Google formally announced its Nexus One smartphone yesterday, and the trade press, many of whom had weeks to play with the phone prior to the announcement, was free to tell what it thought of the new phone. The verdict seems to be that it's the best Android phone to date, and a worthy competitor to Apple's 3GS. Now, we're going to see if Darwin was right.
Apple's iPhone is an excellent example of a closed ecosystem--everything is controlled by Apple, especially the pace of change. In the Android ecosystem, Google has limited control, in that it controls the pace of new Android operating system releases, but since Android is open source and anyone can build compatible devices, we're seeing a rate of change faster than anything in the Apple ecosystem. The Motorola Droid, which was the best Android smartphone, was supplanted by the Nexus One in just a few months. Motorola already has the next generation of the Droid design in testing, and other players, such as Samsung and Sony Ericsson, are hard at work on their own products.
The only real advantage that Apple has left is its lead in applications, which is still substantial. My suspicion is that Apple is going to try to change the topic of conversation later this month to its new tablet computer, which will likely use the iPhone's operating system. If that happens, Android will once again be playing catch-up. Nevertheless, the iPhone/Android battle is an excellent laboratory for testing evolutionary theory: Is a controlled or an open ecosystem better at producing valuable innovation? Apple's closed ecosystem has led the pack so far, but it's Android's turn to demonstrate the value of openness.