Where We Are Now
The original iPhone changed everything - I've talked about this before, but it really did. It opened up app stores to the world, a totally re-thought user interface, and most of all - hundreds of millions of customers now wanted something they didn't know they wanted before. The iPhone sold itself, but it also created an entire new market that it now doesn't want to share.
Nokia is pretty much non-existent compared to what they used to be years ago - they seem to be releasing what they think the consumers want, which means gone are the days that the companies released something you wanted, as a consumer. Now it all goes on trends - something cool comes out, like the iPhone, and other companies think that's what everyone must want.
Google stumbled into the market with their Android OS, and their original Nexus devices, but they never really hit the mainstream. Microsoft had their old Windows Phone OS, but they're losing badly to iOS and Android, and even the new Windows Phone 8 isn't doing too well at all. Throw all the numbers you want at me, spend as much money as you want - but the only way to know when a device sells well, is when your friends start buying them, wish they could buy them, or want them so bad that they will do anything to get one.
Apple and Samsung seem to be the only companies that have this power right now - Nokia, Microsoft, Sony, Acer, Dell, and countless others are all victims to Apple and Samsung. Google have found some success in their Nexus 4 - but it has been so popular, that it sells out as soon as it's on sale as they can't get LG to build enough for them.
The next big issue is operating systems. Apple has their market wrapped up - as they control everything from inception, software, hardware, right up to retail. They have the buying power to push any supplier to the wall and tell them what price to sell to Apple at, but their days are looking numbered.
Google have their Android OS which they license to partners, but partners love slapping on their own crappy UIs, such as HTC with Sense UI and Samsung with TouchWiz. This used to be okay, before Google were pushing out the crazy-efficient stock Android builds with their Nexus devices. Now we have Google offering their own stock Android experience on their Nexus 4 for nearly half the price of a competing Android-based handset such as Samsung's TouchWiz UI-littered Galaxy S III or Galaxy Note II smartphones.
Lastly, we have Microsoft. There's not much to say here as they really can't compete on the scale of Apple and Google and have lost a lot of their older clients from Windows Phone 6.5 and earlier, to Android or iOS.
We're now at the point where it's pretty much a fight between the iPhone and the Galaxy range from Samsung. The new Nexus 4 will make waves once more stock arrives, which should be early 2013. So my prediction from here is that we'll see the new Nexus 4 become the powerhouse from Google and more of an experiment than anything else.
Apple has for years now been the undeniable champion, but they're losing their sparkle as time progresses. They're having serious problems in their iPhone department, losing tens of millions of customers to Google-based products, and their stock prices have seen much, much better days. As it stands, Google are the only ones with enough traction in the market to compete with Apple, and they're doing a damn fine job of it now, compared to the last few years.