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The Apple iPhone redefined a mobile device, bringing HTML, e-mail, and apps to smartphones. But after 18 months, the iPhone faces its first real competitors. Apple’s issues with its 2.x software update, developer complaints over its highly controlled environment, and so-so enterprise support all give the competition an opening.
All the mobile 2.0 competitors support 3G networks, touch interfaces, accelerometers, and location detection services.
The verdict: Although the Google Android platform falls a a bit short, the BlackBerry Storm is right on Apple’s heels.
iPhone 3G: The mobile 2.0 standard under threat. Apple’s iPhone essentially reinvented handhelds from crude, proprietary systems to a sophisticated platform that made much of the desktop experience work in a handheld context. And it’s a cool device, to boot. Pros: Native Exchange e-mail and calendar (third-party Lotus Notes client available); intuitive gesture-based touch interface; VPN; strong HTML support; Wi-Fi support; built-in RSS reader; iTunes sync.
Cons: Requires iTunes to sync data; no cut and paste; only one app can run at a time; proprietary development system; proprietary apps distribution; poor security features; latest OS is sluggish and less stable.
HTC G1 (Android): The first real iPhone challenger
Google’s Android mobile OS appears to be the first real challenge to the iPhone, providing an open platform for users and developers, along with much iPhone-like sophistication. The first device, the T-Mobile G1 from HTC, is expected to ship on Oct. 23. Pros: Physical keyboard; PDF, Word, and Excel file viewing; cut and paste across apps; multiple simultaneous app execution; strong HTML support; open source dev platform; built-in RSS reader.
Cons: Supports only Gmail; syncs only to Google’s hosted apps (no desktop syncing); limited file support; initially low number of apps; no support for iTunes libraries.
BlackBerry Storm: The new business standard?
RIM’s BlackBerry is the gold standard for enterprise mobile connectivity, but its Web capabilities are primitive. The Storm, released on Nov. 22, marries the best of the BlackBerry with some of the iPhone’s advancements.
Pros: Enterprise e-mail and calendar sync (supports Exchange, Notes, and GroupWise); highly secure; strong HTML support; cut and paste (though it’s tricky to use); Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and PDF file viewing.
Cons: No Wi-Fi support; current users may miss physical keyboard; typing is slow on tactile touchscreen; no multitouch zoom; very few third-party apps at launch; no iTunes sync; no built-in RSS reader.
Palm OS: Is there any life left in this pioneer?
Essentially inventing the PDA, Palm was an early smartphone pioneer as well. It has suffered years of mismanagement, but Palm continues to offer Treo smartphones with mobile 2.0 capabilities.
Pros: Supports Microsoft Exchange (third-party support for Lotus Notes and Novell GroupWise also available); supports most Web page capabilities; physical keyboard; can view and edit Word and Excel files (and view PowerPoint and PDF files).
Cons: Smallish screen; poor Macintosh support; no Wi-Fi support; limited selection of third-party apps; no built-in RSS reader; awkward Windows-only support for iTunes libraries (via MP3 file transfer on SD cards).
Windows Mobile: A consistently uneven platform.
Windows Mobile’s many incarnations have been widely panned for cramming a desktop UI into a small screen, making it hard to use. The various screen sizes and included components across manufacturers hinder app and IT support. Yet another version is rumored for release in early 2009.
Pros: Native Microsoft Exchange support (third-party Lotus Notes and Novell GroupWise clients available); Microsoft Office file viewing and editing; wide selection of apps available for some industries; good security; Wi-Fi support.
Cons: Difficult, inconsistent UI; supports only a subset of HTML; iTunes sync requires third-party apps; poor Macintosh compatibility.