Top Smartphones for 2010
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Some seven months ago in July 2009 wrote an article for this site on Top Smartphones for 2009. With the fast pace of mobile telephony I thought it was time to recap on what are now considered the top Smartphones. As well as looking at some of the near future contenders.

The previous article concentrated on the HTC Magic, the Palm Pre and the Apple iPhone. So where are they in the running now and how do they compare to the newer models?

HTC Magic

In July of last year the Google Android OS was just finding its feet. The HTC Magic, with its 3.2″ touch sensitive display and 3.2 megapixel camera, was spotlighted as the second Android device from HTC. It reached the 1 million sales mark in August last year. Despite its success at the beginning of October the Android OS was reported to be running on less than 2 percent of the world’s smartphones. However research published that month predicted its growth to 14% of market share in 2012.

Since the Magic, HTC have now released the Hero and have this week announced the release of the HTC Legend, (available in March of this year). The HTC Hero was hailed as a great phone is 2009 despite being saddled with an old version of the OS (It has never been upgraded from version 1.5, despite other devices now being released with version 2.1, and even the Magic moving to version 1.6). The Legend, with its sexier design and vastly improved display, looks to be an even greater model. However it has a number of other Android powered contenders to compete with.

In January of this year Google released its own phone, the Nexus One, within the USA. Manufactured by HTC but released by Google with no restriction on mobile network provider, the device generated a flurry of excitement, at least in the media. The device is not available until around Spring within the UK, but bad press regarding support problems following its USA launch may have deterred some potential buyers. In addition HTC have just announced the release of what is rumoured to be an update to the Nexus One, the HTC Desire. Similar to the Nexus one the Desire hosts an improved UI, an FM radio and utilises an optical joystick. It also reportedly offers improved social networking and contact management access compared to the Nexus One.

Sony Ericsson is attempting to stay in the running with their launch of the Xperia Mini and Mini Pro. According to the Sony Ericsson press release the Mini and Mini Pro, as little brothers of the Xperia X10, sport the same UX platform, (Sony Ericssons modified Android OS), but are ultra-compact. Meanwhile Motorola have updated their CLIQ with the launch of the Motorola Quench or CLIQ XT. With its lack of physical keyboard and introduction of a touch sensitive navigation device users also have access to a new media player that reportedly links to online content management as well as managing the videos and music you load onto the device yourself.

So will the multitude of Devices and OS versions be a winning combination for Android? Or will the complexities it brings for developers result in less Apps for the consumers to choose from?

Palm Pre

Despite pinning their hopes on this Smartphone the Pre hasn’t been the life saver that Palm were hoping for, certainly not in the UK and Ireland. A report in in January this year suggested only 220 units were sold in Ireland since its launch. With most people suggesting the low numbers were due to issues with the build quality and a lack of good marketing, especially from O2. Even a website dedicated to the Palm Pre had to admit that it appeared some developers were delaying their work to produce Apps for the Pre whilst they concentrated on other platforms. They believe “Palm simply hasn’t sold enough webOS devices to force developers to sit up, take notice”.

Will Palm’s latest offering the Pre Plus fare any better? suggests “At first glance, the Palm Pre Plus looks very much like its predecessor” The only physical change appears to be a gesture panel to replace the home button. The other changes are increased memory and a video camera. Palm have also opened up the developer kit in an attempt to encourage the production of more Apps. However, with the basic hardware build quality staying the same, will the sales of the Pre Plus be sufficiently improved from those of the Pre to encourage developers away from other platforms?

Apple iPhone

In the previous Top Smartphones for 2009 Apple hoped to sell their millionth iPhone by the end of Summer. Their last quarter results smashed that prediction with iPhone sales reaching over 8.7 million. As of January this year the App store contained just shy of 134k Apps. With 280 million Apps downloaded in December. Not surprising with 58 Million App store users.(UPDATED: The Apple App StoreĀ Economy). Predictions for 2010 suggest the number of Apps will rise to 300k (Research firm IDC). In the last quarter of 2009 Apple was boasting that it had over 18k more games than the Nintendo DS and PSP.

Despite the glut of games Apps on the iPhone they are also making inroads into the corporate market. According to Apple 2010 fiscal first quarter — the iPhone angle over 70% of Fortune 200 companies are supporting iPhone and Internationally, 50% of the Financial Times 100 companies are supporting them.

So what is next for Apple? Their launch of the iPad last month caused a huge stir and they have yet to announce what the iPhone 4G will look like. Like, prior to the iPad launch, the rumours are rife. With predictions suggesting the same processor as the iPad and greater power. A better camera and even support for video chat. Even the availability date is being debated. Only time will tell what the device will provide and whether existing users will be enticed enough to upgrade.

The Rest

The devices not discussed back in mid 2009 included the Blackberry by RIM, HTC and Sony Ericsson Windows Mobile devices, and the multitude of Symbian powered Nokia handsets.

Will HTC’s launch of the HTC HD mini herald an upsurge of Windows Mobile popularity, or will smartphone users look to the devices sporting the new Windows 7, due to be released later this year?

Will the Samsung Wave, with the new OS Bada prove to be a winner, or will everyone have low expectations of their first Smartphone and wait for one of the other five Bada smartphones Samsung expect to release this year?

A report published this month on worldwide touchscreen smartphones sales suggests Apple was in the lead in 2009 with 33.1% market share. However Nokia was closing the gap fast. When looking at the OS’s over the total smartphone market Symbian still had the greatest market share, with RIM and Apple taking second and third place. However with both Apple and Android showing huge growth, 2010 may be the year the table changes. For further comparison on the different OS’s read Part II: Smartphones War: Smartphone OS the differentiating factor.

As developers of Apps, on all platforms, the competition is seen as a good thing, with the consumers being the real winners.