Smartphones are nothing new. The Blackberry, Treo and other PDA-like devices that do double duty as phones have been around for a while. What the phones can do is practically genius, as these offer the ability to make calls, work on documents, surf the Web, check e-mail and more. The problem has been that smartphones weren’t always a smart purchase for mobile users – the phones tended to cost more upfront, and all the extra services (including Web browsing and e-mail) made the money costs add up quickly.
Additionally, in recent years regular handsets began to offer many of the features, including IM and even multi-megapixel cameras. Given that smartphones also tended to require a lot of juice the phone functionality wasn’t always available when you needed it most. Suddenly the smartphones didn’t look so smart.
Last year saw the first change in the development of phone applications with the iPhone, and now Google Android, the new mobile operating system from the search engine powerhouse, could put a new spin on the smartphone. ABI Research even goes so far as to suggest the Android OS will be the tipping point in attitudes towards the concept of a smartphone.
According to ABI Research director Kevin Burden, “If Android is to become the ubiquitous mobile phone platform that Google and the Open Handset Alliance hope it will be, it will be because operators and handset OEMs recognize the value to their own business models of using standard platforms, not because wireless subscribers clamor for feature-rich phones, much less an Android-based phone.”
Given that the current smartphone market only accounts for 14 percent of worldwide handsets that’s a lot of opportunity for Google Android. The key will be whether Google can convince handset manufacturers to replace the real-time operating systems that now power most mobile phones with the new OS. The first mobile device powered by Google Android, the T-Mobile G1, will arrive later this month. What Google needs to hope for is that consumers will embrace the standardization that a platform such as Android can provide.
“The smartphone market has been moving in this direction for some time now,” Burden continues. “If Android is a success, it may be the tipping point that marks the start of a profound change in the smartphone market.”