We’ll all have smartphones soon
A confluence (or is it a convergence or a singularity or one of those other large impressive words) of events in the wireless world point toward yet another technological inflection point. While most people in the US have cell phones, according to NPD the group they classify as “consumers” purchased smartphones 19% of the time from January to July of this year; we can easily assume that the group classified as “business” purchasers had a much higher average. See worldwide smart phone market chart from Canalys by way of computerworld.com for comparable worldwide trends.
The convergence happens as people move ‘up’ from candy-bar phones and ‘down’ from laptops to smartphones for most of their needs. It is looking more and more that smart phones will begin to take the majority of functionality of laptops in the very near future, similar to how laptops supplanted many of the jobs desktops were required for. The main features that have been lacking have been battery life (with GPS, bluetooth, WiFi and all other functions always on), application availability and general acceptance of smart phones (which makes many things easier, including IT support, development, etc.). Several factors point to solutions to these shortcomings:
- Acceptance: AT&T believes smartphones will make up the largest portion of devices connecting to its network by about 2014, , said Roger Smith, director of next generation services, data product realization at AT&T. Depending on which survey you follow/believe, the Blackberry Curve or the Apple iPhone was the highest selling consumer phone in the US, supplanting the various versions of the Motorola RAZR.
- Power: Boy Genius Report states that “Intel said on Friday that it is researching the potential use of free energy as a mobile power source. Intel is developing tiny sensors that can harvest ambient forms of energy, including body heat, sunlight and radiation. Movement, like that of moving a trackball or a scroll wheel, could even be used to provide small amounts of power to a mobile device.
- Usability: QWERTY keyboards used to be the realm of Blackberry alone. Now these keyboards are abundant on HTC, Nokia, RIM and other models, plus on touch screen keyboards from Apple and other manufacturers. Data entry, while seen as archaic by many, is a huge factor in gaining acceptance of smartphones in solving many consumer and business problems.
- Pricing: Can you say ‘free’? Several sites (including Best Buy) are advertising Blackberry Curves for free with a two year contract; businesses with large volumes are getting the same if not better deals. Say what you want about the Curve being an older phone, but a free price tag certainly builds acceptance and market share. With a recessions in full swing, free smartphones should keep the adoption rates moving higher.
- Development environment: Google (Android), RIM (Blackberry), Nokia (Symbian) and Apple (iPhone) have all increased the level of support and tools for developers in their respective environments, going to great lenghts to encourage development on their platform. Windows Mobile has its own development environment, though its reach is spread across multiple hardware platforms. A common development environment, Java, with J2ME, is well supported on Android, Blackberry and Symbian, giving developers easy access to multiple environments.
- Application availability: many of the major smartphone operating system vendors (Apple, Google, RIM) have opened mobile application marketplaces or stores, and the carriers are following suit, making it much easier for businesses and consumers to acquire the applicaitons that they need.