I am now in your shoes, but looking for the perfect Android phone. I'm debating between the Galaxy S, Nexus S, Dell Thunder, and the rumored Sony Ericsson Anzu. The wait for a release date is painful, as I have been looking for a new phone for what seems like months now. Regarding your previous question about why Apple is still ahead:
Apple, and maybe mostly Steve Jobs and his marketing team, have a special gift. They possess the ability to give their products a perceived sense of "necessity" to a large audience. It could be argued that they convince customers that they need a product, even when the perceived need does not exist. The iPod, Macbook, iPad, iPhone. Think about the kind of consumer that you would see using one of those products. They create good quality products, but that doesn't answer the question about their popularity.
They sell the products as part of a lifestyle or as an extension of your identity. Apple likes to create the image that their company's products cater to the tastes of "hip", affluent, and yet "sensible" individuals. It could be the connection between price and self-image that makes Apple so popular, like the expensive and famous clothing brands, or car makers. If a company becomes famous enough selling a product that is known to be expensive, an individual who buys that product could rightly make the assumption that after having this expensive product, they now outwardly appear to be more wealthy.
After all, who here doesn't want to be wealthy, or at least appear to be?
The surge in competition in the tablet market may be explained like this:
Apple, as previously stated, may have the ability to convince customers they need something. Individuals with money can always find ways to spend it. Apple says to themselves:
"Hey, let's create a cross between the iPhone and our Macbook, and market it as the iPad. We have plenty of loyal customers who will likely buy this product regardless of whether they really need it or could even justify purchasing it.
I don't remember there being a big clamor or outcry for tablets before Apple released the iPad. It just wasn't deemed necessary, or even useful. However, Apple, the "hip" company, has decided that people DO need tablets, and because they understand this "need", they release the iPad. People with money and a desire to look hip, popular, rich, and important buy the iPad.
I believe that many companies believed Apple's try at the tablet market was going to be a flop, so most companies didn't focus on creating a competing product for an nonexistent market. However, seeing Apple's success at creating perceived need, other companies wanted a piece of the tablet market. And here we are.