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Android Might "Captivate" Disgruntled iPhone 4 Users


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Between the antenna "death grip", battery life, proximity sensor, and sound quality issues being experienced by many customers, the iPhone 4 has faced its share of challenges in the two weeks it's been available. With the Android-based Samsung Captivate set to launch July 18, business professionals finally have another smartphone comparable to the iPhone to consider as an alternative.

The iPhone 4 is the most successful product launch in the history of Apple--selling an estimated 1.7 million devices in just the first few days. For Apple, though, it may also be the biggest failure of a launch--as both the iPhone 4, and the iOS4 software that drives it, have come under heated criticism for a variety of issues.

The apparent quality control issues are uncharacteristic of Apple, which might explain Apple's stubborn denial and awkward handling of customer complaints. Apple public relations and support technicians are as used to Apple products "just working" as the rest of the world, so the obvious conclusion must be that the customer is doing something wrong.

Just hold the phone different and only make calls in a dark room while the device is plugged in to the charger. Voila! Problem solved. Or, business professionals unhappy with the iPhone 4 can turn the device in for a full refund within 30 days of purchase.

The problem is--aside from reverting to the iPhone 3GS which still might experience some issues as a function of iOS4--AT&T does not have any smartphones equivalent to the iPhone. Certainly AT&T has a diverse collection of both feature phones and smartphones, however AT&T seems to have intentionally shied away from any handset that might sap iPhone sales.

That is--until now. Until earlier this year, AT&T did not offer any Android smartphones, and its first offering--the Motorola Backflip--was lame in comparison to the cutting edge devices available from competing carriers. With the HTC Aria, AT&T moved a little closer, but still didn't quite get there. When the Samsung Captivate joins the portfolio, though, AT&T will finally have an Android smartphone worthy of consideration alongside the iPhone.

The Captivate is an Android 2.1 smartphone with a 1GHz processor, and a 4-inch AMOLED touchscreen display that lacks the resolution of the iPhone 4 Retina display, but provides much better viewing in variable lighting conditions. The 16Gb memory is expandable to 32Gb, and it has a 5 megapixel camera capable of recording 720p HD video.

While the device itself seems relatively on par with the iPhone 4, the Android Market has only about a quarter of the apps available as the Apple App Store. Companies that are already invested in the iPhone culture will have to factor in the cost of replacing apps with Android equivalents, as well as any additional costs to integrate Android into the infrastructure, and provide support for users with Android smartphones.

I doubt that the Captivate poses any significant risk to the iPhone 4, but it does provide a viable alternative to the iPhone 4, and the expanding portfolio of Android smartphones available from AT&T mean that Apple can no longer rest purely on its device exclusivity.

Apple is going to have to manage customer expectations and continue to raise the bar to compete with the Android invasion.

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