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 ofhttp://simplygetit.blogspot.com/2010/12/mobile-operating-systems.html|
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.
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.