The past 12 months saw most, if not all, major electronics manufacturers work feverishly to bring devices to the booming smartphone market. Some experienced unprecedented highs, while others failed to taste success.
Components used within devices were a significant step up from the hardware of 2009, with 1GHz processors, 512MB RAM, HD screens and multiple megapixel cameras all becoming standard features in high-end devices.
The choice of operating system and applications also played a crucial role in the battle to win over customers, with the Apple and Android platforms still proving to be ahead of BlackBerry, Symbian and Windows in terms of usability.
Android army conquers smartphone market
Android was one of the biggest success stories, exploding onto the mainstream market and becoming one of the most popular mobile operating systems. The Google-owned platform ascended the smartphone throne with help from prominent manufacturers including HTC, Motorola, Samsung and Sony Ericsson.
While the HTC-manufactured Google Nexus One was the first handset to ship with Android 2.1, sales were tepid due to the fact that Google sold the device directly through its web site for a whopping $529. Connectivity issues were also present – a theme that would arise throughout the year.
Google announced it had sold its last Nexus One in July and there was a last-minute rush by developers to get their hands on the device. Analysts believed the handset had achieved its objective of introducing Android 2.1 and driving the platform forward.
HTC cemented its reputation as the leading vendor of Android devices when it released the Desire. The handset received widespread critical acclaim, with the excellent Amoled screen and Sense user interface being the stand-out features. Its sequel, the HTC Desire HD, has since taken over the crown as best Android device on the market.
A mention must also go to the HTC Wildfire, the best mid-range device of 2010.
Despite coming to the smartphone market a little later than other manufacturers and having limited experience in the high-end market, Samsung bolted out of the blocks.
The Samsung Galaxy S sported a 4in Super Amoled display, 16GB of internal storage, micro-SD card support, Swype and a 5-megapixel camera. The handset proved phenomenally popular, shipping five million units between June and October.
Motorola was one of the first manufacturers to adopt the Android platform and it continued its resurgence by shipping a number of impressive devices in 2010, including the quirky Flipout and the very impressive water-resistant Defy. Its most recent high-end device, the Milestone 2, was also an excellent Android 2.2 device. The handset combined a great touchscreen with a physical keypad and provided a great browsing experience.
iPhone 4 goes on to major success despite critical flaw
Perhaps the most anticipated mobile handset of all time was greeted with mass hysteria upon arrival. Early adopters lined the streets to get their hands on the device and 1.7 million units flew off the shelves in three days.
The iPhone 4 introduced a number of cutting-edge features, the best of which was the crystal clear Retina display. Buoyed by its success, Apple also tried to resurrect the art of video calling through its built-in FaceTime app. However, due to users only being able to make video calls to other iPhone 4s over Wi-Fi, it didn't quite catch on.
With all the innovation the iPhone 4 brought to the smartphone market, it was all the more surprising when owners around the world started to complain of reception problems. It appeared that Apple had overlooked a significant flaw in the device and the infamous ‘Antennagate’ was born.
Apple played down the reception problems at first, blaming the issue on a software glitch. Steve Jobs even responded to an email from a user, telling him to hold the device in a different way.
When it was eventually made clear that the problem was hardware related, users were first recommended to buy a bumper to fix the problem. However, in a show of goodwill and an attempt to put an end to the PR disaster, Steve Jobs called an emergency press conference and offered users the choice of a 30-day no-quibble refund or a free bumper.
There was evidence that potential buyers had been put off by the reception woes, with Piper Jaffray reporting a 20 per cent drop in sales in the US. However, the reception issues appear a long way away now. With the release of the iOS 4.2 update giving the Apple device a number of useful enterprise functions, including enhanced device management options, it appears to be more popular with business users than ever.
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