Phones to get smarter in 2008

The much-vaunted iPhone is likely to shift a few units this Christmas, judging by the crowds in the Apple store. But it’s not just Steve Jobs who will benefit – the whole smartphone industry will get a boost.

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Smartphones, mobiles with PC-like functionality, currently account for about 10% of the phone market, but in 2008 that’s set to increase. This is partly due to the iPhone effect, as Apple looks to bring the concept to the mass-market, but it’s also because these devices are getting ever smarter and more affordable.

We’re already massively reliant on our mobiles for voice and text messaging, plus all the extras – more and more people want a single device that will also act as a camera, music player and navigation aid. But according to Symbian, maker of the operating systems behind several smartphones (although not the iPhone), this is just the tip of the iceberg. By the end of 2008 we could also be using our devices for electronic payments, security tagging, watching TV, video recording and location mapping, amongst other things. In Japan, they’re even going mad for a motion sensor that allows your phone to make light sabre noises when you wave it around...

Equally importantly, they’re getting cheaper to use. Smartphones used to be the preserve of techno-geeks and people with more money than sense. Now phone companies are so keen to get us using them – because they offer more services and thus generate more money per user – that they’re making it cheaper for us to buy and use the phones.

David Wood, Symbian’s executive vice-president of research, told MT that smartphones are now generating bigger profits and enjoying a faster pace of innovation than any other part of the market. ‘Smartphones have become sexy’, as he puts it. ‘It’s an exciting period of growth – any company with an eye for profit will want to get involved’.

Business users – and that’s presumably most of us – also stand to benefit from the new generation of smartphones. Wood reckons that as well as relying on our phones for email on the move (‘it takes pressure away because it helps you manage your time better’, he says), the time is nigh when they’ll replace our desktop phones altogether. Apparently, research firm Gartner has predicted that in three years’ time, there’ll be nobody buying desk-based phones at all.

So if you’re looking to pick up next year’s big gadget ahead of the crowd this Christmas, smartphones may be a good option. Even if you can’t afford to splash out on the funky iPhone, there are plenty of other options – and before you know it, you could be using your phone to fulfil your dream of becoming a Jedi knight. Or maybe that’s just us...

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