Amid all the hullaballoo surrounding the iPhone 4S, it’s been easy to forget about Android and its impending return to the top of the tech headlines.
The new version of the OS had been set to be unveiled just under a fortnight ago, but remained under-wraps owing to the death of Steve Jobs.
However, Samsung, the makers of the first Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) handset, the Nexus Prime, will now reveal the device and OS in Hong Kong on Wednesday.
The arrival of the new device has already been presaged by Google’s Larry Page revealing that Android activations now sit at a colossal 190 million.
And you can bet that if ICS delivers, that number will be north of 200 million before the year is out.
That news will have been greeted with some annoyance at Apple, although it will be tempered by the fact that the iPhone 4S shifted a million during its first day on pre-order and that Cupertino’s own earnings call this week will reveal impressive iPhone and general iOS sales.
But Apple has plenty to fret about when it comes to ICS. In terms of pure tech, Google’s updated operating system is more advanced, with 0-lick NFC being trialed and plans for Kinect-like gaming.
Of course, these are not mass market functions, but they do show that when it comes to smartphone innovation, Google is most certainly leading the way. The concern for Apple is that this trend is translating into epic sales, which iOS just can’t keep up with, largely as it’s only available on a single handset.
It’s not just new tech that will have Apple worried. Plans to unify the Android operating system and give it a more consistent design, as well as a central framework for devs to create apps across tablets and smartphones will put it on a much more equal footing with iOS, hopefully making the use of Android devices more seamless.
This can only be good for consumers looking to use more than one Google-backed device and could go some way to tapering the iPad’s seemingly unassailable lead in the smartphone space.
But if Google does want to ensure it gets into a position to become every bit as culturally significant as iOS, then it must get ICS out onto phones quickly. The Nexus Prime will be great, no doubt, but will not sell the same volumes as the iPhone 4S.
Therefore ICS needs to be on other high-end Android phones by the end of the year. This will be a test for HTC, Samsung and the like, and one which they all must pass.
Google needs to impress on them the importance of having ICS out in the wild and working. Seeing off Apple depends on it. If it manages a quick roll out, Apple has plenty to fret about.