2010: Australia’s Android odyssey


If you rewind the clock by just 12 months, Apple’s flagship iPhone was king of the hill in the Australian smartphone market.

One year ago – almost to the day – the iPhone 3GS went on sale at well-attended midnight launches around the country, with Apple fans lining up in the freezing cold alll night to be the first to claim the new device and take advantage of its speed benefits and added features. The TV cameras were there, McDonald’s next door did a roaring trade, and even the Chaser boys showed up to take the piss.

The iPhone 3G had kicked off proceedings a year before, stealing 5.8 percent of mobile phone sales in its first three months and bringing the dollars rolling in for Apple Australia. By October 2009, that share was up to 21 percent, and it seemed the iPhone could do no wrong.

But oh, how quickly the tables can turn.

Today, just one year later in mid-2010, many in Australia’s mobile industry believe the iPhone no longer holds the crown as the dominant smartphone platform. A new challenger has arisen – Google’s Android operating system – and like the Hydra of Greek mythology, its multiple heads make it a treacherous rival for Apple to slay.

In Australia’s early adopter technology market, an ongoing and vibrant discussion is constantly taking place about which elite Android-based handset is the best, from which carrier, and which applications can mimick or even exceed the capabilities offered by the iPhone. In Australia’s development market, many software houses already simultaneously build apps for both platforms.

And the ability for telcos and handset manufacturers to build their own devices using Google’s software is spawning a vast wave of Android handsets hitting the Australian market – in all form factors, with features as varying as the stars.

There are still many questions on Australians minds about Android, however. The first one might be something like ‘How did it gain so much local momentum so far?’ Others ponder just what the real situation is on the street – what Android’s powerbase really is, and what’s next for the Google platform in Australia. This article will attempt to begin to answer some of those queries.

Opening moves
The first Android-based phone to be released in Australia was the HTC Dream – known internationally as the G1. After weeks of fevered speculation and some three months after the handset launched in the US, the Dream came to Australia first on Optus’ network.

The launch of the Dream did much to build on Optus’ reputation as a carrier with its finger on the pulse of consumer sentiment when it came to smartphones. The SingTel subsidiary had stolen a march on its rivals the previous year by nabbing what one Optus executive described as “the lion’s share” of iPhone sales, and the expansion into the Android platform was the next step.

But the handset would turn out to be a disappointment. As CNET.com.au noted in its review at the time, customers who visited their local Optus store to see the device would need to “brace yourself for an underwhelming first contact”.

The Android operating system was good – but HTC’s first attempt to build hardware for the device was a disappointment. The poor battery life was particularly a problem, and call quality was similarly bad.

A number of other Android handsets were announced for the Australian market in 2009 – although some, such as Melbourne manufacturer Kogan’s Agora Pro, never quite made it. The HTC Magic came Down Under and got better ratings than the Dream – but the device still lagged behind the iPhone 3G, and it was clearly not a match for the 3GS.

With the launch of the Samsung Galaxy in September, Australia’s Android market took another lurch forward, but again, as long-time CNET.com.au reviewer Joseph Hanlon pointed out, the device wasn’t quite up to speed. The multimedia features the consumer market loved weren’t in the device, while the business features weren’t quite there either.

The HTC Hero rectified many of these mistakes in December – but adoption was hamstrung due to the fact that it was not offered directly by carriers on plans, with customers being forced to pick it up through Harvey Norman.

For the time being, it seemed, Android in Australia had stalled. Many of the big international Android handsets – such as Google’s own Nexus One and Motorola’s Droid – weren’t slated to come to Australia. It looked like Apple would have the smartphone market in a stranglehold for the forseeable future.

But then came the bombshell Australia’s Android market had been waiting for. HTC finally came out with a powerful Android handset which would rival – and in some aspects, better – Apple’s iPhone 3GS. And Telstra, which had largely kept to the sidelines in the Australian battle for Android devices, pounced.

The turning point
Looking back, most people agree that the inflection point when Android in Australia changed from being an interesting early adopter oddity into a big deal was 6:30AM in the morning on February 17. The location was Barcelona, Spain.

That was the date, time and location that Australia’s biggest telco revealed it had won a three-month exclusive to bring HTC’s brand new flagship handset – the Desire – down under. And Telstra didn’t mince its word about its commitment to Android, describing the momentum as “clearly there”.

“This is only the beginning for Telstra and Android smartphones and we will be pushing these aggressively in the market,” a Telstra spokesperson said at the time.

HTC Australia and New Zealand sales and marketing director Anthony Petts says if the previous launches of the Hero and the Magic represented a “progressive” ramp-up of Android in Australia, launch of the Desire was when things went “exponential”.

“The tipping point for us would have been the 14th,” he says – the day in February when HTC revealed the Desire and its little sister, the Legend, which VHA is now selling in Australia. “I look back to that date, I can feel the wave, the excitement at Barcelona,” he says.

“You can feel that Android finally had the interest and the strength behind it to take to the next level.”

The combination of the Desire’s 800×400 AMOLED screen, speedy 1Ghz Snapdragon CPU, HTC’s Sense user interface built on top of Android 2.1 and Telstra’s premium Next G network finally unlocked the Google operating systems full capabilities and put them on display. And customers have been picking up the device in droves – even dumping the iPhone to do so.

The switchers
One Australian who switched quickly after Telstra launched the Desire in April was Louise Roberts (pictured, below), the managing director of public relations agency Sphere PR, which she established in 2005 to represent technology clients (such as MIA, which is mentioned in this article, which she manages through another firm, Einsteinz). Roberts had previously been using an iPhone 3G for about 20 months with Optus.

If you talk to people in Australia’s early adopter community, Roberts’ story will be a familiar one. Initially happy with the iPhone’s robust email and web browsing capabilities and third-party apps, the executive eventually became frustrated by slow 3G speeds and dropped calls on what appears to be a clogged Optus 3G network in the Sydney CBD.

Telstra made Roberts an offer she couldn’t refuse – $200 to get out of her Optus contract – and she picked up a new HTC Desire as part of the switch. “I didn’t want to wait for the new iPhone to come out,” she says. So away she went.

Roberts’ experience with the Desire has overall been positive. “The browsing experience has been fantastic – it seems to be a lot faster than my iPhone, especially in the CBD,” she says. There are no more dropped calls, and access to email is faster, too.

One of the oft-cited differences between the Android and iPhone platforms is the maturity of Apple’s App Store. Roberts acknowledges there is a shortfall – with mobile apps normally arriving on the iPhone first.

But in general Roberts says she uses quite a few Android apps and is happy for them. “I use the currency thing quite a lot – I’ve got a client that I bill in US dollars, so I use that,” she says. “I use the racing application, my husband and I quite like going to the TAB.”

She also uses the BBC News app, Facebook, and an app called Peep for twitter access. “And the Google services, that’s basically got everything in it,” she says. “Gmail, search, Picasa photos, YouTube, Google Earth and all that kind of thing. Everything is in one place.” The executive even has apps for Formula One racing and Buddhist meditation.

The executive found getting used to the new interface “quite challenging”, with no real help from Telstra staff, but she picked it up fairly quickly, “being in the tech sector”.

And there are some things the Desire does that the iPhone doesn’t. In comparison with the iPhone, which Roberts says “very much makes you display things how they want you to”, the HTC Desire’s Sense interface lets her have five or six different screens, with different things on them.

The executive also likes that she can simply shake the handset to turn down the volume of its ring, if she’s in a meeting, and she has also used Google’s Goggles application, which lets you take a photo of text, a landmark, a book cover or artwork, for example, to instantly retrieve more information about it.

Asked if she would ever switch back to an iPholne, Roberts says Apple’s new device (since this interview took place, Apple has launched the iPhone 4) would have to be “pretty amazing”. “I’m looking forward to things developing on the Android platform,” she says.

The next generation
The launch of the HTC Desire appears to have spurred a number of other carriers to enter the Australian marketplace, with a number of handsets already having launched in the first half of 2010 and a sledload more planned for later in the year. It has seemed at times over the past few weeks as though the Android news has been coming thick and fast in Australia.

Vodafone revealed last week that it would bring Google’s own Nexus One down under, although there are no details around when or how the device – which has similar specifications to the Desire, and is also manufactured by HTC – will be launched.

Last week Samsung launched the high-end Samsung Galaxy S, with Optus to have a one-month exclusive on the handset – after that it will also be available from Telstra. LG is bringing its first Android phone to the Australian market – the GW620 – and Telstra will also launch the LG Optimus handset.

Motorola appears to prefer to launch its products through Optus. The manufacturer already has several Android phones out – the DEXT, the BACKFLIP and the Quench, and there are rumours Optus will also launch the Milestone, which has been sold internationally as the Droid.

Sony Ericsson has its Xperia X10 out, as well as the mini version. It looks like HTC are planning to follow up its successful Desire and Legend launches by bringing the Wildfire – a lower-specced version of the Desire – down under as well.

Did we miss anyone?

Speaking to the manufacturers themselves, all agree the Android platform has a strong momentum going for it in Australia. And it’s easy to see why.

Andrew Morley, Motorola’s vice-president of marketing for Europe, Middle East, Africa, Russia and Asia, says the manufacturer has focused very heavily on Android. “All of our devices in Australia are Android,” he says. “It’s not as if we have three devices, and another operating system on another device and legacy devices.”

One reason for that focus is the open and flexible nature of Android – Google lets every manufacturer use the operating system differently, tailoring it to their own needs while still building on the same base.

“We’ve always been a very strong advocate of open platforms,” Morley says. One of the things that we like about Android is that it is so open and it is so flexible — building the eco-system and good healthy competition.”

Where Motorola has focused on building social networking functionality into its Android devices, Sony Ericsson is pushing hard into an area it has long been comfortable with – multimedia. One of the flagship features on the Xperia X10 is Mediascape – software which dramatically enhances Android’s native media capabilities when it comes to music, movies, TV shows and so on.

The company’s head of marketing for the Asia-Pacific region, Tim Barnes, says sales of the Xperia X10 have exceeded the company’s expectations. And again, he’s a fan of Android’s openness.

“One of the great things about android is that it is an open platform and that it enables device manufactuers to put their look and feel on the phone,” he says. “I think we’ll see a continuing focus as well from SE moving forward on the Android platform.”

The eco-system
The final piece of the puzzle is the development community. The iPhone taught the market early that mobile apps can make or break a smartphone platform. Is Australia’s development community up to creating Android software?

According to one executive – Jon Mooney (pictured), the chief operating officer of mobile developer MIA International – which has 60 staff and its Australia as well as offices overseas – it already is. MIA counts companies like Telstra, Optus, Vodaone, Warner Music Australia, ninemsn and more among its clients and Mooney says Android has momentum at the moment.

“There is huge interest in the Android platform at the moment,” he says.

Where MIA used to develop an app for the iPhone platform, Mooney says, now customers want the same app to be on Android as well. “The Android development community in Australia – I don’t know the exact size, but it’s growing,” he says. “People who have developed for iPhone are developing for Android.”

Mooney points out that Android devices are outselling the iPhone in the US, and while Australia is a bit behind, he expects that by October/November this year, there would be a huge amount of Android devices out in the Australian market – by different manufacturers, in different form factors – and potentially more than there are iPhones.

And the change has come fast. “If you talked to people six months ago about Android and the Google platform, nobody would have really known about it,” he says.

Like the handset manufacturers, Mooney emphasises the openness of the Android platform when he talks about developing for it. On the iPhone platform, “everything has to go through the App Store or through Apple,” he says, “whereas Android gives the operators the choice to do their own things, the chance to maintain relationships with customers”.

“The speed to market is quicker. That’s not necessarily in the coding, but in the overall process. You don’t have to put [the app] in the marketplace, it can be available from somewhere else to download.” And like many people at the moment, Mooney mentioned the debate around Apple’s rejection of what it deems as inappropriate applications from its App Store.

“There’s been a lot of stories about apps that they’ve rejected along the way,” he says.

The competition between the two platforms will only ever be good for consumers. “These two giants with $30 billion in spare cash each are looking at ways to please the customer,” chuckles Kogan Technologies founder Ruslan Kogan, when asked about the mobile platform war.

“You can see them battling it out as well. Apple comes out and says we might be using Bing on our next versio nof the iPhone. Google comes out and says we don’t think we’ll be updating Google Maps for the iPhone any more.”

But ultimately Kogan, like a growing number of others in the Australian community, believes it’s the power of Google’s growing community and its utilisation of open source software that will help it win against Apple’s relatively closed eco-system.

“There’s more people working on the code base for Android than Apple has on their [entire] payroll,” he says, noting there has been quite a few Android releases in the past six months. “If you look at iPhone, there’s been much fewer developments in that sense. Apple relies on their internal staff to come up with suggestions and improvements.”

Android looks like it’s settling into a long run at the moment, but the next six months will see strong strong competition — Apple’s iPhone 4 will be launched in Australia in the next few weeks, and even Nokia has been making a lot of noise locally about its N8 device. In the end, only time will tell just what the future of Google’s operating system will hold down under.

Image credits: laihiu, royalty free, HTC, MIA International, Sphere PR


  1. I’ve had a nexus one on Vodafone since they were released in the states, Australia is always behind the times in the tech department, I am so used to getting my movies and games and tech from overseas instead of waiting for the damn aussie companies to catch up, so it was just second nature to get it shipped in.

    My major complaint is the total lack of prepaid data packages, no one will offer you any decent amount of data on prepaid, it doesn’t matter how much money you have, unless you’re willing to sign some kind of contract they aren’t willing to give you data. So I’m stuck paying about $10 for 100mb, which is ass.

    • How would you compare the Nexus One to the HTC Desire, poss? Vodafone last week confirmed it would be launching the Nexus One in Australia — it will be interesting to see what the take-up is like compared with the Desire. I feel it’s likely the Desire has a slight edge technically — being a slightly later model — but the Nexus One obviously has the Google halo ;)

  2. Love the OS. I bought the HTC Magic within weeks of it’s Australian release. It’s slow and clunky now, but I can fix that by rooting and installing Cyanogen Mod (just haven’t got around to it yet).

    From a business perspective, the distribution model alone will see Android outsell iPhone units within the next year or two. This mobile paradigm really comes down to what apps are available to users. Apple is winning currently because that is where the money is, so developers naturally begin there.

    However, Apple is doing the same thing they did with their computers. They want to control everything, hardware and software. Google knows that hardware is a dead-end. Hardware innovation is important, but the real power lies in the software. All I see is that same Apple vs Microsoft battle of the 80s and 90s. Apple ended up with <10% of the PC market. The same will occur here.

    With Android already on over 60 different handsets, you have more consumer choice, more specialization, and that means more unit sales. More unit sales means more overall users, which will pull greater money into the Android app market and attract developer attention.

    • I agree with you about the Apple lock-in — and that, to be honest, is my main complaint with the iPhone at the moment. In a world where we are used to installing what we want on our PCs, we should not be prohibited from installing whatever we want on the PCs in our pockets — our mobiles.

      I will say, though, that there is still a small degree of lock-in on the Android platform. The whole platform encourages you to use Google services, and it forces you to login with a Google account even for some basic stuff. I would personally like to see Google starting to treat the platform as a bit less of their corporate playpen and as a really, completely, open platform that users can do whatever they want with.

      And yes, I agree that in the long-term, Apple as a single hardware vendor with a single form factor simply cannot compete with a clutch of vendors with the same platform running on dozens or even, eventually hundreds, of different devices. It would be foolish even to try. What Apple needs to do right now is to come out with a dozen new colours and slightly different form factors to allow personalisation. The iPhone is a device actually designed just for one person — Steve Jobs.

  3. Nice article Renai. I’ve had a HTC Desire for a couple of weeks now and have to say that it has really transformed the way I communicate. It makes everything so easy.

    However, I couldn’t see any mention of what I think will end up being the killer feature of Android – the ability for businesses to write their own custom apps for staff – mentioned anywhere. I think that is likely to be a make-or-break requirement for many large firms going forward, and Apple, by wanting to vet all apps, locks themself out of the business market.

    • Cheers! I have been playing with a review model of a HTC Desire … I have to say that I really like it. The only part I didn’t like was that Android doesn’t seem to play as well with Google Apps for Your Domain as it does the consumer editions of Google Apps. But I’m sure that integration will arrive eventually.

      I haven’t heard any companies yet talking about custom Android apps — apart from the telcos. However, I think that is a scale thing — when their CEOs start buying them in a years’ time instead of the iPhone, I think that will change and companies will start talking custom apps up.

  4. and yet.. http://www.engadget.com/2010/06/28/apple-sells-1-7-million-iphone-4s-through-satruday-june-26/

    Now before you go calling myself or one of the other 1.7 million US residents a blind technically illiterate sheep who would buy a polished turd if Jobs put a lower case i in front of it, I would consider myself one of the nerdiest gadget geeks known to man. I follow every Singleton morsel of smartphone news on the net and soak up an unhealthy amount of mobile reviews. I’ve worked for three mobile phone carriers (Telstra Vodafone and Optus) and make a point of going in to hassle friends in the industry whenever a new phone is released to suss it out in person. Yes, I’m that annoying that person.

    I’ve also taken a huge interest in Android since the early days of the G1, and marveled at the steps forward that handsets like the Droid and Nexus One made in the states. I also think the HTC Evo, Droid X and Samsung Galaxy S Pro are three of the nicest handsets on the market, and would love to see some similar quality Android sets hit our shores.

    In addition to that I advised my very business centric father to go with an HTC Desire on the Telstra network, and apart from some intermittent exchange mail sync issues, and very ordinary battery life, he’s been extremely happy with it. I nearly bought a Desire myself in fact, but it just wasn’t quite there for me.

    I admire the openness of the Android platform, and given it’s an OS that any manufacturer can use we’re seeing some very diverse and polished handsets hitting the market. I have no doubt that late 2010, early 2011 will bring even more amazing phones to market.

    However, I’m buying an iPhone 4. There’s a few reasons for this, and I’d love to be able to list them without being called an uneducated Apple Fanboy or an Android hater. These reasons are simply ones that matter to me. I don’t expect them to be of importance to everyone.

    1. Camera quality. The new backlit 5mp sensor seems to have nailed the trade-offs with smartphone picture quality (and anyone that knows anything about digital photography with small sensors knows it’s all about trade-offs). You don’t need more than 5mp on a phone (more mp’s means less light getting in) and I prefer the slightly over-saturated look of the iPhone 4’s picture to the dull noisy pictures found on every single Android phone to date. I’ve checked out picture quality samples from every big Android phone out there and I don’t like any of them. The closest is actually the Nexus One, but it’s shutter speed is too slow and it’s low light performance doesn’t hold a candle (pun intended) to the iPhone.

    2. 720p camera quality. There’s Android phones on the market that capture 720p but they over-compress the hell out of the picture and record at a low stuttery frame rate (24fps or lower). Apple’s top quality real time encoding to H.264 is fantastic. Easily rivaling the quality of a FlipHD in nearly every area (and beating it with the ability to use the LED flash as a light).

    As an amateur film maker, having an instant 720p camcorder in my pocket for quick shots is extremely appealing. I’ve examined the iPhone 4’s raw H.264 footage (before being re-compressed for sites like YouTube) and I’m very pleased with it. If only it has some built in image stabilisation it would be just about perfect.

    I’m sure Android phones will catch up and surpass the iPhone both with still photography and video, but at this stage it’s leading the industry.

    3. Pixel density! I really am one of those people that was crapping on about pixel density well before Jobs put his stupid ‘Retina Display’ name to it. I love super sharp high resolution screens. I can’t wait to be wowed by the first time i see it’s 960×640 screen. I quite enjoy mobile gaming too and developers are already putting the extra resolution to good use. Combine this it’s excellent 3D acceleration, gyroscope and fast CPU and no one could deny that the iPhone wipes the floor with Android phones for gaming.

    4. Smooth intuitive and CONSISTENT UI. Apple’s stranglehold over developers and ultra tight app store requirements is actually good for a couple of things. For the most part they’ve managed to maintain a a very consistent iPhone UI across all 3rd party apps. Open up any app and there’s no doubting it’s on an iPhone. It has that same polished look and buttons do exactly what you expect them to. In contrast Android is fragmented as hell. Not only isn’t there a consistent look to menus and options, but some apps don’t even run across multiple devices (without any warning this is the case). This is the danger when you have the same OS on so many different powered handsets with different configurations. You are bound to run into compatibility problems.

    I’m not saying the above is a massive problem. For the most part downloading and running apps from the Android Market is seamless and easy process, but I certainly encountered my fair share of crashes and strange bugs when setting up my Dad’s Desire. I think some tighter quality control over the Android market would actually be a good thing.

    5. Lag. Please somebody show me an Android phone without a laggy UI that doesn’t drop frames when scrolling a simple menu. Some people will probably say, what lag? But as every tech site repeatedly reports out there, even a snapdragon at 1Ghz isn’t enough to stop slowdown when navigating Android phones. Read Anadtech’s excellent comparison of the iPhone 3GS with the Nexus One for some clever remarks about this.

    6. I already have a huge collection of paid Apple Apps. Not all of them are of worth anymore, but I really don’t feel like paying for them again on Android. In addition I would estimate a good 30% of them (far more if I included games) simply aren’t available on Android.

    7. Jailbreaking. As I’ve said here before, if it wasn’t for the ability to jailbreak an Apple handset I wouldn’t get one. So you might say “why wouldn’t you just get an Android phone where you don’t have to?” Firstly, I would “root” an Android phone regardless so that I could run custom firmware anyway (and remove any horrible Telstra crap that might be on it in the process!) and secondly, jailbreaking an iPhone means you get the best of both worlds. All the nice aspects to the Apple UI and iOS4, opened up by killing off the constraints imposed by the App Store approval process and allowing the hardware to truly shine with the thanks to jailbreak app developers.

    Worthy of note is that I have also paid for a large number of Cydia apps (Cydia being an unofficial jailbroken app store for those that don’t know) that I also don’t want to lose by abandoning the platform.

    They are really just some of the bigger reasons off the top of my head, but there are certainly more. Having said that there are many things I hate about the iPhone, and the direction Apple has gone as company. When the time is right, and Android can offer me everything that Apple can and more, I will have no hesitation in jumping ship :)

    • Epic post, Simon. I don’t really know where to start responding to it!

      I agree that all of your points are valid. You know the relative advantages of iPhone vs Android very well, and it’s impossible to argue against someone who knows all the options and has made an informed choice ☺

      Consumers like you – who understand all of the facts – are the sort of people that Android developers and handset manufacturers should be trying the hardest to woo. This is because your endorsement for the platform will be devoid of marketing hype and based purely on technical and usability reality.

      I think eventually you will jump :)

  5. Telstra and their competitors in Australia make about 12 percent less margin on an iPhone to any other handset. Given that the quotes in this article come from MIA or Aussie Telcos, I think there is a fair amount of bias there. I’d look at the numbers, not at the rhetoric.

    • Well, most people agree at the moment that Android is speedily catching up to Apple in Australia in terms of total units shipped per quarter — and I wouldn’t be surprised to see articles in 2011 about how Android is exceeding iPhone shipments in Australia — as they are in the US.

  6. “Is Australia’s development community up to creating Android software?”

    They probably are, but unfortunately because of Google’s policies Australian developers are unable to sell anything they create through the official Android Market.

    Australian users are able to buy paid applications with the official Market app, but Australian developers are still barred from selling applications there. Google won’t tell them why, or when it will be fixed. “Don’t be evil”? Ha! Google’s unfair market policies certainly are evil if you’re an Aussie developer.

    Sure, they could try to sell their apps from their own website, but most users will never find it when it is not available from the Market app on the handset and Australian developers are competing for the user’s attention with developers from countries that CAN sell their apps on the official market. Selling through another website also requires the user to change settings on their device and can never give the seamless experience of the official Market app.

    It’s time for Google to fix this problem. They claim that they are “working hard to add more countries” but it wears a little thin when they have given this same response for over a year. Clearly they are not working hard on it.

    • I wasn’t aware of this, but I’ll look into it. It seems ridiculous that there should be any geographical restrictions on what is sold in the App Store. I’ll definitely contact Google and see what they say and try to raise a stink about it if true. Yet another version of how technology vendors treat Australia differently.

      • Yeah it is indeed true – Aussie developers need to use an international publisher to sell apps in the market. It is ridiculous, I am just starting out developing apps for Android and to find this out was most disappointing.

  7. @Simon

    Great points! It’s a breath of fresh air when someone can talk about devices like these without resorting to namecalling etc :P

    I’d like to address a few points if you don’t mind.

    1, 2, 3:
    The camera is fantastic. The screen density is amazing, however – I’d like to point out a particular device called the Samsung Galaxy S. This uses a Samsung Super Amoled screen which looks amazing. Blacks are truly black, there is no backlit LCD haze. Sunlight performance is on par with LCD screens. The density isn’t as good, but I’d like to see each at arms length before deciding which is better. The Galaxy S also has a similar CPU (1ghz hummingbird), same RAM, same gyroscope, and a faster GPU than the iPhone 4. So I would have to argue that the Galaxy S trumps the iPhone here. Apple does have better games available, though.

    4, 5. Hmm, Froyo goes a long, long way to smoother out the UI lag. I’ve heard that Google is now working on developing a unified, consistent UI for the next major android release, so that’s good news.

    6. This is another area where the tide is turning – there is currently just over 80,000 apps in the Android market, and they are getting better and better now that android is more mainstream. But yes, Apple has more, and better quality (in average) apps available.

    • Thanks for acknowledging and respecting my views. It’s actually quite hard to defend Apple products on tech forums these days as there is such hatred for Apple’s business practices, and a focus on the many negative aspects that people love to list time and time again.

      In regards to the Samsung Galaxy S, you’ll notice I actually referred to in my post as one of my three favourite Android handsets. It has by far the nicest skin on top of Android 2.1 I have seen (love what they have done with contact integration with social media) however it’s let down by not having a flash and having mediocre still picture and 720p video performance (just like the HTC Evo it compresses the hell out of the video and records at a low frame rate). I also hate the shiny plastic case they’ve put on it.

      However from all accounts the Super AMOLED screen on the thing sounds pretty amazing. I love the infinite contrast of AMOLED screens with their nice inky blacks, however the colours aren’t that accurate (bit over-saturated for my tastes). The performance in sunlight while dramatically better than regular AMOLED screens also isn’t quite up to LCD standards (there’s a great Youtube video out in the sun, with the Samsung up against a Nexus One and iPhone 4 worth checking out).

      The Hummingbird CPU is certainly impressive too. It sounds like one of the few chipsets running Android that has 3D performance comparable to the iPhone 3GS. This may never be properly utilised though as it again highlights the problem with a fragmented Android market. Does a software developer release a program solely utilising the power of the Samsung? (while isolating all the other Android phones without strong 3D performance and a gyroscope). Or do they aim for the best compatibility so it will run well on all handsets?

      I haven’t used an Android phone running Froyo yet, but from what I’ve read and seen in videos it has excellent performance. However there’s a big problem with all these different handsets running their own custom skins. Unlike Apple who can push out an OS update to all handsets simultaneously, it’s up to the various Android hardware manufacturers to update their platform to Froyo, and some of them are only just getting around to updating to 2.1. Look at all the Android phones and tablets out there still running 1.6…

      I think Android will get there eventually. It simply needs better unification and management of the OS across various devices. Same goes with their confusing market which is a nightmare compared to the simplicity of the Appstore.

      I was listening to the latest Engadget podcast today and they were saying that HTC has let slip they have some phenomenal new hardware slated for release later this year. No further information given so it’s not news really, but regardless I don’t doubt that by the end of the year the iPhone 4 will be surpassed in nearly every area. As it stands now though the iPhone 4 has everything I’m looking for and I can’t wait to get my hands on it (as long as my hands hold it a certain way so as to not lose reception anyway ;) ).

      • You can, of course, simply by a case for it. :P

        The Galaxy S uses a more powerful GPU than the 3GS, technically. I believe the iPhone 4, 3GS and iPad use the same GPU (SGX535), while the Galaxy S uses the 540.

        It also records 720p @ 30fps. Here’s some good footage from it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8IUSrvxIIYk

        What’s more, the Galaxy can play divx/avi straight out of the box.

        Anyway, I suppose I sound like a salesman now… but I just wanted to make sure we’re clear, on the facts.

        As for the Android Market, you can indeed release an app that only appears on certain handsets (well, feature sets). You can also make it only appear on certain Android versions, ie. it’s possible to release an app for 2.2+ handsets using a gyroscope. Other devices will not see this app in the marketplace. In a year or so when 1ghz androids are the mainstream, we’ll start to see some decent games I reckon – can’t wait. There are already decent ones, but they just don’t compare to say, the latest gyroscope shooting gallery game on iPhone 4.

        Android needs improvements. There is just no way, even now, that you can use an android handset with no technical experience or background. Users end up installing crappy apps, making bad system choices and it bogs the whole phone down.

        Another issue is that because Google allows manufacturers to skin android so heavily, it puts future updates into the hands of the manufacturers. How many Android phones do HTC have now – probably around 10 – and they have to update each one for each version of Android that comes out. Google, however, is on top of this issue – in Gingerbread, android will have a standardised, unchangeable UI, which should streamline updates. As you said… it’s getting there. Looks like they have learnt some lessons and are slowly adjusting the business model to benefit consumers.

        Lastly – how is the android app market confusing? do you mean the market itself on the phone or in general?

        • “You can, of course, simply by a case for it. :P”

          Yeah well that’s true. And you’d want to, because man that thing is ugly! :)

          “The Galaxy S uses a more powerful GPU than the 3GS, technically. I believe the iPhone 4, 3GS and iPad use the same GPU (SGX535), while the Galaxy S uses the 540.”

          Just had a read about it on wiki and you’re spot on. I thought it was about as fast, but from the sounds of it the 535 can push a lot more triangles a second. Would be interesting to see how it compares to the iPhone 4 given the power of the A4 chip.

          Again though, the Samsung seems to be on it’s own with the Hummingbird for now. Until all other Android phones incorporate good 3d acceleration, I imagine you’ll find little development for in the Android Market at this stage.

          Android hasn;t in any way cemented itself seriously as a gaming platform (unless you count emulators which it excels at). It’ll probably grow into something impressive in the future, but it’s well behind Apple’s gaming market at this stage.

          “What’s more, the Galaxy can play divx/avi straight out of the box.”

          That is a very appealing feature. I’m sure they’ll gorgeous on that Super AMOLED screen too!

          “but they just don’t compare to say, the latest gyroscope shooting gallery game on iPhone 4”

          Isn’t that insane? It blew me away with how accurate and fluent it looks. A gyroscope is certainly a clever addition to phones and it will be interesting to see how developers use it creatively in future apps.

          “Lastly – how is the android app market confusing? do you mean the market itself on the phone or in general?”

          Way too much amateur crap to wade through when searching for new apps. The market seems like it has no quality control at all. There’s some absolutely shockingly coded task managers, battery apps, awful buggy themes etc. Some simplification, GUI unification and quality control is much needed.

          In addition navigation in the Android market isn’t anywhere near as pretty and appealing as Apple’s store in my opinion. Apple’s integration of the AppStore into their iTunes model with features like what’s hot and genius, that put it way ahead of Android. Even though reliance on iTunes can be a pain, it’s syncing with your music, videos, pictures and so on is a much more user friendly model.

          When Google rolls out it’s desktop based app system, and their rumoured “Google Music” service, I think Android will really start to shine.

          It’s worth pointing out that I’ve handed most of my life over to Google already anyway :). All my contacts, email, calendar, pictures and web browser are 100% Google operated. I love push gmail and cloud computing. Very interested to see Chrome OS and the affect this will have on Android as a tablet OS (possible further market fragmentation?).

          know I will leave Apple as soon as all these things are in place and Google can offer me a better overall experience than Apple’s tightly managed eco-system.

Comments are closed.