This story first appeared on Appolicious.com
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Despite the iPhone 4′s key new features, the battle for buyers is intensifying as several top-notch phones powered by Google’s Android mobile software are now on the market. Innovation in this arena no longer belongs only to Apple, as shoppers have a rich array of choices for phones that run apps, shoot crisp video and inform you instantly what your friends are doing.
More important, these choices come from all carriers in the U.S., not just AT&T. That carrier advantage has led to a booming first quarter for Android phone sales and product shortages are being reported by the carriers.
How is Apple responding?
New iPhone features
The iPhone 4 will offer a host of new features that should appeal to existing iPhone owners and new buyers. Primarily, the key features Apple CEO Steve Jobs announced at Monday’s World Wide Developers Conference revolve around video.
The iPhone 4 can record in high-defination video (at 720p for 30 frames per second) and includes a front-facing camera that should work nicely for video chats with the recently upgraded Skype app as well as Apple’s new FaceTime feature. At least initially, however, FaceTime will only work between two iPhone 4′s and only over Wi-Fi.
Besides the addition of the front-facing camera, the iPhone 4 has a 5-megapixel camera on the back with an LED Flash. Images can be focused by tap, while photos and videos can be geotagged. That means the digital data that comes with the image will include the location of where the image or video was taken.
Jobs also unveiled an iMovie app for the iPhone, a potentially powerful mobile editing tool that should please Spielberg wanna-bes.
What the iPhone still lacks
One iPhone 4 feature that wasn’t included: A deal with a new wireless carrier. That means phone makers like HTC, Motorola and Samsung can continue to sprinkle innovative and interesting Android products across the nation’s carriers.
While Jobs cited a study by Nielsen at the company’s World Wide Developer conference that shows the iPhone leading Android phones 28 percent to 19 percent in market share, he left out that Android phones outsold the iPhone in the first quarter. There’s a good reason why. There are now dozens of them.
Top Android alternatives
One new Android phone comes with big and beautiful screen, the 4.3-inch HTC Evo (Sprint, $199) and another model is exceptionally quick, the HTC Incredible (Verizon, $199). Other phones, such as several models from Motorola and its innovative MotoBlur software, tap into the social networking craze that has captivated the nation in the last several years.
These phones are doing well in the marketplace too. According to a Wall Street Journal report, the HTC Incredible is on back order at Verizon and customers wanting new models won’t get them until June 28. Meanwhile, several Sprint stores reported long lines when the HTC Evo was introduced on June 4th, with shortages in some markets.
The Evo, which runs on the Android 2.1 operating system, is a very desirable phone and includes some features found on the new iPhone 4 and some that are not.
The Evo has an 8-megapixel camera (better than the iPhone 4′s 5 megapixels) and includes Sprint’s mobile “hotspot” application so you can use the Evo to connect a laptop to Sprint’s network. That last bit is called tethering, a feature the new iPhone is expected to have but Jobs didn’t mention during his keynote. The Evo has a front-facing camera, like the new iPhone 4.
Like the iPhone 4, the Evo shoots video in 720p high definition. Combined with the faster upload speeds, I was able to upload small videos to YouTube from the road. Bigger videos did have trouble with uploads, however, and worked best when in a Wi-Fi zone.
There are potential drawbacks with the Evo, however.
In my tests with the Evo across Chicago, the 4G connection was unpredictable. The phone would switch from 4G to 3G to even slower speeds as I walked down the block in my neighborhood. That pattern repeated itself as I used the phone across the city. However, at home, the Evo recognized my home Wi-Fi network with ease, just as other Android phones do consistently well.
Another issue is battery life. The Evo will use the battery faster than existing iPhones — which aren’t noted for their long charges — and certainly faster than the iPhone 4, if Steve Jobs’ claims are true. If you buy the Evo, make sure you leave room in your budget for an extra charging device.
The big-screened Evo even comes with a kickstand, perhaps a first for a mobile phone. This is a terrific feature for watching media on the phone. Of course, a kickstand by itself will not scare Apple or buyers who really want an iPhone, but it’s the type of useful feature that can be found on several Android phones. And increasingly, Android phones are becoming much more useful.