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Superslim iPhone 4 enough to fend off Android?

Impressive new display, but no game changers

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Other claims include better battery life, at around seven hours of 3G talk or 300 hours of standby; and a three-axis gyroscope that ties together the gyro, accelerometer and GPS for six-axis motion sensing. This is geared to gaming.

Poignantly enough, Jobs' planned demonstration of the iPhone 4's clear display of web pages was thwarted by network congestion - not, to AT&T's undoubted relief, on the much criticized 3G system, but instead on the conference hall Wi-Fi. The hitch, though understandable given the number of Wi-Fi devices in the venue, was a rarity at one of Apple's famously well executed events, and may be taken as symbolic - of a company in its prime in the mobile market, but susceptible to previously unimaginable errors and attacks.

These, of course, come mainly from Android, though the emergence of Symbian^3 and Windows Phone 7 later in the year may also provide new challenges. For now, the Google community is starting to produce handsets that do not just mimic the iPhone experience, but sometimes exceed it, often at a lower price point and with greater freedom for users and developers.

This week, HTC succeeded in generating almost Apple-like levels of positive publicity for its EVO WiMAX/CDMA/Android superphone, which went on sale to become Sprint's best ever launch. Admittedly, this was not quite comparable to AT&T's iPhone - the previous record holders included Palm Pre - but added to HTC Desire's bestseller status in many European markets, Apple must know it has to keep a wary eye on Android. Devices like HTC's high ends, and new Android phones from Motorola (Droid Shadow/Milestone XT720) and Samsung (Galaxy S) will beat iPhone 4 on most hardware metrics such as processor speed and camera, and are starting to deliver similarly friendly user experiences like HTC Sense.

According to new research from Nielsen, between the fourth quarter of 2009 and the first quarter of this year, Android and iPhone each grew their market share by two per cent in the US, while BlackBerry - which has yet to refresh its platform - lost a similar percentage. RIM remained ahead of the US smartphone game, with 35 per cent total market share, after iPhone on 28 per cent and Android on nine per cent - still way behind, but in international markets, it is closing on the two big proprietary systems even more quickly than in its home territory. The main concern for Apple in the Nielsen data will be that Android users tend to be younger than its own, with 55 per cent under the age of 34 - and the 18-30 age range is acknowledged to be the most important growth demographic in the advanced economies this year, as the smartphone spreads out into the mass market. How far iPhone 4 can help Apple make that transition remains to be seen, but continuing to exclude Verizon (and even Sprint) from its US addressable market is unlikely to help in the battle to fend off Android.

Copyright © 2010, Wireless Watch

Wireless Watch is published by Rethink Research, a London-based IT publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter delivers in-depth analysis and market research of mobile and wireless for business. Subscription details are here.

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