By Ryan Kamauff
Todays’ mobile landscape is filled with a vast number of options to the uninitiated. But careful examination can easily whittle down the number of options to just a few phones. But here’s the brutal truth; now is just not a good time to buy a phone. In a few months it will be different, but that is because the best time to buy a phone is when it is brand new. Smartphones have a lifecycle of around 2 years. This means, at best, your phone will be supported by the OEM for 2 years after release, after which it will fall by the wayside and lose a great amount of functionality. If you purchase a phone when it is 6 (or more) months old, your device will only be supported for a year an half, and maybe not even that. That is if you’re lucky, the phone may only get minor updates (if any).
Currently in the Android world, there are three top phones. The Nexus 4 (sold by Google and T-Mobile). The Nexus 4 is perfect for those who do not like contracts, but is lacking LTE on anything but T-Mobile’s network. The HTC One, which will be released on AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile. This device has front facing speakers (a first for a smartphone) and a bevy of aesthetic advances. It is a solid metal device with a curving back and quite attractive. However, it ships with the latest version of Sense, which I can’t stand. Samsung is keying up to deliver their Galaxy S 4, the latest in their incredibly successful series of Android smartphones. The S4 offers either four or eight cores, a 4.99″ screen and a bevy of unique Samsung apps and accessories. The Apple iPhone 5 is already over six months old, and losing luster compared to some of these top devices. iOS 7 is on the way, and has been promised to be a great step forward.
There are some alternate phones you could purchase, either BlackBerry’s Z10 (formed much like the iPhone 5 but without the huge app category or developer support) or Nokia’s Lumia 920, running Windows Phone 8. Both of these devices have their drawbacks, developer support is obviously one, but their immature operating systems are just as unattractive. Both of these devices do show promise, but buying into either ecosystem is unwise at this time (in my opinion). Windows OS is gaining (up to around 4% in the US), while Android is selling over 51%. BlackBerry does not even have a single percentage of marketshare.
Right now there are a variety of devices out there, but most are awaiting a refresh. Rumors of a “new” Nexus 4 are swirling around this month’s Google I/O conference (one with LTE and maybe a little more memory). Johnny Ive of Apple has stated the the updates on iOS 7 will be unveiled soon. The Galaxy S4 and HTC One are worth purchasing, but the question that remains is “will they receive Android 5 or 4.3 (Key Lime Pie)?” And, if so, will it be with any alacrity? The iPhone 5 is still a quality device, but it is nearing the end of lifecycle, while it will receive the iOS 7 update, it will start to be sluggish, and my not possess some of the qualities of the next generation iPhone (size, speed, NFC or wireless charging capabilities).
So in May of 2013, there are no excellent smartphone choices. The HTC One and Galaxy S4 are clearly ahead of the pack, but without stock Android and regular updates, they may limp to the finish line. The US
has a smartphone problem – the carriers have far too much control over any non-Apple/Google devices, and that control cripples phones. Apple’s iPhone 5 was a little underwhelming at release, and will be refreshed shortly anyways. And well, the other guys? Not really worth talking about, neither has the maturity or application ubiquity than Android and iOS offer, and what are smartphones about if not apps?