Google has pulled ahead in the smart­phone war, with a bit of help from its Ice Cream Sand­wich soft­ware, writes Jen­nifer Dud­ley- Nicholson

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Front Page -

Google ver­sus Ap­ple, in a fight to the death.

THE world’s lead­ing smart­phone mak­ers are fac­ing off in an epic bat­tle for con­sumers.

While Ap­ple’s iPhone 4S went on sale in seven coun­tries in­clud­ing Aus­tralia this month, Google will un­veil its lat­est in­no­va­tions in the Nexus Prime soon.

The 4.3-inch smart­phone, made by Sam­sung, will be the first to fea­ture Google’s Android Ice Cream Sand­wich soft­ware de­signed for tablets and smart­phones.

An­a­lysts say both smart­phone camps will at­tract plenty of at­ten­tion, and even crowds, and their clash is likely to be closer than ever.

Ap­ple kicked off the fight re­cently, un­veil­ing the iPhone 4S that of­fers a faster pro­ces­sor, an en­hanced 8-megapixel cam­era, bet­ter bat­tery and a new voice-recog­ni­tion fea­ture that prom­ises to an­swer con­ver­sa­tional ques­tions. Ovum an­a­lyst Tim Renow­den says there was huge in­ter­est sur­round­ing Ap­ple’s lat­est re­lease de­spite the rel­a­tively modest up­grade.

‘‘ Aus­tralia is a bit of a strange mar­ket in that the iPhone is prob­a­bly more pop­u­lar here than in other mar­kets,’’ Renow­den says.

‘‘ There were a lot of peo­ple sit­ting on an iPhone 3GS just wait­ing to up­grade.’’

While Aus­tralia is par­tic­u­larly iPhone-cen­tric, Google has pulled ahead as the lead­ing smart­phone plat­form across the globe.

Google Android phones rep­re­sented 43 per cent of all smart­phone sales be­tween April and June, ac­cord­ing to tech re­searcher Gart­ner, while Ap­ple iPhones made up 18 per cent.

Tel­syte re­search an­a­lyst Foad Fadaghi says part of Google Android’s ap­peal is its avail­abil­ity on phones of many sizes and prices. Ap­ple’s choice to re­lease one phone a year may en­cour­age users to in­ves­ti­gate other op­tions, Fadaghi says.

‘‘ There will be re­newed in­ter­est in other plat­forms and other soft­ware sim­ply be­cause the ap­pear­ance of the iPhone hasn’t changed,’’ he says.

‘‘ Clearly a weak­ness of Ap­ple is its one-size-fits-all pol­icy and when you don’t even cos­met­i­cally change the ap­pear­ance of the de­vice it doesn’t re­solve this is­sue.

‘‘ Even a white model is not enough – you need more than one ba­sic de­sign.’’

Fadaghi says the 4S might not cre­ate ‘‘ the same hype we’ve seen’’ for iPhones past due to the sim­i­lar de­sign, but he says new soft­ware fea­tures and ac­cess to Ap­ple’s iCloud could pro­vide con­sumers with a rea­son to up­grade their iPhone.

‘‘ Some of those users are also very locked into Ap­ple be­cause of their apps,’’ he says.

‘‘ It’s very dif­fi­cult to let them go or buy them all again on a dif­fer­ent plat­form if they’ve made a sig­nif­i­cant in­vest­ment.’’

Google’s third phone, the Nexus Prime, could pro­vide some users with a rea­son to switch sides, how­ever.

Due to be of­fi­cially un­veiled soon, the smart­phone will fea­ture a 4.6-inch Su­per AMOLED HD screen and will run on a 1.5GHz dual-core pro­ces­sor, the fastest in a phone to date. Google’s ma­jor soft­ware up­date, Ice Cream Sand­wich, will also de­but on the phone and is ex­pected to in­clude fea­tures that use fa­cial recog­ni­tion.

But IDC mar­ket an­a­lyst Yee Kuan Lau says Google and its part­ners have a big job ahead to counter Ap­ple’s mar­ket­ing ma­chine and new soft­ware.

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