A big focus at CES in Las Vegas this week is on the growing smartphone wars, as a number of mobile manufacturers gear up to battle the dominance of RIMM and Apple. One of their new weapons: Android, the new open mobile OS from Google which gained attention in the last few weeks with the launch of Google’s own phone, the Nexus One.
Is it possible to break down the new mobile smartphone warfare in a short roundup that takes you less than 30 minutes to read? I’ve spent much of the week brushing up on my reading about the Nexus One, reading up on smartphones, talking to some smart mobile guys, and looking at research in this market. So let me try to wrap it up for you in 800 words and 12 links or less.
First up, the Nexus One is probably one of the most important developments in the smartphone market since the launch of the iPhone. Let’s look at some of the reviews of the Google’s Nexus One, to set the stage of the competition:
Techcrunch: Nexus One is the “best And roid phone to date”. It looks more like an iPhone “than any other phone on the market. TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington is also hot and bothered about the Nexus One’s integration with Google voice. Good touch screen. Noise cancellation features. Possible microphone issues. Good camera. Overall, an “important milestone in the smartphone market.”
Walt Mossberg (Wall Street Journal): Walt also likes the Nexus One, calling it a “beautiful, sleek new” phone. He points out that the fact that it operates on the Verizon 3G network, which is superior to AT&Ts (and subject to a lot of controversy for iPhone users), this could help draw iPhone users away. “Packed with tricks.” He likes the social networking features. He points out that the iPhone still has better multimedia features, appears to have more reliable battery life, and likely will have a better apps platform for a while.
Engadget: This review is somewhat wordy and lukewarm (are there editors over at Engadget?) As a phone, “not dramatically different.” They’ve “succeeded” with the sleek design. A highlight is the 1GHz Snapdragon CPU. This makes it fast, a bit faster than Motorola’s Droid. Display is nice but has some “issues.” Camera is good. Not sure about an Android phone without a physical keyborad. Bottom line: “it’s not in any way the Earth-shattering, paradigm-skewing device..” Hmm. It took 1000s of words to say that?
Breakdown of features Nexus One vs. Apple iPhone 3GS:
|Feature||Google Nexus One||Apple iPhone 3GS|
|U.S. carrier||T-Mobile at launch, Verizon later.||AT&T|
|Price||$529 unlocked; $179 with T-Mobile contract||$199 or $299 with AT&T contract, depending on memory|
|User-accessible memory||4 gigabytes, expandable to 32 gigabytes||16 or 32 gigabytes, fixed|
|Minimum monthly service fee*||$79.99||$69.95|
|Available 3rd-party apps||Around 18,000||Over 100,000|
|Memory for application storage||190 megabytes||Nearly the full capacity of phone|
|Syncs media files with PC or Mac||No, manual copying only||Yes, iTunes|
|Multitasking of apps||Yes||Only Apple apps|
|Screen size||3.7 inches||3.5 inches|
|Screen resolution||480 x 800||480 x 320|
|Camera||5 megapixel, flash||3 megapixel, no flash|
|Length||4.68 inches||4.5 inches|
|Width||2.35 inches||2.4 inches|
|Thickness||.45 inches||.48 inches|
|Weight||4.58 ounces||4.8 ounces|
|Claimed voice-calling battery life on 3G||7 hours||5 hours|
|Claimed Internet battery life on Wi-Fi||6.5 hours||9 hours|
|Claimed music-playback battery life||20 hours||30 hours|
|Claimed video-playback battery life||7 hours||10 hours|
Sources: Google, Apple, T-Mobile, AT&T
Okay, so what does this all mean? The introduction of Android, and the fact that Google is pushing its own phone in this market, means the market is going to accelerate with this new competitive juice. It also means that Google is going to work very hard on building up the apps platform for Android, whichmeans that mobile smartphones are going to become the most powerful and fastest growing devices on the planet. And smartphones currently only have 17% share of the mobile phone market!
This sucks if you are Nokia or Motorola. Let’s face it, Google and Apple have the mojo, and they have key competitive advantages over the niche players who came to life primarily as “phone manufacaturers.” What are those advantages? Huge, growing software platforms. And software is the key to these new phones. I think these new developments also call into question the future of Microsoft’s mobile strategy, since there appears to be nary a chatter about Windows Mobile-powered devices.
Clearly, the Nexus One has a lot of people nervous, because it is showing the viability of Android as a major-league mobile OS. The fact that is open and is likely to spawn a new generation of app developers must be leaving a lot of people tossing and turning in bed. Clearly the trend is to go “off deck,” or into open, Web-based mobile platforms.
What does this all tell me? It reaffirms my view, which is that a massive warn is brewing between Google, Apple, and RIMM in the smartphone market!
Microsoft has already lost the war. Microsoft is a value stock, so that doesn’t really affect my view of whether you can buy Microsoft — mobile is a small pie of their pie (Disclosure: I own Microsoft shares), but I think this has more implications for Google and Apple’s stock.
Most to lose: RIMM, Motorola, Nokia.
Static: Apple (but slowing growth could damage the stock)
Most to win: Google, Getjar, mobile apps developers
I do not think the market has signficantly priced in the potential gains for Google, so I think Google has the most to win in the mobile wars. RIMM has the most to lose because it is so concentrated in this market.I can’t see how Motrola comes out of this doing well, because the Nexus One is likely to signficantly cannibalize Droid sales.