What a summer it has been for the mobile industry. There have been so many hot new phone announcements that have generated a constant buzz around the industry. While the news has started to tail off a bit in August, throughout June and July, it seemed as though new phones were being announced almost every day. To recap, here are some of the hottest phone releases of the summer:
The Pre was the device that started the party. For people who had been waiting years for a follow-on to the Treo, Palm did not disappoint with their handset. Sales estimates of the handset thus far range from 300K to 1MM+ with exact data hard to come by. The phone’s sales could be hindered by its exclusive relationship with Sprint – the nation’s third largest carrier which has been steadily losing subscribers. Verizon, the nation’s largest carrier, will have the device by early 2010, so that should help spur sales. Arguably, it would be the hottest handset of the summer if it were not for the…
Apple iPhone 3GS
Just as Palm was trying to make waves, Apple upstaged them with the announcement of the iPhone 3GS. Sporting a number of high quality upgrades, including 3G internet speeds, improved camera, voice control, and cut-and-paste (click for a complete review), the iPhone 3GS lived up to the usual hype by selling over 1MM units during its first weekend alone. Apple did a much better job managing the launch by allowing customers to pre-order it. It helped to reduce lines at the store and made for a smoother upgrade process. While there remain lingering issues with AT&T support for things like tethering and multi-media messaging, the iPhone 3GS has continued to stake its claim as the hippest handset on the market.
BlackBerry Tour and Curve 8520
Not to be left out, Research in Motion (RIM) announced a couple of new additions to its product line – the BlackBerry Tour and BlackBerry Curve 8520. Both devices are evolutionary devices in the BlackBerry product line. The Tour is more or less a CDMA version of the BlackBerry Bold that is available on the AT&T network, and the Curve 8520 is a budget-friendly version of the Curve 8900, available on the T-mobile network. The biggest deal with the Curve 8520 is the replacement of the trackball with a small optical pad. Even without all the hype, Research in Motion maintained its lead in smartphone sales for Q2, thanks in part to its broad product portfolio and availability on every network.
For those of us here in the US, the first reaction is probably the HTC what? But in Europe, the release of the Hero was greatly anticipated and much awaited. It is one of the first devices that truly takes advantage of the features available in Google’s Android mobile operating system. While not as elegant as the iPhone, the Hero shows that Android has closed the gap considerably since the first Android handset, the G1 by T-mobile. While the Hero is not expected to make it to the US until later this year (rumor has it that Sprint will offer it), you can get a preview of the Hero through this thorough review by MobileCrunch.
The MyTouch is the follow-on the G1, offered exclusively through T-mobile. It is another Android-based phone that is effectively a rebrand of the HTC Magic. The MyTouch has received fairly positive reviews as a worthy successor to the G1. T-mobile has put a lot of effort into promoting it (including a sky-diving assault on San Francisco) and has released an AppPack to demonstrate the capabilities of the Android operating system. The MyTouch could quickly become one of the best selling devices on the T-mobile network.
Nokia has become an almost forgotten player in the mobile market, but the facts don’t lie. Nokia still maintains a strong lead in worldwide market share for handsets. The N97 was released earlier this summer as Nokia’s flagship smartphone. Fans of Nokia will surely want to grab a hold of this device, but its biggest issue is lack of carrier support in the US. The device can be purchased direct from Nokia and will set you back somewhere between $600 to $700. I don’t expect to see lots of N97 devices on the streets, but Nokia has made its intentions known that it is planning a more vigorous assault on the US smartphone market in the near future.
OK, this wasn’t a specific phone announcement, but there have been numerous announcements of phones based on the Android operating system over the summer. Sony Ericsson, Samsung, and Motorola have all announced plans for Android-based devices, and HTC has indicated that 50% of its new devices will be Android-based. I’ve been particularly impressed with the Rachel UI being developed by Sony Ericsson. Throughout the remainder of the year, expect many more Android phone announcements, which will set the stage for a real battle between Google and Apple for mobile dominance.
Summary and Analysis
One item you will find absent from these announcements is a standard, vanilla handset. In fact, there have been very few announcements of basic, low-end phones this summer. People just don’t seem to care of get excited about the standard handset anymore. Whether it is an indication of status, or people are craving the functionality, smartphone sales are strong and adoption rates are growing. Apple and RIM are dominating the market with their profits, which is no surprise given that their mobile offerings are exclusively smartphones.
To me, this trend indicates that smartphones are moving to mass adoption. In other words, we’ve passed the knee in the adoption curve. As more people have a more powerful handset in their hands, not only will users crave more and more data from the mobile internet, the carriers are going to give it to them. This means that more users will be coming to the mobile internet for information on a regular basis, and that more websites will need to be optimized for the mobile device. Of course, some users will look to the functionality of apps, but most users will turn to the internet, a medium which they are the most familiar with.
When we look back on this period of time, the summer of ’09 will be remembered as the point at which the smartphone went mainstream and the mobile internet really began to take-off.
Given all the hype around devices this summer, which ones have you been most impressed with? Which one do you want the most? If you have upgraded to a smartphone recently, do you find yourself using it to access the internet more frequently?