Apple may have enjoyed steamroller success with the iPhone 4S and iOS 5 in the past week, but Android's own launch party is right around the corner.
Apple must be feeling pretty confident with how its iOS ecosystem is charting right now. Despite receiving an initially cool response
for its new iPhone 4S
, pre-orders for the device exceeded a stunning one million handsets within the first 24 hours
, and estimates suggest launch weekend sales may have involved Apple offloading up to an additional three million units.
Add to this the excitement being generated by the 4S's new Siri voice assistant feature, plus Apple's long lead on its rivals in the tablet market
, and the company looks virtually unassailable in the mobile space. Almost.
The biggest competition to the Apple mobile juggernaut comes in the form of Google's answer to iOS, Android, and specifically "Ice Cream Sandwich", the next major version of the mobile operating system, which is scheduled to be unveiled this week in Hong Kong when Samsung launches its new Galaxy Nexus smartphone (aka Nexus Prime, the first device to run the new OS getup).
Google and Samsung postponed the launch previously out of deference to the passing of Steve Jobs, but both will be eager to get on with the business of unveiling their new flagships, especially having witnessed Apple's spectacular, unhindered run within the timeframe.
The most significant feature of the new Android release is that this will be the first release of the OS designed to run specifically across both smartphones and tablets. Samsung's original Galaxy Tab, the first major tablet competitor to the iPad, ran Android 2.2 (Froyo), but since then most high-end Android tablet devices have featured 3.0+ (Honeycomb), while the current latest smartphone format on offer is 2.3+ (Gingerbread).
By unifying the forked streams, Android app developers will more easily be able to target both form factors, meaning Google may have a better chance of competing against iOS -- particularly in the tablets arena, where Honeycomb device sales have not made huge inroads
In addition to this, Google hasn't given away too much about what we can expect to see in Ice Cream Sandwich, but the inevitable pre-release snippets and leaks to have surfaced on the net report a slightly tweaked Honeycomb-informed user interface (including a new launcher and app folder) plus a new panorama functionality in the built-in camera app. Updates to the apps for Gmail, Google+ and Google Music (still not yet available in Australia) are expected, but as to whether any killer new features are included, we'll just have to wait until Wednesday to see.
Of course, following Samsung's recent loss to Apple -- whereby the latter was awarded an interim junction in the Federal Court of Australia preventing Samsung selling its Galaxy Tab 10.1 until a full hearing (likely to take place next year) -- the fate of all Android devices in Australia may well be called into question. Expert legal blog FOSS Patents' Florian Mueller has suggested
the injunction reasoning may contain far-reaching implications for Google's platform beyond Samsung's tablet in question:
"After today's decision, I believe no company in the industry [will] be able to launch any new Android-based touchscreen product in Australia anytime soon without incurring a high risk of another interim injunction. The two patents on which today's ruling is based aren't Galaxy Tab 10.1-specific at all. They will affect all Android-based smartphones and tablet computers, across all vendors... Google's cavalier attitude toward other companies' intellectual property is starting to backfire in seriously harmful ways."
We won't know more on that matter until the hearing takes place, but in the meantime, shocking as it might seem, if Mueller is right there's a very real chance Australians won't even get to experience what Google introduces in Hong Kong this week...