This past Sunday, Nintendo released Super Mario 3D Land, its first Mario game made for the 3DS. Rather than being a celebration of video gaming’s most successful franchise, it’s more likely an opportunity to mourn the demise of a company responsible for so many great products and games. Because if Nintendo doesn’t change its strategy soon, the company’s future will be very bleak indeed.
We’ve heard rumours and denials and then more rumours about Facebook developing its own smartphone in recent weeks. So when a friend forwarded me this screen cap of a survey Rogers asked them to fill out, I was more than a little interested. The survey this question appeared in was centered on mobile operating systems, first quizzing customers about what an operating system is before asking them which mobile OS they preferred.
While Rogers used the term “Facebook centric phone,” I think its clear that Mark Zuckerberg’s company wants more control of the mobile future, and won’t be content with simply piggybacking apps onto other smartphones. Even the current contact syncing available on some platforms doesn’t seem to be enough. A true Facebook phone would be able to leverage status updates, wall posts, and the company’s location service, Places, into a veritable advertising machine.
While the last thing in the world I’d want is a Facebook phone, I’m sure there is a very specific group of people who love the idea. Also teenagers.
I love Android. The Google-created mobile operating system for smartphones is a breath of fresh air when compared to the polished & regulated iPhone and its iOS. Android devices are selling well, particularly in the U.S., where the iPhone is stuck in an awkward monogamous relationship with AT&T. It has become very clear that the iPhone will break free from AT&T’s shackles within the next year, and when that happens, Verizon and T-Mobile customers will also be clamoring for Apple’s handset.
In Canada, where the iPhone is available on the big three major carriers, the iconic Apple device is simply crushing the competition, and Android appears to be an afterthought for most consumers after deciding on an iPhone or a homegrown BlackBerry.
For Android to stave off a multi-carrier American iPhone assault and to become competition for Apple in Canada and other countries, it has to start taking some steps to make Android more mainstream. There’s no reason they can’t do this without changing their exceptional operating system much. Here’s my suggestions to made “Android” as well-known as “iPhone.”
- Take control of updates: Google needs to cut carriers out of the update equation. Eric Schmidt recently said that one thing Google has learned about the smartphone business is how much power the carriers have. Google needs to leverage some of its power to take control of updating devices. The fact that a new version of Android, with tons of new features including flash playback, exists but isn’t widely available is tragic.
- Police the app marketplace, at least a little bit: I’m not asking for Apple-like behaviour here, but rather some common sense principles to guide what is and isn’t acceptable. Custom Nazi themes and games involving upskirt pics shouldn’t even see the light of day in the Marketplace. It’s simply not good enough to have a system that allows this stuff to been seen by kids, even if it’s removed after an uproar.
- Update responsibly: The fact that I can go out and buy a brand new Android phone today that runs an 18-month-old version of the OS is a serious issue that needs to be addressed. Android should give its OS options firm expiration dates. Once the date is passed, phones can’t be sold without an updated OS. Right now, every single Google phone should be shipping with Android 2.2, period.
- Reduce the number of models: Up against the most iconic brand in the world (Apple) and the most iconic product in the world (The iPhone), Google needs to take more control over the number of products and how they are named. Here’s an idea: Call all of your smartphones Androids. There’d be an HTC Android, a Samsung Android, a Motorola Android, A Sony-Ericsson Android. No Galaxy S Vibrants, no Desires, no Xperias. One name for all Google phones, with only the manufacturer differentiating models. Keep new models from each maker to a minimum, let’s say one every 6 to 12 months. You’d end up with more focus and branding that can go up against the iPhone marketing machine.
- Pay off Nokia: While part of me laughs at how clueless Nokia has been since the iPhone launch three years ago, failing to see clear trends and falling behind even the most lethargic of companies, Microsoft, the other part of me still sees a company with a lot of value. Google should do whatever it takes to get Nokia to abandon its current Symbian/Meebo disaster and start churning out millions of Android phones to its loyal fan base, especially in Europe.
Yes, the iPhone is still the best smartphone overall. Apple has a knack at staying ahead of the competition in hardware and software, but if there’s anyone who can take them on right now, it’s Google. What else should Google do with Android? Let me know by posting a comment.
If you read my review a couple of weeks back on the Samsung Galaxy S Vibrant, you’ll know that I predicted this. Samsung’s best-in-class Android phone can now be yours for just $25, if you take into account the gift card Future Shop is throwing in upon purchase in one of their stores.
The smartphone is solid and probably your best alternative in Canada if you hate the iPhone. As we all know however, Canadians just love the iPhone 4, so much so that lineups continue across the country, some six weeks after launch. That’s probably why we’re seeing this promotion, as the Galaxy has failed to attract much attention north of the border, where the iPhone is available across the entire Big 3 – Rogers, Bell, & Telus.
If you’ve frequented this blog, then you probably saw my review of the Samsung Omnia II, perhaps the worst phone I’ve ever used and a great example of the failings of Windows Mobile 6.5.
Luckily for Samsung, they’ve jumped on the Android bandwagon, a superior mobile OS offering from Google that is serious competition for the iPhone. The Samsung Galaxy S Vibrant (Bell, $149 on a three-year contract) is a perfect marriage of Google’s OS with some very good hardware.
On the other side of this Canadian smartphone battle is the iPhone 4 (Rogers, Fido, Bell, Virgin Mobile, & Telus, $159 for 16GB and 269 for $32GB on a three-year contract). Avoiding the iPhone isn’t easy in Canada, thanks to the fact that it’s available on all of our major carriers, and none of them suck as much as AT&T in the U.S. The iPhone’s penetration in the Canadian market, both carrier and consumer-wise, make it hard to argue against.
Is the Galaxy better than an iPhone? Over two weeks, I tried to find out.
I received an email this morning from the people running Nokia’s PR in Montreal about Nokia’s new Ovi App Wizard. Ovi, if you didn’t know, is Nokia’s answer to Apple’s insanely successful App Store. Unfortunately for Nokia, getting developers to make apps for the fragmented mess that is Nokia’s current phone offerings has been unsurprisingly difficult, while competitors like Apple boast upwards 200,000 applications.
The Ovi App Wizard is unfortunately way too little, way too late.
Motorola Milestone: Full review
The Motorola Milestone ($199 on a three-year contract with Telus) is much-needed and welcome competitor in the fight to dethrone the iPhone from its dominant position in Canada’s smartphone wars.
The Milestone is the same phone sold as the Droid south of the border. This naming confusion is symbolic of Motorola’s failure in fighting the iPhone. They are fighting one of the most powerful brands and iconic devices ever, but they make the awful decision to market the Milestone under different names in different markets. It’s a lot harder to build worldwide momentum for your product if you’re trying to sell something called the Droid in the U.S. and the Milestone in Canada and Europe.
Naming issues aside, Motorola has a great product on its hands, mostly thanks to the quickly improving Android OS.
My Motorola Milestone review unit arrived this afternoon, and I’m putting it through rigorous tests as we speak. Android’s WordPress App is pretty solid, although typing with the keyboard is not fun so far.
I’ll have a full Milestone review (Running on the Telus network) at the end of the week.
Samsung Omnia II: Full review
Well, we saw this coming. From a launch day price of $200, the Palm Pre can now be yours for just $50 at Best Buy, and they’ll throw in a $200 gift card for your early termination fees trouble. Thinking about the Pre? make sure you take a look at my review from a few months back.