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Who’s making your next phone?

Handset manufacturers have a great deal to do with your mobile communications experience, especially on Android handsets where these guys are essentially designing your included UI.  We’ve seen a great deal of different handset manufacturers enter the fray but there are a few that stick out as primaries in the growing age of smartphones, while others are becoming less and less relevant.  I’m going to lay out how I see the hardware market changing in the past two to three years and see what you guys think of my evaluations.

I’m going to do this by individual manufacturer and I’ll start with my own.  HTC has been one of the major players in smartphone manufacturing from the beginnings of all current platforms and even some defunct OS’s as well.  They have always had a solid formula that combines solid and reliable hardware with mediocre cameras and excellent GPS locking.  Some have argued against HTC’s battery life which isn’t amazing however I haven’t had the same experience myself.  They have never been known for drastic variations on style and hardware except for the inclusion of keyboards, tilting screens and the occasional stereo speaker setup (i.e. the Surround) and don’t stray far from this formula.  HTC used to have the best screens in the business, but has fallen behind in the wake of AMOLED technology, thanks in part to Samsung.

Samsung is a mixed batch.  They have great potential and a lot of underlying technological benefits.  Specifically they own a pretty wide swath of AMOLED manufacturing which has pretty much locked most handset manufacturers out of using this tech, because of Sammies booming handset business.  The success of their Galaxy S line have their lines pumping out screens like copyright infringement lawsuits.  Samsung has taken the Iphone approach and limits their hardware variation more than anyone else I’ve seen.  They bank on the success of one hardware model which makes the margins higher and the prices cheaper.  Not a bad method in the grand scheme of things.  Samsung’s major problem is fixing issues that arise after the handsets are actually manufactured.  GPS issues have plagued a number of handsets, including the Captivate; AT&T’s first solid Android offering that was marred by these issues.  Samsung isn’t the most transparent company when talking about hardware fixes or OS updates which is very frustrating for the end user.  However, if Samsung can manage to produce a handset without any serious faults that need attention, like the Galaxy line, then they can be among the best smartphones one can own.

This leads me to the last of what I see as the major handset manufacturers; Motorola.  Now in Google’s pocket, Motorola has had a wild history of ups and downs as a handset maker.  The success of their Razr line, in the pre-smartphone world helped fill their coffers and keep them chugging along while they weren’t really doing dick else until Android hit Verizon.  Motorola subsequently released a marketing onslaught on everyone’s face and confused the hell out of the general public with their model names and OS choices.  Droid, Android, whatever.  These terms are essentially lost on the general public and is cause of much confusion with these devices.  Motorola has a track record that includes good design materials, good battery life (for an Android set), and a host of accessories that truly encompass and eclipse ass kickery in every form.  The utility of their home and car docks have impressed me from their first Droid handset.  Since then they have also diverged and have a great range of hardware options and offerings including screen size and hardware keyboards.  With all they are doing properly they have still managed to suck like a rent short prostitute, holding a dyson vacuum, being pulled into a quasar on their handset reliability.  Random restarts, force closes, and Motoblur which is essentially a UI abortion poster child, have marred their other successes entirely.  As of now I see Motorola existing on the strength of their marketing campaign and consumer identification with the term Droid.

Other companies have faded into obscurity and shame like LG, Kyocera, Pantech, and others who have played an integral part in the phone market at some point or another.  On our current horizon of smartphone domination, I don’t see a way for many of these manufacturers to break back into the market without drastic and dire changes in the market or these companies innovations.  Another company that many of you have been holding onto and were just waiting for this article to be over so you can say “BUT YOU FORGOT NOKIA!!!”.  No I didn’t.  They fall under the same shame and obscurity as LG and Pantech.  Oh but they make more phones than anyone in the world, blah, blah blah, partnership with Microsoft.  It all doesn’t really matter.  If tomorrow the automobile maker Geo, yes maker of such fine motor transport as the Metro and the Tracker, suddenly released some press saying that they’ve teamed up with Aston-Martin, Maserati, and Mercedes-Benz to release a new line of luxury vehicles it wouldn’t be relevant at all.  You can put as much lipstick and lights around a big steaming pile of shit, but it just makes it a weird looking, irritating, and epileptic seizure inducing shit pile.  Not something worth having.  Will they make a good handset?  They might.  Will most people care?  Not really.  They’re going to be getting another HTC or another Samsung windows phone.  That is about all there is to it.  They don’t even offer anything compelling as at least the Dell Venue Pro did.  It was the only handset with its hardware feature set and they made decent inroads into being a viable handset manufacturer.  Nokia has no standout hardware when compared against the backdrop of other quality Windows Phone handsets or whatever OS they decide to cram into their phones.  And I also didn’t talk about Apple because seriously, who cares?

So who is going to be making your next mobile handset?  Is it amongst these major manufacturers, or are you delving into obscurity because of some random feature or promise of awesome?  Is it because one of these other handset makers took a giant crap on your life when you needed or wanted something simple like an OS update or a GPS that wasn’t too busy sucking to tell you where you are currently located?  Let us know in the comments below.