This has been the biggest week for the smartphone industry this year. Following the release of Apple’s iOS 4 on Monday, Motorola and Verizon released the new Android-based Droid X phone on Wednesday. Apple brought its iPhone 4 to stores on Thursday and you may have also heard that Google released a highly anticipated new version of its Android operating system.
Today, we may be simply focused on sales numbers, but especially the Droid X and the iPhone 4 are ringing in a new time that fundamentally changes the way we perceive mobile computing. However, it is an opportunity that lies in those sales numbers that create the foundation for a future in which we are spending more and more time with smartphones: Apple is estimated to have sold somewhere between 1 and 1.5 million new iPhone 4s on its first day, while Google noted during the Droid X launch that about 160,000 Android phones are now shipping every day.
According to ABI Research, more than 55 million smartphones were sold globally in the first quarter for this year. Some analysts believe that close to 300 million smartphones will ship in 2010.
On the very surface, this astounding growth is driven by much more capable smartphone devices in a race that is reminiscent of what we have seen about a decade ago in the PC arena. The gigahertz race is in full swing with Qualcomm shipping 1.0 GHz chips and the promise of a 1.5 GHz processor by the end of the year. Motorola openly talks about a 2 GHz phone for Q4 2010, even if we do not know which processor it will carry. Many phones now have two cameras, begin to support video calling and produce decent digital still images. Graphics processors that support video acceleration are surfacing and even true 3D abilities of mobile phones is no science-fiction anymore, according to Motorola’s CEO Sanjay Jha. The iPhone achieves a screen resolution that is beyond what many of us had available on their first PC and storage capabilities are substantial enough to enable you to carry most of your files with you wherever you go.
Fast adoption and stunning horsepower however aren’t especially useful if you don’t have the applications that take advantage of today’s smartphone. The expectation that smartphones will replace the functionality of basic notebooks in mobile computing is reasonable. The trend clearly goes towards a smartphone that runs much more complex applications that we have on mobile platforms today, which, however, require much more effective coding and intuitive user interfaces. At ELC we are responding to this trend with a group of engineers and designers that are focused on the development on the best user experience, which begins with the interface of an app. Check out our mobile projects to learn more or contact us directly.
It does not take much talent to predict that the hardware race in smartphones will turn yesterday’s simple cellphone into a much more universal computing device that will run many apps that we can only use on desktop computers today. There will be new forms of entertainment, new forms of social interactions, gaming and communications. Conceivably, the creativity of developers will result in much more data-centric apps that will require much more bandwidth from network providers. We have seen AT&T already nixing their flat fee for data plans earlier this month in an apparent move to limit the exposure of the iPhone 4 to its network – or get paid for it if the data usage increases sharply. Jack Gold of market research firm J. Gold Associates predicts that the next big smartphone battle indeed will be a network battle. He brought up the thought of a need for much more data-efficient devices in the future.
Phones that are a bit more cautious which data they load and which not may not only save money for the user, but they may also help a carrier to increase its general perception of service quality as it can keep more users on its network at the same time. Just like pure mobile processing horsepower may run into a wall at some point, data bandwidth may as well. Gold even believes that a bandwidth-related MPG rating for cellphones is possible.