Monday, July 19, 2010

Not #firstworldproblems and not #21stcenturyproblems either - the smartphone is not a "must-have"

Last Friday, I wrote a post called Not #firstworldproblems that discussed how my assumptions about online purchases were completely challenged by looking at the business environment in Africa.

I thought of that when reading about post that mentioned another hashtag. The post? How Apple Took The Fun Out of Owning an iPhone by Jim Connelly. Here's where he talks about the hashtag in question:

On Twitter, there is a hashtag for complaints like this: #21stcenturyproblems, which adds a level of irony to the tweet by acknowledging that a few years ago, noone could have complained about this, and — by the way — most people probably don’t [care] in the first place.

OK, all well and good, but I ran into a problem when Connelly began his next sentence.

Fair enough, and yet because the iPhone permanently established the smart phone as a must-have device....

Now my gripe is not with the identification of the iPhone as the instrument that caused this sea change.

I question whether this sea change actually exists.

Now I'll grant that smartphones are certainly emerging. But even Jesse Stay, who wrote a comparison of three smartphone platforms, recognizes that smartphones are not the only game in town.

If you live in a world where all your friends have smartphones, then you live in an unusual world. Gartner, May 2010:

[Worldwide smartphone] sales to end users reached 54.3 million units, an increase of 48.7 per cent from the first quarter of 2009.

But check the preceding sentence:

Worldwide mobile phone sales to end users totalled 314.7 million units in the first quarter of 2010, a 17 per cent increase from the same period in 2009....

So you know that so-called "must-have" item? The majority of people don't want it. And unless something dramatically changes over the next few years, it will be a while before that "must have" item becomes a "must have" item.

And then there's the matter of what a smartphone is. When Jesse Stay chose his three platforms to compare, he compared some platforms that are in common use among certain market segments in the United States. But Stay neglected to look at the most popular smartphone platform - at least as Gartner defines the term.

Now Stay did look at the iPhone, which (according to Gartner) had a 15.4% market share in the first quarter of 2010, with over 8 million units sold. And Android (another platform examined by Stay) wasn't that far behind, with a 9.6% market share on sales of over 5 million units.

But both were eclipsed by Research in Motion's 19.4% market share, with over 10 1/2 million units sold.

Now to be fair, Research in Motion has been around forever, has established itself among business users, and so it's not surprising that Research in Motion is the market leader.

Except that Research in Motion isn't the market leader. It's only in second place.

In the next post I'll tell you what the leading smartphone platform is...and why it doesn't matter.
blog comments powered by Disqus