About a year ago, Bill Gurley penned an excellent write-up called Android or iPhone ? Wrong Question, which submitted that both Google and Apple and will dominate the smartphone market while injuring innocent bystanders. With the accelerating growth spurt of Android-compatible devices and the increasing propensity of app developers to limit themselves to these two platforms, Gurley’s thesis is bearing out much like he predicted.
He also underscored a fundamental difference between the two platforms which rendered the iPhone vs. Android match-up a false debate: business model choice. This is partly playing out: the proliferation of Android devices are bringing the platform to the masses, while Apple’s integrated system and design reflects its commitment to remain at the top end of the market. However, while antennae-gate last summer may have represented a rare chink in Apple’s user experience armour, the core asset of Android, i.e. its openness, is proving to enable manufacturers that are so-inclined to aim for the coveted segment of elite consumers as well.
The handful of new high-end Android models over the past couple months are bearing witness to this. And while Motorola is trying to attain that holy grail combination of design and capability, I submit that HTC has accomplished it with its G2.
By good fortune I happened to been in the States the week the G2 was released, so I picked up an unlocked version into which I could swap my French sim card. Two months with the device now, and we’re at the point of, “where have you been all my life?” Barring a hardware mishap, I could envision keeping this phone for several years.
The G2 is the consummate business tool that fits my needs perfectly: i) a powerful platform with seamless compatibility to my Google apps, ii) a comfortable keyboard that doesn’t promote repetitive stress injury, and iii) an elegant design to boot. The first two criteria are priorities for me, while I’m admittedly less discerning on the third. Yet even my aesthetically-gifted friends that are iPhone loyalists struggle to be dismissive of its design. Paradoxically, here in Europe’s most highly-penetrated iPhone territory, carrying the G2 makes me feel like I’m “thinking more different” than the French masses: teens, execs, and even bureaucrats now seem to all have iPhones here.
That being said, I still agree that the insinuations in all the recent Android-overtaking-iPhone announcements are overdone. Just like in PCs, Apple will always retain a faithful following. It will also likely retain the ultimate edge in design and user experience.
But for the demanding consumer who preaches platform openness yet wants a slick piece of machinery, the HTC G2 comes pretty close to the best of both worlds.