22 July 2006

Whatever happened to… the smartphone? [The Register]

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At one time, the future of mobiles looked simple. The smartphone was a new kind of gadget that was subsuming the pager, the camera, the PDA, the Walkman, and almost every other piece of technology you could carry – and offering it in volume at an irresistible price. Often free. Over time, every phone would become a smartphone.

The justification for an all-singing, all-dancing converged device seems as distant as ever. Today ‘dumbphones’, say for example Nokia’s 6230i, or Sony Ericsson’s V630i are more capable than we once imagined they would be.

It’s easy to explain the success of the dumbphone by arguing they add most of the features people wanted. Of course that’s true, but it’s also tautological, and we have to look beyond that, to see what features people either didn’t want, or haven’t used. The phone manufacturers would much rather the smartphone had become an overnight smash, because they command higher margins, and carriers make more money from services smartphones can handle than the dumbphones. Something, clearly, didn’t go according to plan.

But what was it?

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