The companies behind the biggest mobile operating systems on the planet are teasing their imminent releases without providing much hard information.

Apple is expected to announce a new iPhone on Sept. 10. In addition to the usual increase in raw power, it has been reported (speculated is more like it) that the device could include a fingerprint scanner and that there will be two models, a premium device and a cheaper version that is not a previous-generation phone (Apple typically offers last season’s iPhones at reduced prices). Judging by the company’s colorful email invitation, devotees of Apple are also hoping for color choices beyond the usual black and white.

Google, meanwhile, has announced that its new operating system, Android 4.4, will be named KitKat. Beyond the name, Google says only that its goal is “to make an amazing Android experience available for everybody.” That could mean we’ll see Android on new types of devices — the OS already powers appliances, TV consoles and watches, in addition to phones — or it could mean a focus on functionality and new features, as opposed to power. Both Google and Apple reportedly have their eye on the developing world, where cell towers are easier to deploy than fiber optic cable and customers have shown demand for more affordable products. Nokia dominates cheaper cellphone markets, which may be one reason why Microsoft just bought its mobile devices unit (and some patents) for $7.2 billion.

But the really big news buried in all this is the sly announcement by Google’s Sundar Pichai that “we’ve now passed 1 billion Android device activations.” That’s an incredible statement about a product that first went on sale only five years ago. Apple has sold at least 400 million devices, including the iPhone and iPad, running its rival iOS operating system.

— Posted by Peter Z. Scheer

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