The next-generation smartphone market is a three-way race between Apple’s iPhone 5, Microsoft’s Windows 8 phones and Google’s Android 4.0x-based devices

With the launch of iPhone 5, the die has been cast for an intense competition among smartphones.

With Apple’s iPhone 5 trying to re-establish its supremacy over the Android devices such as Samsung Galaxy S3 and HTC One X, it does look like Microsoft’s upcoming Windows 8 mobile phones will be the dark horse.

Though Research In Motion’s Blackberry has been aggressively marketing its smartphones in India in recent months, the global forecast for the company appears bleak in the wake of its fiscal forecast and falling market share.

Blackberry’s re-entry into the race for the best smartphone also depends on when it will launch its upgraded Blackberry OS 10.

War of ecosystems

The clash among iPhone 5, the Android flagship and the Windows 8 mobile is as much a fight among the phones as it is between the native ecosystems. Much will depend on what each of the operating systems — iOS, Android 4x (Ice Cream Sandwich 4.0 and Jelly Bean 4.1) and Microsoft Windows 8 mobile — offer for the application developers in flexibility and monetisation opportunities.

In terms of the number of devices sold and activations, Google’s Android leads the pack. Andy Rubin, the company’s senior vice-president, mobile and digital content, tweeted just two days before Apple’s iPhone 5 launch that more than 500 million Android devices had been activated worldwide so far. Android grows by close to 1.3 million devices every day.

But Android’s numbers are not necessarily an advantage because different vendors have adapted the OS differently. Not all Android devices run the same iterations of the Android OS. This poses a serious challenge to developers when it comes to reaching out to Android customers.

Apple, by virtue of having a closed loop control over the hardware and the software control of its devices, offers the best environment for application developers in both flexibility and monetisation opportunities. iTunes, as a platform to sell music and mobile apps, has set the benchmarks for others to follow.

iPhone has literally re-defined the smartphone category since its launch, and by virtue of being literally unchallenged in the tabloid PC space with iPad, Apple finds itself in a position to dictate the ways in which smart devices will influence lifestyles.

Apple costlier

However, Apple products have been costlier. The company has not focussed much on the Indian market until now. And in the absence of initiatives like the bundled pricing it offers in the U.S. and European markets, the products here are likely to remain in a niche customer segment.

Microsoft’s Windows 8 phones are likely to make a splash in India where its OEMs Samsung and Nokia have a strong presence.

Though Windows mobile phones have not made any significant impact until now, the time seems ripe to make its presence felt riding on two factors: Android-based phones might face some trouble in the wake of the U.S. court jury verdict in the Apple-Samsung patents case, and its ripple effects might be felt everywhere else; and the upcoming launch of the Windows 8 desktop OS might make the Windows 8 phones more relevant at a time when the convergence of devices across platforms is gaining traction.

Note: The infographic has been corrected for an error.

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