Based on television ads and overall attention given to the mobile phone market, many assume smartphones will account for most new mobile phone purchases in 2011. Adding to this notion is the popularity of the phrase “smartphone” in terms of Twitter mentions and Google Realtime search results, as the term was among the most popular topics on both this week.
However, Compete.com, a web behavior analysis firm, released a survey of 2,639 mobile phone subscribers on Monday, which found 65 percent of respondents plan to purchase a less capable feature phone as their next mobile device. While 35 percent plan to invest in a smartphone, whether it's an Apple iPhone, Research In Motion's BlackBerry Torch or any other model, the results demonstrate the concern many people have relating to technological upgrades.
Furthermore, many simply do not believe the capability to browse the web at will is an especially pressing need. Also, a substantial portion of consumers say they are too technically illiterate to use a smartphone.
Still, smartphones ended 2010 as one of the factors driving a very successful holiday season for the retail industry. According to research firm IDC, the global market for mobile phones swelled 17.9 percent in the final quarter of the year. The firm pointed to the growth of smartphones as the primary reason for the growth.
IDC's research notes the success of feature phones as well. Specifically, it found vendor ZTE, which primarily creates less capable devices, jumped to No. 4 on the global leader rankings in terms of original equipment manufacturer market share.
A third research institution weighed in on the mobile phone market on Monday with a forward-looking report. In-Stat found more than half of mobile phone shipments in the U.S. in 2011 will be smartphones. Additionally, In-Stat's report found the number of American smartphone shipments will likely reach 1 billion by 2015.
Both Android-based devices and Apple's iPhone accounted for the rapid smartphone growth in the fourth quarter, and this battle will likely continue throughout 2011. For current and prospective iPhone users, the iPhone 5, slated for release some time this summer, will boast an entirely new design, according to Engadget. Once the technology news blog released the photos and information leaked from Apple, Twitter and Google were bombarded with mentions of “iPhone 5.”
Engadget also revealed pictures of the new iPad 2, which will likely be available at the same time as the iPhone 5.
Consumers and industry experts often attribute Apple's success to brand recognition and popularity among young people satisfied by the possiblity of purchasing a highly capable computer immune to most major malware attacks. However, research firm Vocalabs released a report on Thursday stating Apple is among the most successful companies in the industry in terms of customer satisfaction. Sixty percent of customers reported their issues were resolved following a service call. While that number, which represents calls made in the final six months of 2010, reflects a 7 percent decrease from the first half of the year, Apple is still more helpful to consumers than other companies, such as Dell and Hewlett-Packard.
While the release of iPad 2 may increase customer service inquiries, it's unlikely the latest edition of the industry-leading tablet will lose much market share in 2011. One of its most recently released competitors, the Motorola Xoom, has received criticism for its exorbitant price. DigitalTrends.com reported on Monday that the device will cost between $699 and $799. Despite the report, Google Realtime search results shows “Motorola Xoom” interest rose substantially on Friday morning into the early afternoon.
With new mobile devices released seemingly every day, users have as many options ever. Purchase decisions, however, may ultimately rely on which device and mobile operating system offers consumers the most application options. While 2010 was certainly the year of the smartphone, 2011 is quickly turning into the year of the mobile application. Location-based social media app foursquare reported on Monday that its user base grew by 3,400 percent in 2010, and the expansion will likely continue.
Unhappy with the performance of its paid applications on its Android mobile operating system, Google is expected to push its apps to users in new, creative ways throughout 2011. Should Google's plans work, Gartner's expectations that mobile apps will generate more than $15 billion in revenue may come to fruition. Android’s App Market may also receive an influx of new exciting apps based on the results of a developer survey from Appcelerator released this week. According to the survey, 81 percent of developers are “very interested” in adding to Android's 250,000 available app downloads for both smartphones and tablets. However, Appcelerator also found 87 percent share the same enthusiasm level for iPhone apps.
As news in January related mostly to Verizon and its eventual release of the iPhone, other providers have events planned to cut into the wireless leader's dominance. For example, Sprint has a major announcement planned for the first week of February that is likely to shake up the mobile device market.