Revenge of the Androids
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Revenge of the Androids

by Tom McNichol

March 2013

The digital revolution that transformed the legal world really didn't hit its stride until it went wireless. Once freed from desktop computers, attorneys could safely venture away from the office, relying on wireless laptops, smartphones, and tablets to stay in the game. A decade ago, a cell phone was simply something you talked into. Now, it's a mobile computing platform, a virtual desk on which you can practice law. Here's what's selling.

Android phones don't have the buzz factor of Apple's iPhone. There isn't a news story every six months about a long line of excited fans sleeping outside an Android store overnight so they can get their hands on the latest Droid smartphone or tablet.

Still, the competition is amazingly tight. In the last quarter of 2012, the iPhone accounted for about 34 percent of U.S. smartphone sales, while Apple's nearest competitor, Samsung, accounted for 32 percent, according to research firm Strategy Analytics.

Android's market share may be slipping a bit in the United States, but it's cleaning up on the world market. In fact, worldwide Android has captured 68 percent of smartphone sales, compared with the iPhone's 19 percent. Droid is here to stay.

But some current Droid devices are pulling down accolades from users and reviewers, and sales figures show the public is responding. One reason is that the many companies making Android devices can rapidly upgrade their product lines, collectively releasing dozens of devices while Apple focuses on its latest iPhone model. Not every new Android device is necessarily better than the last, but there does seem to be a quiet advancement in Android products, keeping up with - and occasionally surpassing - Apple's innovation.

One of these highly touted smartphones is the Samsung Galaxy S III. Samsung has made a lot of noise about the device, with a huge media blitz.

In fact, the Galaxy S III may be the world's top-selling smartphone. In early November, Strategy Analytics calculated that the S III had captured 10.7 percent of the global market share: the iPhone 4S was in second place at 9.7 percent and the just-released iPhone 5 had 3.6 percent.

Like other premium cell phones from Android manufacturers such as Motorola (which makes the Droid Razr Maxx) and HTC (Evo LTE 4G), the Galaxy S III meets or exceeds nearly every technical specification of the iPhone 5. The Galaxy S III and iPhone 5 both have 8-megapixel camera and video capabilities. The Galaxy weighs eight-tenths of an ounce more, but it has the edge in average battery life on a single charge: 9.2 hours verses 8 hours for the iPhone.

The Galaxy phone does have a nice feature that so far Apple hasn't matched: Its front-facing camera "looks" for your eyes. If you're not gazing directly at the screen, the phone dims to save battery power, then brightens up again when you look back.

Users point - literally - to one clear edge the Galaxy has: screen size, specifically 4.8 inches (diagonally) to the iPhone's 4 inches. That extra bit of real estate can make a big difference, especially for lawyers who are called upon to do a lot of highly detailed work with documents on their phones.

Attorneys who want a really big screen can seek out Samsung's Galaxy Note II, which has a super-sized, 5.5-inch screen. Five-and-a-half inches may not sound like a lot, but it's huge for a smartphone. In fact, the Galaxy Note II is staking out what could be an increasingly popular segment of the smart device market - handheld devices with screens that are larger than a smartphone's but smaller than a computer tablet's. The added size makes it easier to read complex documents and to do multiple tasks simultaneously in different windows. Now all this niche between a smartphone and a tablet needs is a name. SmartTab? PhoneLet? TabletEtte? BigAssSmartPhone?

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