Smartphones Have Come a Long Way, but How Much Farther Will They Go?

Carl Weinschenk
Slide Show

Mobile Market Continues to Grow by Leaps and Bounds

The CTIA—The Wireless Association has posted an interesting infographic that steps back and takes a big-picture look at smartphones. The bottom line is that these devices collectively are a stunning achievement.

Consider some facts from the graphic: For instance, the average smartphone has more computer power than the total of what was used to send men to the moon. The average megapixel level of smartphone cameras has gone from 3 to 16 since 2008. There are more than 2.7 million apps that currently exist. Check the posting for more. The bottom line is that a tremendous amount has been accomplished during the past decade or so.

The history of the smartphone cannot be told without a discussion of the BlackBerry. And the story of the BlackBerry is not over; indeed, it has reached the critical juncture. While it is not the final word on the topic, this week the company released its fiscal fourth-quarter results. The results were pretty good. For one thing, the financial results exceeded expectations, according CNNMoney:

Overall, BlackBerry earned $94 million, or 18 cents per share, in the fourth quarter. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters had expected the company to lose 29 cents per share. The company said it was able to swing to a profit due to a cost-cutting initiative that began during the quarter, including making its supply chain more efficient. BlackBerry lost $118 million a year ago.

That’s good, of course. But just as certainly, the long-term health of the company won’t be impacted by one-time cost cutting. BlackBerry remains in transition at the fate of its BlackBerry 10 operating system and as the Z10 and Q10 devices play out. During the quarter, the company said it sold 1 million Z10s, which, according to the Los Angeles Times, beat expectations. Clearly, however, it still is too early to tell.

The future of smartphones – which Business Insider CEO and editor Henry Blodget deals with exhaustively in this presentation -- goes way beyond the fate of BlackBerry. Mary-Ann Parlato, who is the global insight director for Kantar Worldpanel ComTech, wrote an interesting commentary on the topic at WirelessWeek. The takeaway is that smartphone growth will come – if, indeed, it comes at all – from people upgrading their feature phones:

But this tight competition has little real movement in gains and it underscores how locked in to operating systems consumers currently are. It also highlights why new smartphone users are the real source of genuine growth moving forward in 2013.


The piece is very good, though it doesn’t make the important point that the definitions of smartphones and feature phones are fluid and, therefore, precise comparisons are difficult. However, the basic point is important: The vast majority of people who already have smartphones know what they like and probably will stick with it. Real growth, then, will come from folks who, to this point, haven’t taken the plunge. It is interesting to speculate on how the technology and its marketing will change to attract this more resistant demographic group.



Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Mar 29, 2013 9:42 AM RayBay RayBay  says:
Customer Service and Seller Attitude will become more of a factor. We visited my smartphone office in Green Valley yesterday, and was shocked by the attitude of the store manager. The outfit that offers service under a company name that starts with V has become a pack of arrogant bullies. We don't need a service like that. My annual bill for their product would go up $360, at a minimum, if I bought a new Smartphone and tossed my old one. We are hoping Blackberry and others realize that much of our country cannot afford those costs... and those who can afford the service are becoming a new social class. Sooner or later, users are going to realize they don't need all that service and all that expense. Reply

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