Mobile // Mobile Devices
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Fritz Nelson
Fritz Nelson
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Phone Wars: Choose Your Weapon

A slew of new devices from HTC, Motorola, Apple; more coming when Windows Phone 7 ships; rumors of new BlackBerry handsets. Here's a guide to evaluating the combatants.

A battle royal is raging between iPhone and Android platforms, with spectacular new smartphone handsets on the market from HTC, Motorola, Samsung and Apple. Those smartphones, coupled with a promising, imminent new platform from Microsoft and its ever-loyal army of OEMs makes buying both tantalizing and agonizing. And that's before factoring in the market leader: RIM's omnipresent BlackBerry. Debate the paths of Apple and Google all you like, but it's difficult to separate the device, the OS, the carrier (plus its pricing plan), and manufacturer features. Starting by choosing an OS platform is a bit like choosing a political party first: eventually you still have to like the candidate you'll be stuck with.

Phones matter -- for practical reasons, to be sure, but let's be honest (shallow): the phone you carry says nearly as much about you as the car you drive (overcompensating) or the neighborhood you live in. For the corporate mobile worker (dull), the BlackBerry is by far the most popular choice; the centralized control, policy enforcement and security remain untouched.

But in an environment where IT has had to cede (cower) to user demand and habit (including what Research In Motion calls the "personally liable" device), companies such as Good Technology, Fiberlink and Trust Digital (now part of McAfee) can help manage a heterogeneous device population.

Don't believe the pithy patronizing from the handset makers about remote wipe and secure passwords making new devices "enterprise ready." (I heard this at Google I/O and at the launch of Motorola's Droidx). Those features are fine additions, but not even close to enterprise-class. But that's a subject for another day.

If organizations embrace the notion of a productive (exploited) mobile workforce, and are inclined to manage any handset that dares cross the physical and digital corporate perimeter, there are solutions that can help. So buy away!

The New Players

There are far too many smartphones on the market, and I've tried to spend some time with a few of the latest representative examples. This isn't meant to be a comprehensive evaluation, but more of a guide to the important factors, by way of a good deal of hands-on work, market analysis, and time with key product managers at a few of the handset makers.

It's not difficult to do a little homework on your own. HTC, Samsung and Motorola have plenty of the specs listed on their sites about devices like the EVO 4G, HD2 and Incredible (HTC); the Galaxy S series (Samsung); and the new Droidx (Motorola). My colleague Eric Zeman, an absolute phone junkie, has done some extensive work on the iPhone 4, and many of these other new devices. Here's a quick reading list to get started:

  • Droid Incredible or Droid X

  • iPhone 4 First Look

  • 5 Things iPhone 4 Still Lacks

  • Samsung Goes For Broke With Galaxy S Variants

  • Android Bleeps and Blurbs: HTC And Samsung

    For a hands-on look at a few of these devices, watch the video below.


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