Accordion Al - image by Ivy, age 10

Business in Vancouver

Canadian Freelance Union- CEP

New Android products pushing smartphone market envelope

by  Alan Zisman (c) 2012 First published in Business in Vancouver July 10, 2012 Issue #1185 High Tech Office column

Smartphones running Google’s Android provide the most serious competition to Apple’s iPhone.

U.S. and worldwide Android models account for more than 50% of smartphone sales. Canadian data is hard to find, but might be different: last April, JuiceMobile stats placed Apple’s iOS on top in Canada (with 47%) followed by BlackBerry (36%). Android accounted for only 12%.

Recently, three new Android phones - from different manufacturers - have come my way.

Motorola’s Motoluxe goes against the popular wisdom that “bigger is better” with a four-inch display – larger (though lower resolution) than the iPhone, but smaller than on some other Android models. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – many people will find the Motoluxe more comfortable in their hands.

In price, too, the Motoluxe is aiming for a comfortable middle, selling as low as $0 (on a three-year plan from Bell or Virgin) or $299 for outright purchase. Features are not cutting edge: it’s shipping with the older Android 2.3 version and lacks high-speed LTE connections. The processor is relatively slow and built-in storage is minimal – though it can be beefed up with add-on storage.

Nice, though – a notification light that glows in various colours depending whether you’ve got email, text messages, phone calls or appointments waiting.

While the Motoluxe is aimed at an entry-level Android customer, HTC’s new One X wants to be today’s ultimate Android superphone. Available from Rogers and Fido (from $129 with contract to $575), the One X includes a large (4.7-inch) high-resolution display that is perhaps the brightest and clearest of any currently available phone – even outdoing the iPhone Retina display. Similarly, the camera is the best of any phone camera I’ve tried.

The 16 gigabytes (GB) of storage is ample but not expandable, which may disappoint some.

HTC provides buyers of any of its One series phones 25 GB of online storage at Dropbox.com free for two years; optionally, all photos can be automatically stored there.

Samsung has emerged over the past year or so as the Android powerhouse; its various Galaxy models have become the best-known Android brand, and whether you look at U.S. or Canadian stats, it’s become the top Android seller. Its new Galaxy S III is available from all the major carriers ($160 with contract to $600/650.)

Like HTC’s flagship OneX, the S III runs Android 4.0 and supports high speed LTE. Like the One X, it’s a big phone – with a 4.8-inch display and a very good camera, both nearly as good as the OneX’s. Unlike HTC’s phone, the S III includes a removable battery, a memory card slot and a choice of 16- or 32-GB storage models. And a massive 50 GB of Dropbox online storage account.

Samsung focused customizing the S III’s software and features. Place it face down and it mutes for meetings. Lift it to your ear to convert a text conversation to a phone call. All very cool and well implemented.

These high-end models from HTC and Samsung show that phones running Android don’t just compete with the iPhone – for now at least, they offer hardware and features that surpass Apple’s current best.