The spectacular rise of smartphones continues. Last year, Apple alone sold 90 million iPhones, a staggering increase from the 10 million it sold in 2008. In 2006, 30% of all mobile phone users used their phones to surf the Internet; in 2009 this number was more than 70%. So is the smartphone becoming a modern necessity - the new PC?
As we look back, we can attribute the rise of the smartphone to fast and easy Internet access. This was capitalized by RIM with the introduction of the "Blackberry"- dominant for its "push mail" and ability to support web browsing and internet faxing. However, it wasn't until the first iPhone was introduced in 2007 that a new smartphone era began. The launch of the iPhone has led to a flurry of activity among mobile phone manufacturers, who are eager to launch smartphones on their own operating systems. Today, we have many smartphones from Samsung, LG, Nokia, HTC, RIM, and Sony that offer extremely competitive products. A large variety of smartphones across a wide price range has made them more popular and affordable. Technavio estimates that in 2011 approximately 30% of mobile phones sold were smartphones, and the market for it is expected to grow at more than 20% per annum over the period 2012-2016.
Based on these statistics, it is probably safe to say that smartphones are here to stay. But, a more interesting question is, are we really using smartphones to their fullest potential? Granted that smartphones provide seamless connectivity to the Internet, allowing users to perform many of the common desktop PC functions with greater convenience, but what else? There are a myriad of apps that are available today, but how often are they used? Statistics indicate that only about one-sixth of the applications on a user's smartphone are used on a regular basis. Checking email is by far the most employed function, but this can also be done on today's feature phones with a good data package scheme, which can also enable users to keep track of the latest updates on Facebook and Twitter.
This leads us to one final question, are smartphones better articulated as a "want" rather than a "need"? Some might even go so far as to say that it is a commodity of fashion. Past trends have shown that any product perceived as a symbol of fashion is prone to decline from the market relatively faster than a value-based product. However, the case of the smartphone is unique, as there are no signs of decline. Is it just a perception of "need" created by clever marketers or the promise of new apps that can actually add value to a user's everyday life? In fact, there are many pilot projects where apps are being developed to allow users to monitor their office through the use of IP cameras, control various home appliances remotely, or provide critical data on the vital signs of their elderly parents through the use of RFID, Sensors and Smart technology. However, until the day more useful apps are introduced and commercialized on a large scale, we feel that the vast majority of users will use smartphones more because of their wide availability rather than as a necessity.
Technavio's related reports:
Global Smartphone Device Market 2011-2015
Global Smartphone Security Software Market 2011-2015