Smartphones Thrive During These Troubled Times


What recession? The world may be falling apart around them, but smartphones seem to be having a rather good time of it, according to a couple of studies that were released this week.


First, In-Stat says smartphones will double their market share to about 20 percent by 2013. The drivers include attractive mobile applications and more flexible operating systems. The research found that security still is inadequate for corporate use, but that almost one-third of respondents plan on buying a smartphone the next time they upgrade. Models with Linux operating systems-Android and others-will have the highest growth rate and end up in second place behind Symbian. This subcategory will grow faster than the iPhone's OSX, the BlackBerry operating system and Windows Mobile.


The other study is from The NPD Group. It found that smartphones constituted 23 percent of all handset sales to U.S. consumers in the fourth quarter of last year. That is 9 percent more than the year-ago quarter. That growth was driven at least partially by a reduction in price. The release says the average price, led by the iPhone 3G at $199, fell from $216 to $167 between the two quarters. Sixty-six percent of smartphones use 3G networks, compared with 46 percent in 2007. The reduction in prices hurt margins and led retailers to push accessories. Eleven percent more people purchased accessories this year than last (52 percent versus 41 percent) when they bought their phones.

The blossoming of smartphones, which is happening despite the opinion of some, is creating a problem, at least to those with a need for airtight definitions. The challenge is that the category is changing so quickly that it is difficult to distinguish between a smartphone and its slightly less upscale cousin, the feature phone. In the past, smartphones were distinguished by their ability to run third-party applications. However, feature phones can do that. The difficulty in the nomenclature is that feature phones are actively trying to develop the kind of functionality that have proven popular with smartphones, making the distinctions even more difficult to discern. A Sony Ericsson executive is quoted in the story to the effect that feature phones offer a specific capability, while smartphones are all around, well, smarter. The point is that the lines between the categories seems to be fading as time passes.

There isn't a lot of new material in this long Government Technology piece
, but it provides very nice context on the proliferation of smartphones in government and educational settings. The first part of the piece does a good job of tracing the rise of smartphones. The bulk of the feature is a trio of mini-case studies on their use. The Hawaii County Police Department is introducing BlackBerry's equipment with BIO-key PocketCop software, which links to various motor vehicle and criminal databases. The University of Louisville School of Medicine offers discounts on Windows Mobile-based smartphones that can run on the Sprint network. The choices are the Palm Treo 800w, the HTC Touch Diamond or HTC Touch Pro. Medical software is loaded onto the devices. Finally, the Salt River Project in Tempe, Ariz., provides many employees with BlackBerries for voice and e-mail connectivity.

Computerworld takes a close look at BlackBerry Enterprise Server 5.0, which is shipping during the second quarter. The goal of the piece is to describe the new server, which offers extended fail-over features, easier administration and new user functions. The unintended consequence, however, is to provide insight into how important it is for enterprises to take smartphones seriously. These are powerful devices and employees use them for serious work. They must be secure, easy enough for ham-handed employees to use and be seamlessly managed by IT departments.

The strength of smartphones is proven by the fact that their use is growing despite the sorry state of the economy. This growth will continue-and accelerate when the financial picture improves.