPhone or other innovations that may bring Apple devices into the price points demanded by many late adopters.

HTC EVO 4G

HTC EVO™ 4G

Sprint Evo 4G

Sprint is gushing about their new Evo 4G which will soon be more available in the USA although it appears sold out in some areas from pre-orders.

That’s right. The phone that captivated international trade show CTIA is here, and we’ve packed it full of features! A large vibrant 4.3 inch screen, dual cameras, 32GB MicroSD card slot and wicked fast web speeds, this is more than a phone. It’s a Mobile Hotspot for up to 8 of your Wi-Fi devices. It’s a high-quality mobile device – featuring Android™ 2.1 and the award-winning HTC Sense™ experience, and it’s your personal portable HD media center with an HDMI output so you can share in HD.

Hyperbole aside, the reviews from CNET, Engadget, and early users are very favorable.

CNET Reviews

Engadget summary:    Let us be crystal clear: we love this phone. Nay, we adore it. But the fact remains that it’s still very much an Android device — which means that if you don’t like Android now, odds are good that even Android executed on the most amazing hardware to date won’t do much to change your opinion of it. You’ve also got to be concerned about upgradeability; Froyo is almost certainly around the corner now, and HTC hasn’t done anything to suggest it’s able to push Sense-powered updates in a timely fashion.

That said, this is truly one of the best smartphones ever made, and even spotty 4G — a reality of a young technology that’s going to take years to properly build out — probably won’t do much to hamper your enjoyment of this thing. It’s reasonable to assume that phones like the EVO will ultimately come to every carrier over the next few months… but hey, if you jumped ship for Sprint to pick up this monster, we wouldn’t be able to blame you.

I’m anxious to read more discussion of the 2-5 year  future of iPhone vs Android devices, but maybe I’m missing something here to think that’s very relevant.    Apple folks will always have iPhones and new folks will choose on the basis of factors that are not necessarily technological.     It is very clear that mobile devices are already shaping the future in key ways, and there is plenty of room for many models.

Important plan and 4G coverage info from Sprint.

Update on Gizmodo Apple iPhone case

CNET seems to have the most intelligent commentary on the Apple iPhone / Gizmodo  case that may have far-reaching implications for technology and new age journalism.     Gawker is likely to move forward with the case without a settlement (or perhaps because the state will refuse to settle this without criminal charges), so we are probably going to see some important decisions about how much protection bloggers have.

Some will argue – I feel speciously – that this is a case about freedom of the press when in fact it’s a case about the relationship of the media to criminal activity.     How far should the law go to protect the rights of the media when stories are based on stolen goods or illegally obtained information?     A few years back Gizmodo got off the hook very easy after a malicious prank at CES to disrupt a presentation.    The lax standards in the blogging journalism world – where fun, alarmism, distortion and opportunism trumps professionalism much of the time –  have got to come home to roost sometime.

Personally I’d be a lot more sympathetic to Gizmodo if this was about some sort of political or general technology issue where they could make a case that the public right to transparency and knowledge trumps the way they got the information.   (e.g. Pentagon Papers)  However the iPhone case seems to mostly be about commercial issues, presented in a commercial way for monetary advantage.      I’m guessing this will be the nail in the coffin of Gizmodo’s case and lead to a (relatively minor) criminal charge.

CNET:

It’s clear that federal and state law generally provides journalists–even gadget bloggers–with substantial protections by curbing searches of their employees’ workspaces. But it’s equally clear that journalists suspected of criminal activity do not benefit from the legal shields that newspapers and broadcast media have painstakingly erected over the last half-century.

No less an authority than a California appeals court has ruled that the state’s shield law does not prevent reporters from being forced, under penalty of contempt, to testify about criminal activity, if they’re believed to be involved in it.

Newer and better Palm smartphone to debut Thursday at CES

Since the Treo’s early days as the smartphone of choice for many, Palm has painfully been lagging others – especially the iPhone – in terms of mobile innovations.   However CrunchGear is reporting from a “trusted source” that Palm will launch a new device on Thursday, powered by an operating system called “Nova”, that may prove one of the sensational new products to be launched at CES.

The new Palm is reported to have a large touchscreen and a slide-down keyboard.  Lack of a physical keyboard is arguably the Achilles heel of the Apple iPhone where small screens have plagued all Palm devices to date so if this has both it could be a strong competitor in this very rapidly evolving field of smartphones and powerful mobile devices.

As a Treo user I’ve been anxious to make the jump to a new phone for some time and it’ll be nice to have a chance to try out some of best new phones for 2009 at CES this coming week.     Hopefully Palm’s new phone will at least match the high standards of other devices coming on the market soon.

Nokia N97 – will this be your next smartphone?

Although some might say the Instinct and HTC Dream rival the iPhone in terms of form and function, they clearly do not appear to pose much threat to the iPhone and Blackberry Smartphone dominance.  However in 2009 Nokia will broadly launch the N97, a virtual mini computer that some think could be a serious rival to the iPhone. As seen in this Nokia promotion video, the N97 is a stylish full featured smartphone with a full mini keyboard and some other amenities lacking in Apple’s iPhone. However, at the current street pricing of about $800 for unlocked units the N97 will have to be sold at a significantly lower price to dent the iPhone and Blackberry’s reputation as the best phones in their class.

Nokia Unveils N97 – will the N97 outphone the iPhone?

Editor’s note: More Equipment for the road Warrior. Let’s see if they can beat Apple’s price point.  –J Ghysels.  

Barcelona, Spain:  Nokia unveils the N97 with a tilting touchscreen display, keyboard, and widescreen video formatting.   Touts the N97 as offering a full mobile computing experience.

Although it wont’ be available until the first half of 2009, Nokia today announced a phone that appears to exceed the Apple iPhone in most of the specifications, although we have heard this type of hype before and the iPhone remains the “gadget to beat” in the highly competitive mobile environment.
From today’s Nokia press release:
Barcelona, Spain – Nokia today unveiled the Nokia N97, the world’s most advanced mobile computer, which will transform the way people connect to the Internet and to each other. Designed for the needs of Internet-savvy consumers, the Nokia N97 combines a large 3.5″ touch display with a full QWERTY keyboard, providing an ‘always open’ window to favorite social networking sites and Internet destinations. Nokia’s flagship Nseries device introduces leading technology – including multiple sensors, memory, processing power and connection speeds – for people to create a personal Internet and share their ‘social location.’