AnandTech Article Channel

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Rapid Growth Of The Smartphone Market

For quite a long time, the smartphone was not that popular among mobile phone users. The high cost of the units, the perception that they were too complex and had features that were of little use to the average mobile phone user made them a specialty niche composed primarily of business users.
However all this change over the last decade and the smart phone market began to experience rapid growth. A large portion of this change can be directly attributable to the increase in the use of the Internet and the proliferation of relatively cheap mobile Internet plans. The entry and popularity of social media and its integration into mobile devices over these past 5 years propelled smartphone usage to all-time highs. Consequently, it's expected that the smart phone will soon be the unit of choice for majority of mobile users.


What is a smartphone?


Before anything else let's define what a smartphone is. In its most basic form, it's a device which combines the function of a phone and a PDA or personal digital assistant. They integrate some form of contact management, messaging, file management and other PDA functionalities. Most are capable of multitasking and task switching and have some form of connectivity. In the past this connectivity was purely by mobile WAP but this has been supplemented today with USB connectivity as well as Wi-Fi capability. These devices contain many applications that mimic those on PCs such as word processors and spreadsheets. Aside from this, they also allow installation of other applications by the user. Smartphones come with operating systems, not unlike those on desktop computers.


Early examples of smartphones

Some notable examples include the Sony Ericsson P800/P9xx series, Palm Treo and the Nokia 9000 Communicator series. 


These phones were considered essential tools for business persons specially since these phones had the ability to connect to corporate e-mail networks. Speaking of which another smart phone which rode to success on the wave of corporate connectivity is the RIM Blackberry which became popular because of the security inherent in its wireless system.


The big names enter the game

From then on device after device emerged in rapid succession in a game of corporate one-upmanship which benefited the consumer a great deal by bringing down the prices of the units. Eventually Microsoft entered the game and developed the Windows mobile system beginning with Windows CE. It was initially positioned to be a direct competitor to the PDAs from Palm and other operating systems.

As the devices slowly crept into the mainstream, the prices began to enter the mass appeal segment with the entry of cheaper smart phones which were repositioned by way of changing their feature set to appeal to the non-business segment. The main strategy was to focus more on multimedia and examples of this included the Nokia N series and the Samsung Omnia. 

This emerging market was not lost on Apple so they decided to get into the game by way of the iPhone. Of course, given the cult status of Apple, it came as no surprise that the iPhone became a runaway success. While there appears to be some marketing magic being done to create an impression of hysteric demand for its units, there is no denying that the iPhone is indeed a success in this market.


The entry of a maverick


In a manner that mimicked the PC world, the smart phone market now started to become a battle of operating systems. Where the PC world has Windows, OS/X and the different Unix/Linux flavors, the mobile OS world has Symbian, Windows Mobile, IOS, Blackberry OS and Android.
Google may have been the latecomer to the party but it made a huge impression because of its open source platform which was not unlike the Ubuntu platform. This was a development which soon changed the face of the mobile smart phone market in a large way. It soon became apparent that all the old favorites such as Windows Mobile, BlackBerry, Symbian system and even IOS were losing their market share to the android system.


The old guard fights back


2010 saw the beginning of some attempts by the old guard to regain or at least protect their market share. Pretty soon, several innovations began to emerge and there was talk of major revamps to the different operating systems. So Windows Mobile 7, the new IOS, new Blackberry and a new Symbian flavor were launched. Despite the innovations, all of them, with the possible exception of Apple, were one step behind Android. Because of its open source nature and the avid developers in the Android community, the OS was continually refined, tuned and optimize while waiting for Google to release the next version.


How to choose?

Graphic courtesy of

With at least 6 operating systems to choose from, the smartphone market has been transformed from a small niche market to the fastest growing segment of the market. Couple this with the number of manufacturers and there will definitely be a sea of choices in the smartphone arena.
With such a confusing scenario it is clear that buying a smart phone has become a very complicated process. There are so many factors to take into consideration and because of the competition, there are so many good units around. Perhaps the choice might be easier if you are primarily an Apple user where it might make sense to choose the iPhone if only because of its compatibility with your desktop applications. This however is not absolute because there are some tasks which other smart phones are better able to do than the iPhone and if majority of your smart phone needs revolve around those capabilities then it might make more sense for you to go for a non-Apple smartphone since there is very little problem anyway with inter-connectivity nowadays.


Upcoming guide


In the next blog post I will put together a small guide for smartphone buyers in the Philippines. Despite its developing country status, the Philippines has enjoyed one of the highest percentages of mobile phone usage in the world. In fact it has been considered by many to be the text messaging capital of the world.
This has led to more and more competition among mobile phone service providers in the Philippines Thus we have a continuing entry of the latest and the greatest smartphones being offered here. For instance, the Sony Xperia X12, the Nokia E7 and the HTC Desire S are all offered by the telecom companies here. The dual cores have arrived in the market spearheaded by the LG Optimus 2X. The Galaxy 2 is expected in June as well, etc etc, you get the picture…. Bottom line, there are so many choices and so many variables.

So having seen the confusion in my own social circle and experiencing it myself, I will provide some tips to try to help the average Filipino smartphone buyer in picking the devices the best devices for the needs. I will publish this in my post next week.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Presenting my new, improved HTC Desire!

In my last post, I mentioned that I was finally hacking my HTC Desire.

Well I went ahead and did it. But mind you, it was an extremely long process that saw me going through no less than 4 different ROMS (or was it 6??) and even more kernels! It was there that I realized that some custom kernels left some features out and others would have it all, albeit with limited functionalities. In other words, a great deal of them, if not all, were compromises.

This brings me to the most important step of hacking an Android to change its ROM. You must make a list of WHY you want to change it, and make another list of the FEATURES you MUST have. I cannot stress this enough mainly because I failed to do this and ended up wasting time. In my 4th attempt, I came equipped with a list which enabled me to do the second important step which is: If the ROM you want lacks certain functions, search for alternatives which you can install after hacking it.

So having said that, I finally found the best ROM for me which is ….drum roll please….. the Cyanogen Mod-7. Yes I mentioned in my previous post that this was my current ROM. At that time, I was a bit wary about the ROM because of bad experiences with the previous ones. However, I managed to get in all the functionalities I needed either within the ROM or through some third party free apps.

I suppose many would be asking at this point, what the end result is.

In a nutshell, it's like getting a brand new phone. It's not an exaggeration.

You see the Cyanogen mod or CM7 dispenses completely with HTC Sense. While others might bemoan this omission, it is one that I welcome because while Sense is an attractive interface, whenever I open the running applications section, I am dismayed at all the processes that need to run for Sense to do its job. That spells "battery eaters" to me and that is one commodity that is extremely scarce in most Android phones. In the Android world, gone are the days of a weekly charge because an "every two days" charge is cause for celebration.

Aside from the new interface, the CM7 ROM comes with so many tweaks that it's enough to make a grown geek cry. I know I almost did. There is nothing that makes phone geeks happier than to know that they can adjust things to their hearts content. Then given the fact that Cyanogen is one of the most popular 3rd party ROMS developer in the Android world, you can be sure that there is always help at hand if you manage to mess up your phone.

I originally thought that a compromise was the lack of tweaks to the camera interface which was something I was willing to live with. But after further research, I came across several excellent camera apps that came with even more tweaks than the original HTC camera so at this point in time I can state that there are no compromises in my CM7 setup compared to the original HTC sense.

The very best parts about this hack are twofold. One is that I no longer fear the low memory message because with close to 30 apps installed, my Desire still has 120 MB of space. Moreover, it is not likely to be used up because of the judicious transfer of apps to sd card. Second, whereas prior to the hack I was getting barely 24 hours of run time from my battery, today, I get about 2 ½ days! It's amazing that I was able to get this much additional battery life while using my phone just as much or even more. With wifi or mobile networks left on, I get a little over 2 days, like 50 hours.

Of course, these are my personal results and yours may vary. There are too many variables that can affect the ROMS performance but the important thing is to know the benefits that are achievable. Let me say again that hacking a phone is not for everyone and it will most likely, void your warranty. My phone is almost a year old so I had no problems losing the warranty.

Lastly, keep in mind that you must evaluate and select 3 important bits of software for your phone. These 3 determine the overall benefit you get from the hack. These are the Kernel, the main ROM and the Radio. Read up about your choices and select them very well.

Here again is the link to my CM7 ROM on XDA:






Thursday, May 19, 2011

Hacking my HTC Desire

It was bound to happen. The memory was running low and it seemed that my 1st Generation Desire was consuming it's battery at an alarming rate. I was lucky to make it through a full 24 hours on a single charge.

The Sun Elite Plan 1.5 is partly to blame. After all, with a trio of unlimited services, there was no reason not to stay connected to the internet even when I was away from my office / home wifi network. Then I would think age is a factor too since my Desire is pushing a year already. Time to upgrade maybe (wink wink).

However, its back to school time so there is no money for upgrade yet. The costless alternative is to hack it and see if some of the newer custom ROMs are better for power management.

So my saga began with rooting my phone, doing an S-off, messing around with the H Boot and flashing an endless stream of radios and ROMs.

My guide through all this was mainly the XDA site and rather than repeat what I went through, it would be easier to just post the links to the excellent resources I ran into.

So here are the resources. In my next post, I'll give some feedback about my adventures in ROM land.


Here is the link to the noob proof guide, with video to boot, from XDA:


Did someone say rooting? These guys made rooting a painless experience:


You'll have to do something called S-OFF to your Desire. This group fearlessly went ahead into the unknown so that your Desire can be set free:


Everything Desire is purported to be in this compilation. Very useful:


A more technical guide to Desire upgrades can be found here:


My current ROM can be seen here:


Their Wiki is here:


A pair of excellent tools that saved me from a lot of work:

S2E which is app2sd for the CM7

Fastboot Commander – made reflashing Hboot an easy process


You'll be needing the new radios so here is where you can get more info about them:


That's it for now.

Remember, you can easily brick your phone doing any of the stuff above.


I am not responsible if you end up bricking your precious Desire, so proceed with caution.



Android and Me

Android Tapp

TechRadar: All latest feeds - Latest articles

GigaOM — Tech News, Analysis and Trends

Android Phone Fans

Phone Scoop - Latest News

IntoMobile - Cell Phone News, Information, and Analysis

All About Symbian - News