4S, BBX, RAZR, and Ice Cream Sandwich – oh my [the competition]
This week has been one of the more insane weeks in the mobile tech space, and that’s saying a lot, since it’s only now Wednesday morning. We’ll start with Monday, which was dominated by our friend Rene Ritchie’s epic review of the new iPhone 4S (S standing for Super). Rene’s conclusion: “Apple has produced an incredibly compelling upgrade from feature phones, and the iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS. iPhone 4 owners have little reason to upgrade unless speed, camera, or Siri are unusually important to them.” The same can be said of current webOS device owners on Sprint – early adopter Palm Pre owners are well past their two year mark, and those that picked up the Palm Pixi within the first month of availability are also eligible for an upgrade on Sprint. With any future webOS phones on Sprint a distant hazy “maybe,” it’s hard to discourage anyone from pulling the trigger on an iPhone 4S.
That was Monday. “Hard to discourage” still rings true, but for the webOS fan the options became many on Tuesday. The day started with Research in Motion’s BlackBerry Dev Con, where they announced the next generation phone/tablet platform BBX, but failed to deliver any specifics, except to say that it’s going to be all sorts of graphically rich with a new UI called Cascades. We also got our first official look at the PlayBook OS 2.0 developer beta and RIM opened the floodgates on their PlayBook Android Player Repackaging Tools used to, well, repackage Android apps for the PlayBook (Waterloo loves them some descriptive titles). No new hardware, or even a demo of BBX, so a little bit of a let down.
Simultaneously, Motorola was getting busy in New York City, unveiling the Droid RAZR, and like its sexy featurephone namesake, this is one thin phone. The Droid RAZR is essentially a Droid Bionic, but one that Motorola managed to somehow slim down to a ridiculous 7.1mm thin everywhere but the camera bump at the top. The body is made of steel and Kevlar with a Gorilla Glass front and splash-guarded internals (so you can get it wet, though we wouldn’t recommend full-on submersion). The quick specs run-down: a 4.3” 540x960 Super AMOLED Advanced display, dual-core 1.2GHz processor, 1GB RAM, 16GB storage, 8.1MP camera, and CDMA/LTE. In a 7.1mm body. It’s insanely thin.
But the Android camp was not yet done for the day: Hong Kong still called. As if the Droid RAZR wasn’t enough, Samsung and Google had to show-up Google-owned Motorola with the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and Android 4.0, otherwise known as Ice Cream Sandwich (nom). The Galaxy Nexus is another hot piece of kit, with a 4.65-inch 1280x720 Super AMOLED screen (with HD resolution!), a 5MP camera, dual-core 1.2GHz processor, 1GB RAM, 16/32GB storage, and HSPA+ or LTE, all packed into a 8.94mm body. It’s thin, but not Droid RAZR thin.
The real story is Android 4.0, which in many ways will look familiar to the webOS user. And that’s in no small part thanks to UI designed Matias Duarte, who left Palm for Google about a year-and-a-half ago. Since then he’s worked a little bit of magic on Android 3.0 Honeycomb, but saved the real UI work for Ice Cream Sandwich. What we have here is a lot of webOS, from a multitasking cards-style layout (it’s become so ubiquitous we doubt HP can laying any patent claim to it anymore) that scrolls vertically and dismisses horizontally, individually dismissable notifications, a music player-controlling notification widget, a buttonless design, and Android Beam device-to-device NFC sharing. Yeah, that looks really quite familiar. Duarte’s work ensures that webOS users will be more than comfortable with Android 4.0, not to mention making it looks all sorts of smooth and clean (another thing of which we are fans).
So there you have it. The iPhone 4S, BlackBerry BBX, PlayBook OS 2.0, the Droid RAZR, Galaxy Nexus, and Android 4.0 are all ready to scoop up the remnants of the webOS userbase. It’s getting harder and harder to justify sticking it out on an aging platform with a questionable future. Who are we kidding? We’ll be here until the bitter end (which is hopefully far far away).