Based on what we’ve seen, Apple still has the best platform, with the most impressive hardware, best app store, and new features like video recording and “find my lost phone on a map.” If we had to buy one phone this summer, it’d be the 32 GB iPhone 3G S.
But in the mobile industry, having the best platform is only part of the battle. Distribution is just as important, and since Apple is still only with AT&T, rivals like BlackBerry maker RIM (RIMM) and Palm (PALM) can still sell a lot of gadgets.
Because of the $99 iPhone, Apple will almost certainly sell more iPhones this summer than it did a year ago, and could outsell RIM. But don’t necessarily count out RIM as the overall unit sales winner — its BlackBerry Curve outsold the iPhone last quarter, and it could come close again. And Verizon — now bigger than AT&T — could start shipping some other new BlackBerry devices soon, such as a new Storm or a mystery device that includes both a touchscreen and a full QWERTY keyboard.
Meanwhile, Nokia (NOK) will have a very hard time selling its new N97 in the U.S. for an unsubsidized $700. And while more Google (GOOG) Android phones are on their way, until Android phones are available beyond T-Mobile, they’re going to have a hard time competing in sales.
Here’s the lineup.
Apple iPhone 3G S, iPhone 3G. (iPhone 3G S ships on Jun. 19.) Device cost: $99 (8 GB), $199 (16 GB), $299 (32 GB). Service: AT&T (U.S., varies abroad). Service cost: Minimum $70/month in the U.S., plus SMS fees.
Apple has the best app platform, the best user interface, and the best hardware. And now at $99, it’s going to be hard for competitors to match the iPhone in price, too.
Palm Pre. Device cost: $199 (8 GB, after $100 mail-in rebate). Service: Sprint Nextel. Service cost: Minimum $70/month, includes SMS fees.
Palm is the newcomer, which means its webOS is newer than many of its competitors, and its hardware is impressive. All-around a very good device. But its app store is weak — less than 20 apps — and it’s bolted to Sprint Nextel, which is much smaller than AT&T and Verizon.
RIM BlackBerry Storm. Device cost: $199 (8 GB card included, also buy one, get one free). Service: Verizon Wireless. Service cost: Minimum $70/month, plus SMS fees.
Verizon’s flagship came in no. 3 last quarter in the U.S. after the BlackBerry Curve and iPhone 3G. That’s a testament to how huge a distributor Verizon is, and how badly people want smartphones — no matter how crappy the Storm’s click screen is. Developer platform is OK.
Google Android ‘G2’, a.k.a. HTC Magic. Ships: Unknown. Device cost: Unknown, assuming $99 to $199. Service: T-Mobile. Service cost: Unknown, assuming $60-70/month, plus SMS fees.
The follow-up to the G1, this new HTC device is slimmer than the bulky G1 and ditches its full QWERTY keyboard for an on-screen virtual keyboard. Android is starting to get more developers interested, but still relatively few apps compared to the iPhone.
Nokia N97. Device cost: $699 MSRP (unsubsidized, unlocked). $603 at Amazon. Service: Unlocked. Service cost: Depends on provider. Assuming $70/month at AT&T, plus SMS fees.
Nokia has a huge following overseas, so this could be a big seller in Europe or parts of Asia. But because Nokia hasn’t found a U.S. carrier to sell it — and more importantly, subsidise it — it’s not going to be a major player here. AT&T, the most logical fit, has its hands full with the iPhone.
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