Smartphone giants and wannabes square off

iOS and Android jockey for supremacy, while Windows Phone and BlackBerry scramble for footing

Did you catch the story this week about the 20th anniversary of the smartphone? (If not, don't miss the included video of the primitive IBM Simon Phone with a funny dig at Android at the end.)

That report made me wonder: What did the tech press write about before the clash of mobile OSes became the favorite game in town? Whatever the old game was, this week's news was dominated by the latest goings-on in the smartphone market. Those travails are easily summed up as iOS and Android are kicking ass as they jockey for supremacy, while Windows Phone and BlackBerry scramble for footing in a battle of the also-rans.

Let's start with the iPhone, where the latest numbers are going its way. Kantar Worldpanel ComTech reported that soaring iPhone 5 sales have helped make the iOS the top smartphone operating system in the United States, and IDC said enterprises are buying iPhones in droves. In fact, the IDC report projects that iPhones and Android smartphones will replace BlackBerry as the top company-purchased smartphones before this year is out. That's right: The companies that have long backed the BlackBerry over newcomers like the iPhone have finally switched.

In yet more good news for Apple, iPhone 5 cleared its last regulatory hurdle in China, opening the way for the smartphone to finally be sold in one of the world's largest markets. Apple has focused a lot on Chinese-language and services support in iOS just so it could compete there.

The way is being paved for global iOS domination, right? Not so fast. The same IDC report also points out that while companies are buying iPhones, Android devices still by far top the list of smartphones purchased directly by workers. Android remains the kingpin when it comes to worldwide smartphone sales as well, with users snapping up Android products five times more often than they chose Apple iOS devices.

If Facebook gets its way, those Android sales numbers will get an upward nudge. According to reports in Business Insider and TechCrunch, Facebook is trying to force its employees to use Android devices. It seems that Facebook's Android app is so awful and employees so wedded to their iPhones, Facebook is forcing them to "eat the droidfood" as a way to get developers to take seriously the task of fixing the Facebook Android app.

While the big two mobile OSes roll along, the picture isn't so rosy in Redmond. News this week that Windows Phone 7.8 isn't coming until next year has displeased some users because, the story notes, "as early adopters of the OS, they've been abandoned by Microsoft and will soon be abandoned by developers who won't bother releasing software for the older platform." Windows Phone 7.8 was supposed to provide many of the new capabilities to current Windows Phone customers, whose Windows Phone 7 smartphones can't run the new Windows Phone 8 released last week.

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