Smartphone Adoption

It’s been a couple of weeks since I posted the initial piece on the four drivers of change in the industry. I didn’t intend to take this long to post the second piece, but I guess I’ve been pretty busy…

As I indicated in my first post, one of the key drivers of change has been smartphone adoption. Obviously, smartphones have been around for a long time. The Handspring and then Palm Treo’s were great early smartphone products for Sprint starting almost a decade ago. Nokia, Microsoft, and RIM also have had smartphone platforms for many years.

But, it wasn’t until Apple introduced the iPhone in 2007 that the smartphone became a mass market phenomenon.

I believe the iPhone also introduced a fundamental shift in approach to the smartphone. I’m most familiar with Palm, Microsoft, and RIM, so my apologies for not representing Nokia well. Both Palm and Microsoft focused on creating miniature computer environments. The experience had much more to do with running applications on the computer and also using the computer to make phone calls. Yes, there was an e-mail client and a browser, but these were application-centric models in the traditional PC mold. RIM always has been very messaging centric. Yes, there was a browser and yes you could run applications, but the model was very much about messaging.

The iPhone was the first smartphone that truly was Internet-centric. You may recall that for the first year, Apple didn’t even support native apps on the iPhone – they expected developers to create services/apps that were browser based. Of course, the iPhone had the first beautiful browser that ignored any concept of carrier walled gardens and gave users access to the full Internet. A year in, the App Store similarly ignored the concept of a carrier deck and created a win-win-win opportunity for developers to develop/market/sell/deliver applications and for customers to enjoy a rapidly growing array of available apps.

Of course, this invited competition and Google introduced Android at the end of 2007, with the first handset available late in 2008. And today, patents and intellectual property are the weapons of choice in this competitive battleground.

IDC estimates that US smartphone sales have increased from about 5 million in 2005 to over 100 million in 2011. Not bad growth…

Stay tuned…

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