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

    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.

    Carl Weinschenk
    Carl Weinschenk
    Carl Weinschenk Carl Weinschenk Carl Weinschenk is a long-time IT and telecom journalist. His coverage areas include the IoT, artificial intelligence, artificial intelligence, drones, 3D printing LTE and 5G, SDN, NFV, net neutrality, municipal broadband, unified communications and business continuity/disaster recovery. Weinschenk has written about wireless and phone companies, cable operators and their vendor ecosystems. He also has written about alternative energy and runs a website, The Daily Music Break, as a hobby.

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