Smart Phone Market on a Wild Ride
Gartner, a leading information technology research company, recently reported that smart phone sales to end users reached 54.3 million units in the first quarter of this year.
That is an increase of 48.7 per cent from the first quarter of 2009. As smart phones become more and more popular, we get more and more competition. Many large companies such as Apple, Google, Microsoft, Samsung, Motorola, Nokia, AT&T, Sprint and Verizon have a stake in the smart phone market, so competition is especially fierce.
Luckily, for the average consumer, that means more choices, more new features and better prices. It also means that the average cell phone user will have more and more computer power in his or her pocket.
You see, smart phones are much more than cell phones. They have become so powerful and feature-filled that they are really small computers that also make phone calls. In fact, the name smart phone is already obsolete. We should be calling them super phones or maybe super-duper phones.
Perhaps the smart phone that carries the most "must-have" appeal right now is the Apple iPhone 4. Not only does the iPhone 4 let you surf the Web, play music and movies and check e-mail, but also it will accurately pinpoint your current location.
It has two cameras, so you can take pictures and video of others, and you can also project a live view of -ourself to others when you call them using the video conference software. The iPhone 4 runs the Apple OS 4 operating system and is currently only available on AT&T's cellular service.
I just reviewed another smart phone, the Droid X, which is competitor to the iPhone. This is a smart phone that has Motorola hardware. It uses the Google Android operating system and the Verizon cellular network.
The Droid X has all of the above mentioned features except that it has only one camera. However, it adds several other features, including a large 4.3-screen and an FM radio.
It can also be a Wi-Fi hotspot that lets you connect up to five other devices to its cellular service. That means you can use the Droid X to get your laptop or other device on the Internet wherever you have cellular service.
The Droid X also has an HDMI port so you can show your movies or pictures on your television. You can also do voice searches on the Droid X and dial by just saying a person's name. You can even dictate e-mail verbally. It can also double as a GPS, giving you a map and clear audio instructions which even announce the street names for you.
Yes, the iPhone can do some of these things, too, but I really like the Android interface better than the iPhone's.
Samsung recently released a smart phone called the Galaxy Beam, which has all the other bells and whistles, plus a projector that can beam your presentations to any flat surface when you want to do a presentation or show off some photos or movies that you have taken.
Right now, the Beam is only available in Singapore, but it is sure to be here before long. In several other countries, they are also using smart phones to pay for purchases.
Hundreds of Apps
These smart phones can do some amazing things.
They can be your pedometer. They can count calories for you. They can hook up with Facebook and Twitter and other social networking websites. They can check prices at local stores. They can turn your cell phone into a gaming machine.
In fact, with hundreds of thousands of available apps from the Android Market (Android phones only), the iTunes App Store (iPhones only) or the BlackBerry AppWorld (Blackberries only), these smart phones can do most anything.
My iPhone can be a flashlight, a level, a light saber or an e-book reader at the touch of a button. I can get the name and artist of any music that I hear. I can play Internet radio. I can play the piano or guitar. I can get a recipe for dinner.
Well, actually, I could go on and on. And all the smart phones that I talked about can do the same or similar things.
The amazing thing is that these smart phones are getting better and better. There is no doubt that we will soon be able to use a smart phone to make purchases. They are also sure to become a digital wallet, where we can store all the things we now carry in our wallets.
I am not sure what they will think of next, but there is little doubt that you will want a smart phone before long.
Owning a smart phone is already a status symbol. In fact, Frost & Sullivan analyst Gerry Purdy predicts that in the United States, where smart phone growth is particularly vigorous, virtually all phones sold will be smart phones within five years.
For the last three years, since the introduction of the original iPhone, AT&T has had the stranglehold on the smart phone industry, because the iPhone was the cat's meow, and it was only available on AT&T.
But times have changed. There are now great choices on all carriers.
Apple's OS4 operating system is actually getting a little long in the tooth. Google's Android operating system has surpassed it in many ways.
The Android operating system can be found on many smart phones from manufacturers like HTC, Samsung,and Motorola. The most well-known of these may be the Droid series from Verizon. Sprint has a great smart phone called the EVO that runs the Android OS.
Samsung has already started introducing its Samsung Galaxy series of Android phones. There will be Galaxy phones available from all the major carriers, including AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon.
In the meantime, BlackBerry is not sitting still. It will soon release a new version of its BlackBerry operating system. Microsoft is also working on a completely revamped Windows Mobile version, which is sure to be announced in the next few months.
It already seems like a new smart phone is being rolled out every week and we have just barely reached the back-to-school selling. We have yet to get to the holiday season, when even more new smart phones are sure to be announced.
The big brouhaha over the iPhone 4's antenna problems plays right into the hands of other manufacturers and other operating systems. In the near future you will probably find that owning an iPhone will not be as important as owning a smart phone.
Stay tuned to the smart phone market for the next few months. We are in for a wild ride!
Send your computer-related questions for publication in this column to Sandy Berger at Computer Living Corp., P.O. Box 5895, Pinehurst NC 28374; or by e-mail at sandy@compukiss. com.
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