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Personal impressions from 2010: events and tendencies

Frankly speaking, I am pretty skeptical about charts, rankings and best of 2010 in different areas, but I hope you can understand how difficult it is to resist the temptation and not to review the events of the year together with several devices and moves from leading companies. Subsequently, at the end of 2010 I decided to offer my own ranking of events and developments associated with mobile devices for such fans like you and I.

I will start with three companies.

Apple (happy emoticon)

You can be addicted to Apple merchandise and look up to Steve Jobs or get sincerely irritated with the Apple cult, but no matter where you stand it is impossible to deny that Apple changed the mobile phones market dramatically, while an app store is now firmly an integral part of any mobile OS. It happened several years ago, and in 2010 Apple merely perfected its know-how launched together with Apple iPhone. I am not going to praise iPhone 4, but I purchased it as a present to my girlfriend, so I had to know the model better. If earlier when asked which model to buy if the price is not a factor I could come up with a list full of smartphones and communicators together with high quality and expensive Nokia phones for calls now I can advise only three models: Samsung Galaxy S, HTC Desire with two spare batteries and Apple iPhone 4 as a high quality phone for calls.

Initially Apple created a phone, which was later turned into a cult object and now it became a personal assistant. Many call it simply an iPhone, while such terms as phone or smartphone belong to the domain of other models. I think it is a true sign of professional work on behalf of Apple?

HTC (happy emoticon)

In 2009 this Taiwanese company known a decade ago purely as a manufacturer of products for famous brands (Hewlett Packard, etc.) became a serious player. The true power of HTC came to the fore only in 2010 when Android began its dominance in earnest. Despite forecasts HTC decided not to expand its portfolio in all possible segments, but offered several handsets featuring HTC Sense. This proprietary interface is the unique selling point of HTC. It has no analogues as Nokia solutions or TouchWiZ from Samsung cannot possibly rival HTC Sense in terms of features and details.

Detailed review of HTC Sense under Android 2.1

HTC Sense made Android easy to use long before 2.1 and 2.2 were unveiled. HTC became the trailblazer followed by Google, which is the mother of the OS. There are two groups of users as to their attitude to HTC Sense. Those who have an experience with HTC Sense will never give it up belong to the first group, whereas the second comprises people who never tried HTC Sense, but prefer complaining and believe that an interface cannot be so important for a smartphone. They should rather try it and then express any opinion they have.

Microsoft (sad emoticon)

At the start of 2010 the company unveiled its new mobile OS – Windows Phone 7. In Barcelona the journalists, me including, could not express any definite feeling to this OS. It was interesting and intriguing, but looked far away last February. Windows Phone 7 seemed to have a strong potential, though raw it was... with time more negative facts emerged. No multitasking and the lack of several basic features, for example, copying text from one app to another, fixed connection between your account and the country of residence, which makes it impossible to work with an app store from any other country.

I have been using several Windows Phone 7 devices for a month. I will take my time for a review, selecting words with precision and sorting my thoughts about the OS. I am trying to look into future of WP7 to understand if Microsoft can do something about this OS, which had already stumbled upon the first version of iOS from Apple.

At the moment Windows Phone 7 has two advantages: speed of operation and unique aura. It is different from any other OS available on the market: Windows Mobile, PalmOS, Symbian, Android or anything else. WP7 has its own logic: interface structure, principles of menus and context windows (or panels) activation among other things. According to Microsoft this OS must win by offering simplicity and logic, but in fact WP7 leaves many questions unanswered, while some points are difficult to explain. Let's look at the system bar at the top of the screen, which is typical of any OS. It shows the battery level, signal quality, missed events and time. In Windows Phone 7 by default this panel is displayed for several seconds after activation and then it simply disappears. To see it again you have to tap the top side of the screen. Why developers decided to hide this thin line with the most important information and why cannot it stay active at the top? There are many similar questions to WP7.

The key question if Microsoft can improve its OS. So far we can only state that in 2010 it made a risky, but accurate move and changed its mobile OS. Will it please everybody? We shall see…

Sensor keys (sad emoticon)

Unfortunately, this trend is gaining momentum and hardware buttons disappear from bodies of phones and other mobile devices. A year and a half ago it was a feature of stylish new phones together with cutting edge communicators and smartphones for techies, but now every single manufacturer tries to put as many sensor keys as possible. There are some exceptions, but it's a pity to see how excellent devices like HTC Desire HD are mutilated beyond recognition by sensor panels, while hardware buttons on HTC HD2 were convenient and easy to use.

Another sad fact is the inability to reprogram buttons by standard means of mobile OS nowadays. This useful feature was present in Windows Mobile 5, 6 and even before, but now it is ignored by almost all companies. Apple iPhone with its single button is another issue, but Android smartphones have at least 5-6 keys and each is responsible for two actions depending on the length of your pressing.

Operation time (sad emoticon)

I guess my comments are excessive here. Some companies promise to use energy efficient platforms, which will not require any recharging for three years, but in real life… The operation time gets shorter with every coming flagship. The issue became even more urgent in 2010 when Android began to rule the world. It's a pity, but "robots" are the least energy efficient devices with the new HTC Desire HD beating all anti records. With the average load it can operate for half a day at best.

You cannot eat a cake and have it, but against the backdrop of modern solutions HTC HD2 is the record-breaking model in terms of operation time.

Large screens (happy emoticon)

Some may claim that large screens make us pay by low operation time of modern smartphones, but impressive screens with high resolution cannot be beaten.

Years before we could only dream about screens as big as the one in HP iPaq4700, but it is reality today. Do not forget its resolution into the bargain. In 2010 a dozen of smartphones was equipped with above 4″ screens:

  • HTC Desire HD
  • HTC EVO 4G
  • Samsung Galaxy S
  • Google Nexus S
  • Motorola Droid X
  • Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10
  • Toshiba TG02

Devices with large screens have many other disadvantages apart from high energy consumption. We have to mention the size, ease of soiling for such screens coupled with high risks after any large screen smartphone falls onto the pavement. At the same time courtesy of large screens and high resolutions we almost never switch to "mobile mode" during web surfing. We can easily read books by selecting an appropriate e-reader. We can watch movies without straining eyes, which is definitely good. All in all large screens are a clear advantage.

Glossy plastic (sad emoticon)

It is a true disaster. There are two Korean giants – LG and Samsung. Taken together they produce millions of handsets predominantly dressed in glossy plastic. Don't think twice, but look at a new Google Nexus S, manufactured by Samsung.

Google Nexus S. First Look

It's glossy all over and looks impressive until you touch it for the first time. Then you get something of the kind:

Luckily Nokia, SE, LG, HTC and Motorola still employ matte plastic or soft-touch materials. HTC adds metal, but Samsung favors glossy plastic and you can see it in abundance in all new handsets. I do not like this strategy, because it uses the looks of a model heavily to attract customers. You see a shiny handset in a shop window and buy it due to stylish appearance. Then you realize how easily it gets soiled and from there two roads can lead – get accustomed to dirty traces no matter how often you wash hands or carry a cloth for cleaning at all times.

App stores (happy emoticon)

The appearance of AppStore in Russia followed by Android Market where you can buy applications by using payment cards are hugely important steps for our market. A year ago we only had to get surprised when some developers blamed our country for high level of piracy in the mobile software market (and any other area as well). When users have no useful tools to purchase apps it is inevitable they will download an app for free.

I hope that the arrival of AppStore and Android Market in Russia will change the status quo. Low prices and ease of paying with a plastic card already show first results. Little by little we start purchasing apps instead of searching for cracked versions. I can only judge by my friends and acquaintances, but I hope that the ice has been already broken.

All abovementioned views represent my personal opinion and if you want to discuss these issues feel free to join our forum.

Artem Lutfullin (artem@mobile-review.com)

Published — 28 December 2010

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