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A smartphone is a mobile phone offering advanced capabilities, often with PC-like functionality. There is no industry standard definition of a smartphone. For some, a smartphone is a phone that runs complete operating system software providing a standardized interface and platform for application developers. For others, a smartphone is simply a phone with advanced features like e-mail, Internet and e-book reader capabilities, and/or a built-in full keyboard or external USB keyboard and VGA connector. In other words, it is a miniature computer that has phone capability.
Growth in demand for smartphones - devices boasting powerful processors, abundant memories, large screens and open operating systems - has outpaced the rest of the mobile phone market for several years.
There is no agreement in the industry about what a smartphone actually is and definitions have changed over time. According to David Wood, EVP at Symbian, "Smart phones differ from ordinary mobile phones in two fundamental ways: how they are built and what they can do." Other definitions put different stresses on these two factors...
"With smart phones its just one evolution in one evolution, so it might that the actual device at some point ... will become even smaller and we will not call it a phone anymore, but it will be integrated ... the deal here is to make the device as invisible as possible, between you, and what you want to do," says Sacha Wunsch-Vincent at the OECD.
Most devices considered smartphones today use an identifiable and open operating system, often with the ability to add applications (e.g. for enhanced data processing, connectivity or entertainment) - in contrast to regular phones which only support sandboxed applications (like Java games). These smartphone applications may be developed by the manufacturer of the device, by the network operator or by any other third-party software developer, since the operating system is open.
In terms of features, most smartphones support full featured email capabilities with the functionality of a complete personal organizer. Other functionality might include an additional interface such as a miniature QWERTY keyboard, a touch screen or a D-pad, a built-in camera, contact management, an accelerometer, built-in navigation hardware and software, the ability to read business documents in a variety of formats such as PDF and Microsoft Office, media software for playing music, browsing photos and viewing video clips, internet browsers or even just secure access to company mail, such as is provided by a BlackBerry. One common feature to the majority of the smartphones is a contact list able to store as many contacts as the available memory permits, in contrast to regular phones that has a limit to the maximum number of contacts that can be stored.
The first smartphone was called Simon; it was designed by IBM in 1992 and shown as a concept product that year at COMDEX, the computer industry trade show held in Las Vegas, Nevada. It was released to the public in 1993 and sold by BellSouth. Besides being a mobile phone, it also contained a calendar, address book, world clock, calculator, note pad, e-mail, send and receive fax, and games. It had no physical buttons to dial with. Instead customers used a touch-screen to select phone numbers with a finger or create facsimiles and memos with an optional stylus. Text was entered with a unique on-screen "predictive" keyboard. By today's standards, the Simon would be a fairly low-end, however its feature set at the time was incredibly advanced.
The Nokia Communicator line was the first of Nokia's smartphones starting with the Nokia 9000, released in 1996. This distinctive palmtop computer style smartphone was the result of a collaborative effort of an early successful and expensive PDA model by Hewlett Packard combined with Nokia's bestselling phone around that time and early prototype models had the two devices fixed via a hinge; the Nokia 9210 as the first color screen Communicator model which was the first true smartphone with an open operating system; the 9500 Communicator that was also Nokia's first cameraphone Communicator and Nokia's first WiFi phone; the 9300 Communicator was the third dimensional shift into a smaller form factor; and the latest E90 Communicator includes GPS. The Nokia Communicator model is remarkable also having been the most expensive phone model sold by a major brand for almost the full lifespan of the model series, easily 20% and sometimes 40% more expensive than the next most expensive smartphone by any major manufacturer.
The Ericsson R380 was sold as a 'smartphone' but could not run native third-party applications. Although the Nokia 9210 was arguably the first true smartphone with an open operating system, Nokia continued to refer to it as a Communicator.
In 2001, RIM released the first BlackBerry which was the first smartphone optimized for wireless email use and has achieved a total customer base of 8 million subscribers by June 2007, of which three quarters are in North America.
Although the Nokia 7650, announced in 2001, was referred to as a 'smart phone' in the media, and is now called a 'smartphone' on the Nokia support site, the press release referred to it as an 'imaging phone'. Handspring delivered the first widely popular smartphone devices in the US market by marrying its Palm OS based Visor PDA together with a piggybacked GSM phone module, the VisorPhone. By 2002, Handspring was marketing an integrated smartphone called the Treo; the company subsequently merged with Palm primarily because the PDA market was dying but the Treo smartphone was quickly becoming popular as a phone with extended PDA organizer features. That same year, Microsoft announced its Windows CE Pocket PC OS would be offered as "Microsoft Windows Powered Smartphone 2002". Microsoft originally defined its Windows Smartphone products as lacking a touchscreen and offering a lower screen resolution compared to its sibling Pocket PC devices. Palm has since largely abandoned its own Palm OS in favor of licensing Microsoft's WinCE-based operating system now referred to as Windows Mobile.
In 2005, Nokia launched its N-Series of 3G smartphones which Nokia started to market not as mobile phones but as multimedia computers.
Out of 1 billion camera phones to be shipped in 2008, smartphones, the higher end of the market with full email support, will represent about 10% of the market or about 100 million units.
The Smartphone Summit semi-annual conference details smartphone industry market data, trends, and updates among smartphone related hardware, software, and accessor.
Android, a cross platform OS for smartphones was released in 2008. Android is an Open Source platform backed by Google, along with major hardware and software developers (such as Intel, HTC, ARM, and eBay, to name a few), that form the Open Handset Alliance.
The first phone to use the Android OS is the HTC Dream, branded for distribution by T-Mobile as the G1. The phone features a full, capacitive touch screen, a flip out QWERTY keyboard, and a track ball for navigating web pages. The software suite included on the phone consists of integration with Google's proprietary applications, such as Maps, Calendar, and Gmail, as well as Google's Chrome Lite full HTML web browser. Third party apps are available for free via the Android Market, with premium apps slated for Q1 2009.
Operating systems that can be found on mobile devices include Symbian OS, iPhone OS, RIM's BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, Linux, Palm WebOS and Android.
The most common operating systems (OS) used in smartphones by Q4 2008 sales are:
Symbian OS from Symbian Ltd. (47.1% Market Share Sales Q4 2008)
Symbian has the largest share in most markets worldwide, but lags behind other companies in the relatively small but highly visible North American market. This matches the success of its largest shareholder and customer, Nokia, in all markets except Japan. Nokia itself enjoys 52.9% of the smartphone market. In Japan Symbian is strong due to a relationship with NTT DoCoMo, with only one of the 44 Symbian handsets released in Japan coming from Nokia. It is used by many major handset manufacturers, including BenQ, LG, Motorola, Samsung, and Sony Ericsson. Various implementations of user interfaces on top of Symbian (most notable being UIQ and Nokia's own S60) are incompatible, which along with the requirement that applications running on mobile phones be signed is hindering the potential for a truly widely accepted mobile application platform. It has received some adverse press attention due to virus threats (namely trojan horses).
RIM BlackBerry Operating System (19.5% Market Share Sales Q4 2008)
This OS is focused on easy operation and was originally designed for business. Recently it has seen a surge in third-party applications and has been improved to offer full multimedia support.
Windows Mobile from Microsoft (12.4% Market Share Sales Q4 2008)
The Windows CE operating system and Windows Mobile middleware are widely spread in Asia. The two improved variants of this operating system, Windows Mobile 6 Professional (for touch screen devices) and Windows Mobile 6 Standard, were unveiled in February 2007. Windows Mobile benefits from the low barrier to entry for third-party developers to write new applications for the platform. It has been criticized for having a user interface which is not optimized for touch input by fingers; instead, it is more usable with a stylus. However, unlike iPhone OS, it does support both touch screen and physical keyboard configurations.
iPhone OS from Apple Inc. (10.7% Market Share Sales Q4 2008)
The iPhone uses an operating system called iPhone OS, which is derived from Mac OS X. Third party applications were not officially supported until the release of iPhone OS 2.0 on July 11th 2008. Before this,"jailbreaking" allowed third party applications to be installed, and this method is still available.
Linux Operating System (8.4% Market Share Sales Q4 2008)
Linux is strongest in China where it is used by Motorola, and in Japan, used by DoCoMo. Rather than being a platform in its own right, Linux is used as a basis for a number of different platforms developed by several vendors, including Google's Android, LiMo, and TrollTech, which are mostly incompatible. PalmSource (now Access) is moving towards an interface running on Linux. Another platform based on Linux is being developed by Motorola, NEC, NTT DoCoMo, Panasonic, Samsung, and Vodafone.
Palm WebOS and Palm OS: (developed by PalmSource, renamed to Garnet OS when PalmSource became a subsidiary of ACCESS) (0.9% Market Share Sales Q4 2008)
Palm webOS is Palm's next generation operating system. PalmSource traditionally used its own platform developed by Palm Inc. Access Linux Platform (ALP) is an improvement that was planned to be launched in the first half of 2007. It will use technical specifications from the Linux Phone Standards Forum. The Access Linux Platform will include an emulation layer to support applications developed for Palm-based devices.
Binary Runtime Environment for Wireless (BREW):
BREW was developed in the USA by Qualcomm, Inc and is popular in North America. BREW is a mobile application development platform and end-to-end content delivery ecosystem. BREW has recently gained a foothold in Europe via the 3 Skypephones offered by network 3.
Android from Google (Released 22 Oct 2008):
Android was developed by Google. Its share of the smartphone market is still small because of its recent release date. Android is an Open Source, Linux-derived platform backed by Google, along with major hardware and software developers (such as Intel, HTC, ARM, and eBay, to name a few), that form the Open Handset Alliance. This OS, though very new, already has a cult following among programmers eager to develop apps for its flexible, Open Source, back end. Android promises to give developers access to every aspect of the phone's operation. This lends many to foresee the promise of further growth for the Android platform.
Marketshare data from Gartner report "Worldwide Smartphone Sales Reached Its Lowest Growth Rate With 3.7 Per Cent Increase in Fourth Quarter of 2008".
There is an unbelievable list of applications available for the Smartphones. As of December 5, 2008, there were over 10,000 third-party applications officially available just for the iPhone. 10 million applications were downloaded the first weekend.
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