Galaxy S5, Nokia 'Windroid,' BlackBerry Q20: The hype hits the fan

Despite the hubbub, Samsung, Nokia, and Microsoft aren't moving the needle much in their new smartphones

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Nokia used to be a leader in poor countries, but its market share has been eroding for several years due to AOSP devices. I get the "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" strategy -- especially the adoption of a Microsoft-like user interface and services to ready people for Windows Phone when they're rich enough -- but it's a very tough game that is not Microsoft's strong suit. Still, as an interim measure, it could provide some breathing space for Microsoft to make Windows Phone compelling so that cheapo Asian manufacturers start using it in place of Android.

But Microsoft needs to remember one reason Asian manufacturers use AOSP instead of Android: Google's services are banned in several key countries like China and rarely used in other nations where the privacy-mining business model doesn't yet yield enough revenue. Microsoft's desire to put its services on everything is similar to Google's, and it could face the same barriers if the goal is to mine users' data for cash.

Regardless, there's a key fact about the Nokia X you should know: You won't be able to buy one. They won't be sold in developed countries like the United States. They're designed for "second world" markets, like Eastern Europe and Latin America, where the merchant class can't afford a "first world" device like an iPhone or Galaxy S, but wants more than a basic feature phone like the Nokia Asha. Those people can afford the $125 Nokia X -- or the better AOSP phones.

Except for the rich, the Third World will remain focused on devices like the Asha, Xiaomi's lineup, and perhaps Firefox OS-based devices, several more of which running an improved Firefox version were also announced at Mobile World Conference.

BlackBerry, Tizen, and Windows Phone: Struggling mobile platforms still struggling

The Mobile World Congress also served as a showcase for struggling platforms desperate to get attention and, even moreso, market share.

Thus, Microsoft released some details on its pending Windows Phone 8.1 upgrade (nothing major there, other than simplified security features and Microsoft dumping its own Bing Maps for Nokia's Here Maps) and announced several hardware partnerships to demonstrate commitment to its platform. Problem is, those partnerships are not new, and their "announcement" is an old marketing ploy of repeating yourself when you have nothing to say in hopes people won't remember it from the first time.

Then there's Tizen, the open source mobile OS that has lurched from Nokia to Intel to Samsung in the last four years. Yet again, no smartphones or tablets run it. But Samsung announced its use in a new version of the Galaxy Gear smart watch to be released this spring. The original Gear smart watch, which ran Android, was released just five months ago, to jeering reviews and extremely poor sales; Samsung even got caught grossly inflating the purported sales. That Gear is now dead, and the new Tizen Gear awaits.

The new Gear isn't out yet, and Samsung has not shared much about it, but it's still limited to working with only Samsung Galaxy devices, and its main purpose seems to be as a fitness monitor (like I said, health monitoring is the current fad). There are of course many available competitors that work with a wide range of Android and iOS devices. I doubt the new Gear will be any more successful than the old Gear, and it certainly won't give Tizen a boost.

Finally, there's BlackBerry. Today, the beleaguered company -- even Windows Phone now outsells it -- announced the new BlackBerry Q20 model that brings back the old models' trackpad and function keys to attract the loyalist who just can't handle a touchscreen smartphone and is using an iPhone or Android smartphone under great duress. What a sad strategy.

The truth is that those loyalists are few and far between, and they didn't buy the BlackBerry Q10, though it has the standard BlackBerry keyboard that was supposed to lure the old-timey users back to BlackBerry. Trust me, the Q20's trackpad and function keys won't accomplish that, either.

But there may be one bit of good news for BlackBerry: Ford will reportedly dump Microsoft's disliked Sync entertainment and navigation syncing service for smartphones in favor of BlackBerry's QNX. QNX is the company that BlackBerry bought several years ago so that it could use the OS as the basis for the new BlackBerry 10 OS. That hasn't worked out, but QNX continues to be a player in embedded OSes. However, Apple's two-year-old iOS in the Car effort is starting to result in cars coming to market with it, so QNX has modern competition now. It's no slam-dunk for BlackBerry here, either.

This article, "Galaxy S5, Nokia 'Windroid,' BlackBerry Q20: The hype hits the fan," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Galen Gruman's Mobile Edge blog and follow the latest developments in mobile technology at InfoWorld.com. Follow Galen's mobile musings on Twitter at MobileGalen. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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