Mobile phone operating systems are like sporting teams for geeks. You pick a side, invest in the paraphernalia that announces your allegiances and spend your free time shouting at the referee (or online forums, as it were). At the moment, the entire Android fanbase is salivating at the arrival of the platform’s new star player, the Samsung Galaxy S II.
If you believe everything you read on the Internet (and you shouldn’t), the Galaxy S II is the champion of a new age for smartphones, sent to destroy the iPhone in an epic battle of which ballads will be sung for generations to come. It comes packing some serious specs - a dual core 1.2GHz processor, HSPA+ for super fast data speeds and quite possibly the most stunning screen ever placed on a mobile phone. But specs alone don’t tell the whole story.
Despite the fact that Android now accounts for 36 per cent of all smartphones sold, it has only managed to reach that milestone thanks to the operating system being placed on hundreds of phones at all price points. Comparatively, Apple only has 3.9 per cent of the global market, but seeing as how that’s based on a single handset, the overall operating system market share figures don’t reflect the success of individual phones.
The fact that the same operating system is stretched across such a variety of handsets means that ultimately, Android isn’t a universal experience. It gets fragmented depending on specifications, what version of the operating system is running, and even what mobile carrier you use. Upgrading the OS is also an uncertainty, with telcos responsible for when a phone will get updated.
The Samsung Galaxy S II has only just gone on sale in Australia but it’s already proving to be a huge success globally, having sold a million units in its first month on sale in South Korea. Samsung has claimed it expects to sell about 10 million units by the end of the year. While that may not compare with the 14 million iPhones Apple sold in the first quarter of 2011, it certainly makes the Galaxy S II the biggest and baddest player in an incredibly strong team of high-end Android phones.
But just like in real sports, what matters isn’t who wins, but how the game is played. With the most impressive specs and one of the sleekest designs on the market, the Galaxy S II is going to be one of those players that supporters from all teams can admire, even if they have to do it in secret. It won’t kill the iPhone, but then again, it doesn’t have to.
Nick Broughall is the former editor of Gizmodo and an expert in the consumer and retail spaces