With Google's Android 2.2 update coming soon to several Android mobile devices, it's time for Apple to really be concerned about its chief competitor. The new version of Android is arguably the most important since the mobile operating system's launch, and it delivers functionality that could rival Apple's iOS 4. Now the real battle between Android and iOS has started. And with signal reception problems spoiling the iPhone 4's debut, Apple might want to bear in mind that success today doesn't guarantee continued success tomorrow. Here are 10 reasons why Apple should worry about Android 2.2.
1. Speed and Performance
According to Google, Android 2.2 will deliver far better performance and improved speed in native applications running on the software. That's good to hear. One of Android's biggest problems is that its native apps are still much slower than those in iOS 4. With the help of Android 2.2, Apple could lose that advantage.
2. Flash Support
The addition of Adobe Flash to Android OS 2.2 is a major upgrade for Google's mobile platform. Unlike Apple, which contends that Flash will hurt its customers more than help them, Google is going to allow its users to access the vast majority of video and games on the Web that they can't view on iOS 4 devices. There is still some doubt as to whether or not Flash will work all that well on Android, but if it does, and users don't experience any security problems when using it, then Google will have a major advantage over Apple.
3. Better Exchange Support
A key success factor in the smartphone market is support for Microsoft Exchange. And as much as it surely pains Google to support a platform that its archrival offers, the company had no choice. In Android 2.2, calendar synchronization, remote wipe, auto-discovery and several other Exchange-related features will be added to the platform. Previously, Apple had a big lead over Google when it came to Exchange. All that will change with Android 2.2.
4. WiFi Hot Spot
When Motorola introduced the Droid X, the company said users would be able to access the device's built-in WiFi hot spot, thanks to support in Android 2.2. Up to five devices can connect to Verizon's 3G network through the Droid X's 3G Mobile Hotspot. Even though it costs an additional $20, it certainly makes the service far more viable than AT&T's iPhone tethering rate for the same price. Being able to share a 3G Web connection with up to five different people will undoubtedly come in handy at Starbucks or in a professional setting when a team needs a Web connection. And it can't be overlooked as a key component in Android's value to customers.
5. An Improved Android Market
The Android Market is quickly becoming integral to the success of Android OS. In Android OS 2.2, the store will be updated a bit to allow users to make batch upgrades to their apps. Google has also added several APIs to the developer SDK (software development kit), which should improve the applications that make their way into the store. Even better, users can install apps on removable media such as SD cards, so they can bring their favorite programs with them to new phones. That's a nice option to have.
6. A Better Browser
According to Google, it will be offering an improved browser in Android 2.2 that will help users surf the Web far more effectively than before. The update is so good that some users who have worked with it claim the mobile Chrome browser built into Android 2.2 is faster than mobile Safari on Apple's iPhone. If consumers generally find that to be true, Google could be well on its way to challenging Apple. Although the browser is just one component in making a smartphone buying decision, it's an important one. More and more people are relying on the Internet to get work done. If they can enjoy a better browsing experience on Android 2.2 than on iOS 4, they might opt for Android-based devices more often.
7. Support from Major Phones
Android 2.2 is available to Google Nexus One users first. But over the next few months, the software will debut on all major Android phones, including the HTC Droid Incredible and the Motorola Droid X. That's important. As Apple offers just two versions of the iPhone on store shelves, Google has the luxury of partnering with vendors that deliver dozens of products to consumers. Customers attracted by Android 2.2 will have a slew of options available to them with which to replace the iPhone. As nice as it is to have the iPhone 4, Apple should become increasingly concerned as its top competition adds Android 2.2 support.
8. It's What Vendors Have Waited for
Although Google has been successful in attracting vendors to the Android platform, the company's software has so far been inadequate compared with Apple's iOS. And hardware vendors, knowing that Apple is heavily entrenched in the smartphone space, have decided to stay out until there was an operating system available that could compete. With Android 2.2, all those companies, such as Dell, that have stayed out of the mobile OS mix now have a reason to jump in. Google's latest OS version is the best competitor yet to iOS 4, and it's putting Apple on notice. Look for more Android-based devices over the next year.
9. The Enterprise Solution?
Google keeps making the point that with Android 2.2, its mobile operating system is ready for enterprise use. Although that might be a little far-fetched, since the company is only now starting to make a push for corporate customers, there is reason to believe that Android OS is more enterprise-friendly than ever. By appealing to enterprises, Google gains another avenue of growth. That doesn't necessarily mean that enterprises will ditch the BlackBerry OS and opt for Google's solution over Apple's, but with a viable alternative to iOS 4 on the market, companies have more to choose from. Apple can't be happy about that.
10. Design Improvements
Android is getting a slight face-lift. The design changes won't be drastic, but the tweaks should help the operating system match Apple's iOS 4 design just a little better. For Apple, Android's improvements could prove worrisome. Although iOS 4 still has a better design, Android is catching up. Now the pressure is on Apple to stay ahead.