Ian Hoar – Passion for Technology – Geeking Out - Technology, Web, Toys, Games, Design, Entertainment, Gadgets, & Geeking Out

2008 year of the smartphone

This year has been without a doubt, the year of the smartphone and Apple has led the charge with it’s iPhone. Touch technology seems to be all the rage now, and of course Apple introduced it’s first smartphone last year, but their second phone reached a far greater audience with more countries and recently announced sales of 6.9 Million iPhones.

I of course jumped on the iPhone bandwagon, but before I did I spent a lot of time researching many of the smartphones out there. At the time just before the second iPhone was launched there were a lot of great smartphones on the way, but none were out yet. Now that the iPhone has been out for a few months a lot of new devices have emerged. One of the reasons I bought the iPhone was because Apple was ahead of the curve, now a lot of the other manufacturers have similar offerings, but are any of them really iPhone killers? I decided to do a quick smartphone round up to see what’s currently out there.

Android is the newest cool kid in town

Of course you can’t talk about smartphones without talking about Android and their new G1 offered by T-Mobile in the US. This phone by HTC came out a couple of weeks ago, but even before a phone was announced, the Android platform had huge buzz in the blogsphere and tech news sites. I wrote about it several times and was pretty hyped about it myself when I wrote Android Android Android! everyone’s talking about Android and I still am pretty buzzed about it.

Android promises a lot of innovation and is really shaking up the industry. First it’s open source, which means anyone can play with the innards of the code. Up until now this was practically unheard of, and this could be the end of locked down phones, which I think is great. I can do what I want with my computer, I should be able to do the same with my smartphone, which is basically a portable mini computer. This is one flaw with Apple’s phone, without special applications I can’t even treat this phone as a storage device or copy my music on to different computers. The Open Handset Alliance is another great by product of Google Android.

Everything I have read about the G1 says that it is no iPhone killer, but there is massive potential and that this is just the start. Google is on to something here, and one of these days there may be a Google phone that is an iPhone killer. Remember this is Googles first phone.

See Engadget’s review on the G1

Blackberry Bold and Storm

Blackberry BoldResearch In Motion is one of the big players and has been around for a long time. The big toys from RIM this year are the Bold and the Storm. If any phone could have swayed me from my iPhone purchase it would have been one of these. In the end I’m glad I went for the iPhone because the Bold does lean towards business users, and the Storm is taking forever to come out.

The Bold is the newest and greatest Blackberry in town, with a higher resolution than the iPhone but smaller screen this thing is crystal sharp. I have played with it once and it is pretty clear, but you have to wonder what the point of such high resolution is with such a small screen? It’s a nice phone, but it still feels a bit flimsy, I’m not a fan of how easily the Blackberries tend to scratch, but with that said if I had to pick a second best phone, I would probably go with a Blackberry.

The Blackberry Storm may be a different story, this is RIM’s attempt at the consumer market and is a direct competitor to the iPhone. It has what RIM calls “tactile-touch” which is basically a spring loaded screen. You basically have to push all the way down to hit a key, which sounds pretty cool. I’m used to not having to push down, so it might be hard to get used too. So far I have read that the new touch screen is awesome, to not so great, so only time will tell. I think what you are used to will have a lot to do with how much you like the screen. Blackberry is late to the game and a lot of people who use touch screens have gotten used to how they work now, but this may appeal to the users who have not switched to a touchscreen yet.

You can find first impression reviews at Gizmodo and Engadget along with a gallery of PowerPoint slides on The Boy Genius Report.

Sony Ericsson XPERIA X1

Sony’s EXPERIA X1 has been rumoured and talked about so long that I almost forgot about it. Its already available in some places, but still pretty hard to find.

This is a pretty sweet looking phone, but I’ve read a lot of good and bad about it. First it’s Windows Mobile, so depending on how you feel about Windows Mobile, your decision may be already made. There have also been claims of slow response on the touch screen and that the keyboard keys do not provide enough tactile feedback. Either way, I don’t think this phone will be viable until it’s on major carriers. Rumours are that it will be available on AT&T at some point.

Unboxing of XPERIA X1 and some nice high resolution shots and a very early review at The Boy Genuis Report.

HTC and a world of cool smartphones

HTC has so many cool phones it’s hard to mention them all. They build the G1 Android phone and had a hand in the XPERIA X1. They also released the Touch Diamond this year, and the Touch Pro will be out soon. There is also the really cool HTC Touch HD which unfortunately will not be showing up in North America, but it has been called an iPhone killer.

HTC definitely makes a whole lot of cool phones, and I’m sure we will be seeing Google’s Android on a lot more HTC phones.

Nokia

Nokia is huge in a lot of the world, but not so much here in North America. That may all change if they start bringing out slick phones like the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic. It comes with a stylus so you can write out your messages, so if a stylus is your thing, then the XpressMusic might be for you.

Engadget has a hands on review.

Samsung instinct

Samsung InstinctSamsung has also jumped onto the touch screen smart phone bandwagon, the big one this year was the Samsung Instinct. I’m a huge fan of Samsung products, especially their LCD displays, but for some reason their phones just don’t do it for me. The instinct did perk my interest, but then the reviews came out and laid my anticipation to rest. The Omnia on the other hand seems to score a bit higher, but it’s a windows mobile device and it doesn’t have the prettiest interface. Samsung is also a member of the Open Handset Alliance, so we may see a Google Android phone from them in the future; fingers crossed.

Openmoko, truly open

Although a much smaller player in the smartphone field we cannot forget Openmoko, the truly open source smartphone platform and the device it runs on, Neo FreeRunner. I have been keeping an eye on Openmoko for many of the same reasons I watch Google’s Android platform. I believe in the concept behind these platforms, but Openmoko steps it up a notch, this is a truly open source project, everything from the OS to the phone itself; even the CAD files can be downloaded so you can modify the actual phone itself. Openmoko is definitely a hardcore computer geeks dream.

Openmoko Neo FreeRunner

More information can be found on the wiki entry for Openmoko. The phone can be purchased at the official Openmoko website, and you can also visit the Openmoko wiki website which has much more information.

Apple iPhone, the darling of touch smartphones

iPhoneAnd of course this roundup wouldn’t be complete without the iPhone. Apple has lead the way here the same way they lead the way for mp3 players. Whether you love or hate Apple there is no denying that they are market leaders in innovation and have consistently upped the bar delivering a compelling product that’s hard to beat. Almost every review I have read on smartphones uses the iPhone as a measure of quality. You always hear references to Apple’s iPhone or “the iPhone Killer” catch phrase.

That doesn’t mean the iPhone has no flaws, one of the most mentioned features that is missing is “copy and paste” functionality. I don’t know if Apple will ever add this, but it’s a much needed and requested feature, especially for sending web addresses to people in applications such as Twitterific. There is an option to email someone a link from Safari, but copy and paste would be a lot more useful. Another thing that needs fixing is the browser, although it’s a fantastic mini browser, possibly even the best, it does tend to crash an awful lot, at least for me. That said, I am more than happy with my iPhone and it really is the best device I have bought in years. Many of the games are simple but very addictive, just what you want on a small device like this and there is a constant stream of new applications every day. When I was showing my phone to someone once they asked “is there anything it can’t do?”, well yes, it won’t do your laundry yet.

An amazing year for gadgets

It really has been a great year for great gadgets and smartphones in particular. I can’t help but get excited about 2009′s lineup. Where will Apple be this time next year, and the one I’m really keeping an eye on is Google’s Android. It will also be interesting to see how the Blackberry vs Apple battle turns out, I personally think Android is more of a threat than the Blackberry. The Blackberry has a strong loyal consumer base and owns the business sector. They are also making their phones pretty, because lets face it, even business men and women want to have a cool cell phone.

For the third iPhone next year I’m predicting a higher resolution, better GPS and a better camera as obvious places to work on. I hope all the other smartphones have surprises up their sleeves also. 2008 was an amazing year, lets hope 2009 is even more ground breaking.

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