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The Smart (Mobile) Phone


Udayakumar Nalinasekaren
Dec 24, 2010

We almost went through the anatomy of a mobile phone in the earlier post. To understand mobility applications better, it is important to first understand the infrastructure on which such applications run.

 The smartness of a mobile device is directly related to its hardware and software capabilities. As a simple example, a phone that has an in built data modem (hardware which is similar in functionality to the broadband router most of us have at our home for internet connectivity) is a little more smarter than one that can do only SMS. From a software perspective, a phone that provides an environment (something like JVM for example) so that it can run applications other than the usual phone, text and configuration applications found in a vanilla cellphone is smarter.

We said earlier that the first application of mobility is to untether voice communication from the wall socket. If we have just the above two examples of increased smartness in the phone one can already read text based eMail on the mobile phone.

The gradation of smartness improves further with ability to display pictures and videos. Phones that read and understand barcode further add to the smartness. Obviously they have an inbuilt camera to do the same. With the camera comes in the possibility of a mobile video call. The capability to be location aware with the help of a GPS, the capability to perform biometric identification and the capability to capture signatures and recognize human handwriting are some more smart features of a mobile phone.

Packing all this hardware and software inside a palm sized cellphone and making it's battery withstand a full and busy day is no small feat. But such feat has been made possible today.

Mobility applications obviously will provide richer features and therefore richer user experience on a fully loaded smartphone compared to a vanilla phone. As per a recently published BBC report the number of mobile connections has already exceeded 5 billion. However, another report on the Internet says the total number sold of today's hottest selling iPhone is still south of the 100 million mark.  Google's Android based phones are quickly picking up pace in capturing the smartphone market. In just the three months ending September 2010, 20 million Android based smart phones were sold around the world while Nokia is rapidly losing market share in this segment.

In spite of all the above statistics, even if we add the sales figures of all other smart phones available today, my guess it that the total will be very shy of the half billion mark. In addition, consider the fact that the vast majority of the five billion cellphone users live in the developing world and their affordability of the smartphone is still years away. Therefore a lions share of mobility applications will target the not so smart phones for some more years to come. The SMS (texting) application found on the vanilla phone will form the base of a lion's share of mobility applications in the emerging economy where the mobile market is booming today.


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