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What today’s iPhone event could mean for Android

by Kristen Nicole

The long-awaited iPhone event takes place today, satisfying a curiosity that’s been building for months. While Apple has offered very few details on what will be unveiled at their Cupertino campus, it will certainly have an effect on Android. Google’s mobile OS has risen to the challenge, toppling iOS as the top operating system in many areas of the world. But the iPhone remains a premier device, setting the tone for an entire industry.

Hardware

The expectation is that the iPhone 5 will be released today, and that means an entirely new device for consumers to explore. It could feature a larger display, an improved camera, a new shape and NFC capabilities. These are, for the most part, features that help the iPhone play catchup to Android devices, especially in terms of screen size and camera capacity. And while Google’s been quite proactive with NFC integration, the technology would be an important development for the iPhone 5 as it would come standard with new handsets. Android currently has an array of devices, only some of which support NFC technology. Google may still win in the short term, as it’s been reeling-in retail and payment partners to build its NFC foundation.

Another expectation for today’s event is the release of a cheaper iPhone device, which would be similar to the iPhone 4 with minor improvements. Apple has been expanding its retail options, broadening its price points and adding new distribution partners through stores like Walmart and carriers like Verizon and Sprint. This battles two of Android’s biggest strengths: price and availability. A cheaper iPhone device means more consumers can get their hands on Apple’s flagship product, limiting Android’s appeal as a default option for buyers.

Software

We can spar all day over the specs and price points of the iPhone and array of Android devices, but the mobile industry is really headed to the cloud. Apple’s been preparing for deeper cloud integration for some time, announcing the iCloud at its WWDC event earlier this year. With a launch date this fall, iCloud aligns with today’s iPhone event, enabling Apple to further articulate its goals for cross-device support and services. Apple doesn’t have the breadth of cloud-based services that Google has, but iTunes and the App Store have become pillars in media trends, acting as a cornerstone for the personal cloud moving forward.

Android’s done a good job incorporating its web-based apps, such as Docs, Gmail, Google+ and Maps into its devices, but with iOS 5 already out on the market, Android will need to continue to improve its operating system in order to maintain a certain level of competition. Android’s Ice Cream Sandwich is rumored to release later this month or early November, delivering an enhanced platform for handsets of varying sizes, along with several other improvements. Android’s looking to standardize its OS distribution and minimize fragmentation, along with a panel for multitasking and a new app launcher.