Smartphone mania

* Linux devices emerge, while iPhone suffers growing pains

As the mobile user community transitions to the smartphone as a computing platform of choice, developments are heating up left and right.

The first smartphone running the Open Handset Alliance’s (OHA) Linux-based Android operating system, the HTC Dream, has formally been approved by the FCC. T-Mobile is rumored to be the first carrier to offer the phone, likely with an announcement this month and availability in October.

In the meantime, the LiMo Foundation (a competitor to the Google-led OHA) has introduced seven new phones made by Motorola, Panasonic and Samsung that run its mobile Linux OS, bringing the total number of LiMo-based handsets to 20.

The mobile Linux phone frenzy kicks off a whole new era of open-access phones, whereby devices no longer have to be inextricably tied to a particular carrier’s network or that carrier’s application development agenda.

Then, of course, there’s been a bevy of activity surrounding the Apple iPhone 3G, the antithesis to the “open” phone model, as the device currently is locked to just one carrier per country. The bad news is that the past weeks have seen user complaints galore about dropped calls, ping-ponging reception and generally suboptimal performance. Apple issued fixes, only to then discover a security flaw, whereby private information in locked iPhones can be accessed by pushing a combination of buttons. Apple reportedly has said it will counteract that flaw with yet another fix to come this month.

Meanwhile, since my last post about exorbitant international data roaming charges, AT&T, exclusive U.S. iPhone carrier, has announced two additional international data plans for the device.

Heavy data users can pay $120 per month for 100MB of international data use or $200 for 200MB on top of their U.S. plans. These options have been added to the carrier’s $25, 20MB and $60, 50MB international options. Yes, the fees are hefty. But the added options are a step in the right direction toward providing telecom departments better predictability as to what the ultimate user bill will look like.

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