Major Competitors & Smartphone Management

In this post, I’ll be explaining the methods that smartphone software and hardware manufacturers take in order to implement new devices and operating system changes. I’ll also point out the pros and cons of these methods what they mean to the user. Read on if this interests you…

RIM, Apple and Nokia are among the only competitors that own the hardware and software of their smartphone devices. HTC, Samsung, Motorola & Sony Ericsson are all given software for the hardware they provide. Microsoft and Google make the software and distribute it out to device manufacturers.

Allow me to clear any confusion. HTC, Samsung, Motorola and Sony Ericsson have ownership of some smartphone software but, they only have it as a “skin” or UI(user interface).

  • HTC has Sense UI. They used it for prior Windows Mobile devices and it’s now implemented into their Android adaptations. HTC Sense is a great UI but it sometimes causes issues within the Android OS. I believe it is the most stable though.
  • Motorola has their own Moto Blur technology which is pretty useless IMO. It does connect you with different social networking sites, but, it lags and causes unnecessary battery and memory usage. I believe it’s mandatory to set up when using a blur device.
  • Sony Ericsson makes nice devices but the UI they provide is really buggy. It is Android but it’s a much different adaptation than normal. Their UI really changes the look of Android. It’s not much of a bad thing but it cause Android to be watered down from it’s true capabilities.
  • Samsung makes wonderful devices that perform very well near the competition but again, the Touch Wiz UI lacks the ability to run smoothly with the OS. If the UI was removed, I’d give Samsung the title. The introduction of Super AMOLED screens was very inviting.

Now, I’m not trying to put these manufacturers down because they’re selling devices with high numbers and they have great hardware. You’ll understand why I don’t exactly give them as much credit as you may think they deserve. There are other device manufacturers out there, such as, Huawei, that make hardware and use another software but they aren’t big names when it comes to the true spotlight and the competition.

Here are the combined competitors and what their methods mean to how the production of devices.

RIM is a powerful competitor. They manage the software and hardware of their systems along with multiple servers across the globe. They truly prove themselves in the smartphone race.

  • Solid hardware is key when using a device. BlackBerry’s have been the game for a long time and they’ve also changed. BlackBerry;’s have between 7-9 main hardware buttons; Talk, End, BB, Back/Return, Trackpad/ball, side convenience key(s), mute and keyboard lock if you’re using a modern Berry. This keeps the learning curve easy without causing the devices to look bad. Solid hardware is very important. I’ve dropped my 9700 from about 3-4 feet to the concrete and it survived.
  • Software implementation is just as important as good hardware. What good is nice looking device that functions horribly? No good at all. The BlackBerry OS is no stranger to bugs and OS overhauls but it has gone through a rigorous process and those of you that have been here can see that change. From OS 4.5.x to 4.6 to 5.0 and on to 6.0, the BB has changed a lot. If I pick up a device earlier than the 83xx series I’d tear at how old the OS is. I even have issues with OS 5.0 because BB6 has done so much for us as avid BlackBerry fans/users. Bugs will appear but, it’s about how they’re dealt with, OS leak anyone?
  • Finally, the integration of software and hardware must be “perfected”. The BlackBerry OS was designed for the BlackBerry device and vice versa. I’m not worried that some random skin is going to change something when I switch from one device to the next because the hardware has changed. Fragmentation is also limited with RIM because they manage they’re own device as a whole.

Apple has nearly perfected their iOS to what they want it to do. It fits the iPhone, the iPod and the iPad.

  • Apple makes solid hardware. The only issue is that they lack hardware buttons. One main app button, lock button, and vibrate/mute switch. That allows simplicity and great one-handedness but a few more functions wouldn’t hurt. Either way, the “i” products haven’t changed much physically and that’s great when switching to the next device.
  • The same idea that applies to their hardware applies to their software. The iOS has changed A LOT since it began but they do so many “under the hood” adjustments that you won’t have an issue with the function of the OS from device to device whether it’s the phone, mp3 or tablet.
  • They’ve also perfected the integration between hardware and software. The iOS fits the iOS devices and those devices only. It’s easy to pick up either one of them and know that since you’ve used one, you won’t have an issue with using the other.

Nokia makes good hardware and some useful software but that’s not really the bulk of their success.

  • Nokia makes solid devices but they lack similarity, availability, and overall acceptance. I’ve been to many device retailers and haven’t spotted too many Nokia devices floating around. The ones that I’ve seen lack flare. One awesome factor is that Nokia devices can be dual-SIM. They have two SIM cards instead of one and the SIM cards they take can be swapped in and out no matter which GSM carrier you’re using, globally. I would never use a device that looked like them but there are many people who love them so I can say Nokia has done something right.
  • They’re software just doesn’t cut it IMO. The older OS they have, S60 is pretty weak. I think it’s more archaic than the BlackBerry OS was. Their Symbian OS has it’s positives but I can’t see them being as good as they seem because their presence in the U.S. market is very slim. I’ve seen them in action and I have to admit that it is a pretty clean and functional UI. One good thing is that Nokia devices can hack other systems because of how the software works and possible extensions to the hardware. May not be good for you but it’s a cool addition.

I recall an older blog posting by another website about the manufacturers that do both hardware and software will fall short to the competitors that simple distribute software and I never agreed with that person because it didn’t make sense. By the end of this, you should be able to tell why.

Software alone is great and I’m happy for those that develop software and software alone. It allows you to focus on key features without being distracted.

  • We love to give Android all of it’s success but there are too many device manufacturers out there getting a piece of that pie to say that there is one sole contributor to the overall contest. If Android had one manufacturer it wouldn’t have gotten this far this quickly. There are fans of different companies out there that will buy whatever device that company releases regardless so, if Android was only on HTC or only on Motorola devices it would have many users but it wouldn’t have gotten as far as it did, regardless of how many ads Verizon put out about how much “Droid does”. Android is amazing  and if there wasn’t a RIM I’d have an Android device. Techies can’t say that software alone rules out hardware, especially in Android’s case because Google doesn’t sponsor every Android device.
  • Another issue is software to hardware integration. My buddy and I were discussing hardware and software optimization. What good is software that is on a device that can’t handle it? No good at all. What good is a device that sucks because parts weren’t developed with the optimization of the software in mind? No good at all. My point is, Android is great but, it won’t reach it’s potential on most handset with so many “versions” of it out there.

Microsoft has gone through some trials with their OS.

  • They had WinMo in the past and boy did it suck. It was so laggy and had memory management issues. They had some cool apps and OS skins like Sense UI and the SPB Mobile shell but nothing good was coming from that software.
  • I’ve seen the HTC HD2 in action and the snapdragon processor wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. This proves my point about hardware and software matching one another.
  • Now, Windows Phone 7, WinP7 is doing great. They have great apps and that Xbox Live integration is top-of-the -line awesome. The software is clean and refreshing but I was told that it gets very repetitive for someone like myself who uses/knows different mobile OS’s. I’ve used a WinP7 device and it had some confusion there but I was pleased with it overall.
  • The issue that Android has with hardware isn’t exactly the case with WinP7 because Microsoft tells the manufacturers they have to meet certain specifications to run the OS. That allows integration between phone and OS to be understood and implemented correctly.

There are Android devices like the Nexus One manufactured by HTC and the Nexus S manufactured by Samsung, that stand out and handle the OS the way Google wants them to but they’re very few and the masses of people aren’t paying attention to performance but, to ads and carrier gimmicks. I didn’t mention Palm/HP because they aren’t exactly in this race. They aren’t doing well enough to compare with those mentioned above. I love WebOS. When it was introduce in ’09 I thought was great but it lacked hardware and developer support. I believe Palm wasn’t able to come back from the destruction of their older OS. HP is doing promising things but I’ll have to see more results.

I hope this post was informative. I had to proof read this thing so be happy. I’m just kidding with you. Stay tuned to BlackBerry Empire for more coverage of the smartphone market in general. The Liaison…signing out.