A really smart phone

There are few more enjoyable places to have a convention than Barcelona, Spain.

How the folks that hit on the idea of holding the World Mobile Congress (WMC) there we’ll never understand, but its gorgeous city!

It’s where “almost” all the leaders of the on-the-go phone industry gather.

It seems like everyone has some form of a mobile phone.

With more than 300 million in the U.S. alone and six billion plus globally, mobile phone/device penetration is rapidly approaching 90+ per cent. Young/old, rich/poor, male/female are constantly available if not using their device to communicate with others, find information/entertainment.

Big Dollars

According to iSuppli, the industry is getting huge:

•Global spending on wireless equipment and services surpassed $1 trillion for the first time ever in 2009.

•The wireless supply chain garnered $900 billion in service and equipment revenue in 2009.

•When combined with the $110 billion in consumer spending on wireless devices and accessories, it amounted to $1.01 trillion in total spending.

•To drive the next trillion dollars of growth, a paradigm shift is required with more focus on maximizing share of the over-the-top applications, content and services market.

•The global cell phone market performed better than expected in 2009, with shipments declining by 6.7 per cent to 1.14 billion units, down from 1.23 billion in 2008.

•Global cell phone shipments are expected to grow to 1.28 billion in 2010, up 12.1 per cent from 2009.

•Nokia kept its lead in the global cell phone market in the fourth quarter, accounting for 38.9 per cent of global unit shipments — up from 37.4 per cent in the third quarter.

•The other Top-5 cell-phone brand to gain share in the fourth quarter was Samsung which rose to 21.1 per cent, up from 20.7 per cent in the third quarter.

This year’s WMC was filled more with intrigue rather than huge product/service announcements.

All of the focus was on the little Cupertino, Calif. company – yeah, Apple – even though the boss didn’t bother showing up.

But he’s got more important things to do like collaborate on his autobiography. Yes, Disney has already signed up for the movie rights!

True, smartphones had been around for a long time – plain and dull, but around – before the iPhone.

Then Jobs introduced his little app store and gave folks a way to do more with their super cool iPhones.

Face of Change – Apple’s introduction of the iPhone, as well as its complete garden of services, has changed (some say revitalized) the mobile industry. Even though the company has only 15 per cent of the smartphone market, they are the company everyone wants to copy/surpass/beat.

iPhoners are Special

Apple deserves a lot of credit for spicing up the industry and making folks think beyond the norm:

•iPhone owners are more than twice as likely to use the mobile Internet, a massive 78 per cent of working iPhone owners do so.

•Mobile email and texting are much more common among iPhone owners. They text weekly, in contrast with 60 per cent of smartphone owners and 36 per cent of mobile phone owners.

•Households with iPhones spend more on mobile bills than the average mobile household. As a group, they spend $87 on their monthly mobile phone bills.

•iPhone owners are twice as likely as others to go online in public. That’s twice as many as all mobile phone owners (17 per cent), nine per cent higher than all smartphone users (26 per cent).

•Fifty per cent are more likely to read a blog weekly – 23 per cent of iPhoners read a blog at least weekly, compared to 16 per cent smartphone owners and 11 per cent of mobile owner owners.

•A third are more likely to maintain a social networking profile weekly. Twenty-six per cent of working iPhone owners maintain profiles on social networks, while only 19 per cent of smartphone owners and 14 per cent of mobile phone owners do.

•Twenty per cent are more likely to use instant messaging weekly – 44 per cent of iPhone owners uses IM at least weekly versus 37 per cent of smartphone owners and 24 per cent of mobile phone owners.

•More iPhone owners telecommute and access the network from home – 28 per cent telecommute regularly, 42 per cent regularly access an employer’s network.

•Although more connected to work, fewer iPhone owners bring laptops home – 36 per cent compared with 42 per cent for smartphone owners.

No wonder AT&T loves the iPhone…at any cost. No wonder “everyone” wants a piece of the action.

This year’s WDC seemed to devote an inordinate amount of attention to challenging the little company at One Infinity Circle with new app stores/alliances, new tablets, new OS ideas.

First, Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO, admitted that his first effort for a mobile platform was “a little off” and Microsoft had come back with a vengeance, a little more humble but with a vengeance!

Eric’s Plan

However, Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt had an even better solution for the mobile industry.

The Vision – Google’s Schmidt made his first appearance at the WMC and told the attendees what his vision of the future of mobile communications would look like. The vision wasn’t exactly warmly received.

Fresh from Davos (the world financial summit in Switzerland), he patiently explained how the mobile industry was going to make gazillions of dollars with his solution!

Not long ago, he launched Google’s free smartphone platform, began selling his own branded phone direct to consumers and just announced he was going to build his own super-fast broadband network.

At WMC, he mesmerized audience saying, “We want to have a little bit of Google in everybody’s transaction with the Internet.”

His mobile industry idea sounds almost as good as what his ex-buddy did for the music industry with iTunes!

The problems are: Almost universally people dislike (don’t tolerate) ads on their smartphone. The operators have to invest even more gazillions to upgrade their networks for all the data services demand.

Operators already plan to invest in 4G, LTE (long-term evolution), femtocells and other technologies.

That’s just to keep pace with ITU (International Telecommunications Union) estimates of more than five billion mobile subscribers by the end of the year.

They’re going to expect those great “all you can eat” data services.

But no one wants the pay-for-what you use option!

Schmidt reassured the mumbling crowd that Google had their backs when he said, “I assure you, you will get that money back in many ways.”

The audience knew that a smartphone is the action tool of choice:

•Global smartphone shipments are expected to rise to 246.9 million units in 2010, up 12.1 per cent from 181 million in 2009.

•Only Nokia had a double-digit market share in 2007. By 2009, three had a double-digit share of the smartphone market — Nokia, RIM and Apple.

•Approximately 30 per cent of all smartphone models are expected to use the Android operating system in 2010, more than triple the nine per cent in 2009.

•More than 20 smartphone OEMs are expected to support Android in 2010, up from four in 2009.

•The Mac OS held a 14 per cent share of smartphone unit shipments in 2009.

And these folks use their portable device for a heckova’ lot more than making calls.

More Data Functions — Smartphone users across the board, and almost regardless of their service provider, are happy with the data services they use with their device. The more they use their device, the more things they find they can do with units that are increasingly as powerful as a computer.

Kids Know

Our kids grew up never knowing there was life before the mobile phone.

From Day One – Today’s teens and pre-teens have a difficult time understanding how people got along, survived and communicated without a mobile phone. And the next generation will be even more advanced.

They aren’t alone.

According to Nielsen Company, 77 per cent have their own phone, 11 per cent borrow a phone and 12 per cent are phone naked. To them, using the phone for everything is very natural.

Hello Mom – To ensure they are always available to their children, parents get them mobile phones earlier and earlier in their lives. Often they call each other but increasingly they text.

You know — accessing the Internet, emailing, GPS, text messaging, playing games, taking pictures, sending picture messages and tons and tons of mobile entertainment.

Nielsen estimates that American teens sent an average of 3,146 texts a month each during Q3 2009 or 10 per hour not spent asleep or in school.

Their 9-12 crowd sent an average of 1,146 monthly texts each, or four per hour not spent asleep or in school.

In Q4 2009, users age 9-12 increased text usage by eight per cent and almost doubled their text message volume.

In comparison, the average number of monthly texts sent by all mobile users combined was a little more than 500.

The New Laptop

For them, the smartphone is the new laptop. There are 10x more smartphones in use than notebooks.

That comes as no surprise to the folks in Japan.

A total of 75.1 million users in Japan (83 per cent of the mobile users) accessed the Internet via mobile phones in 2008.

All you have to do is train your fingers to hit the itty-bitty keyboard and BAM!!!

There’s just one thing they still don’t do beautifully…handle calls.

It’s a combination of a good phone combined with clear, clean, crisp, reliable service.

Still a little tough!

Netbooks Getting Smart – While many prefer the convenience and versatility of today’s smartphone, there is a new, more powerful, more versatile generation of netbooks beginning to hit the market that could grab marketshare both from smartphones and standard notebooks.

So we’ll carry two devices – pretty decent cellphone and one of the newer, more powerful netbooks (we prefer to call them a smartbook) for all the other stuff.

O.K., you can throw a camera on the phone.

Yeah, maybe GPS too.

But the rest?

The kids have to train us.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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