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What the iPhone 4S means for Android: it’s all about the software

by Kristen Nicole

The iPhone 4S has been revealed, marking an uneventiful day for Apple fans expecting a drastically updated iPhone 5. For Android fans, the lackluster changes made to the iPhone 4S leaves more opportunity to remain competitive in the smartphone market. Compared to many Android handset features from higher-end devices, the iPhone 4S has played catchup. An upgraded camera is one of the few noteworthy hardware changes made to the iPhone 4S, which features the same body style as its predecessor.

Perhaps Apple has taken a cue from one of its biggest rivals, Samsung. The manufacturer rode the Android wave to success when it launched the Galaxy S series, only to reveal an updated line with the S II. With the body style unchanged, Samsung tweaked certain aspects of the original Galaxy S and unleashed a “brand new phone” with the S II family.

The software’s secret sauce

The changes made to the iPhone 4S hardware were minimal, but the software is where the magic happened. Apple’s been building out its software systems through personal media hubs like iTunes, iBooks and now Newsstand and iCloud. The iPhone maker is finding ways to incorporate new functions into its apps and services, adding value to the usability of its latest device. Combined with cloud and backup services and especially the new Siri personal assistant software, the iPhone 4S is becoming more intuitive and easier to use for a variety of purposes.

As a member of Google’s camp, this idea of software integration has been central to Android’s development and distribution from day one. With a string of Google Apps integrated into the Android experience (GTalk, GMail, Maps and Places, to name a few), usability for Android devices centers around your Google account and related content. Android will have to improve standardization around software integration in order to compete with Apple’s new direction, or find a way to better leverage its open platform to accommodate more inherent usability features. Google has taken in Motorola Mobility, so we could one day see a Google-owned Android device, which would give them a chance to incorporate more high level functions that revolutionize the way we use our Android handsets.