The battle between Apple and Google for the lion’s share of the smartphone market is due to heat up with the arrival of a new phone aimed squarely at taking the online search engine group’s Android mobile platform to masses.
The arrival of the HTC Wildfire, in the UK in July, will also come hard on the heels of of a new version of the iPhone in San Francisco. Leaked reports of the “iPhone 4G” suggest it is designed for the “high-end” smartphone market.
Certainly, Apple’s share of the mobile phone market will be eroded as more and more devices are launched that use Google’s platform.
Despite a weak start when the first device went on sale more than a year after Apple’s iPhone had launched, Android has gained real traction in the last few months in its battle with Apple. In the first quarter of the year, phones with Android outsold Apple’s iPhone in the US for the first time. The market for phones that can send emails and access the web is still dominated by the BlackBerry. But Android is closing the gap. In the UK, almost one in every five smartphones uses Android.
Google is expected to unveil the latest version of Android at a two-day event in California starting on Wednesday. Previous iterations of Android have been named after pastries, the new 2.2 version is called “froyo”, or frozen yoghurt.
The rise of Android has been helped by the recent release of the HTC Desire, which has been favourably compared with the iPhone and lauded by critics as better than Google’s own-branded Nexus One device, Android devices have been aimed at the same, expensive, segment of the smartphone market as the iPhone. The HTC Wildfire, in contrast, is expected to be free in the UK on monthly contracts priced at about GBP20, making it available to a much wider audience.
The Wildfire, with a 3.2 inch touchscreen, is smaller than the Nexus One and Desire, which have 3.7 inch screens, but has the same 5 megapixel camera. Its processor is slower than the Desire and Nexus One.
HTC has placed its HTC Sense user interface on the Wildfire, but with some additions. The phone aggregates all the different ways in which a person can communicate and pulls them into one place — rather like Vodafone’s 360 service. So Wildfire users can see all their interactions — from text and email, to Facebook and Twitter updates — through that individual’s contact card in the phone’s address book.
The HTC Wildfire also allows users to recommend applications — or “apps” — that they have downloaded onto their device, to their friends, either by sending them a text or email with a link to the 'app' on the Android marketplace, or by broadcasting details of the “app” on Twitter and Facebook.