Smartphone predictions

In the last 5 years in the world of Smartphones, we have seen;

  • Apple announce and launch the iPhone
  • Google announce Android
  • Apple announce and launch the App Store
  • Apple launch the iPhone 3G with carrier subsidies (making it much more affordable, and growing market share much faster)
  • Android launched
  • The iPad, iPad 2, Samsung Galaxy Tab, Motorola Xoom and a bunch of other mobile devices in an entirely new "media tablet" category sell something like 20 million units in the space of a single year.
  • Symbian bought up by Nokia, released as open source code, then dropped as their main platform as they shifted to Microsoft's OS.
  • Meego announced, 
  • Lots of operating systems; overall, four iterations of iOS, three iterations of Android, three iterations of Blackberry, two iterations of Windows Phone/Mobile, two iterations of WebOS. (Five years ago, iOS, Android and WebOS didn't exist.)
  • Palm purchased by HP, taking over WebOS and promising to put it into tablets and PCs

In other words; quite a lot. Five years ago, there was no iOS, Android, or WebOS. "Touchscreen" phones didn't work if you touched them with your finger- you had to use your fingernail, but were supposed to use a stylus. As a result, hardware keyboards were essential for all phones— "smart" or otherwise. The mobile "app" market was virtually non-existent, and what was there was almost completely controlled by mobile networks. "Tablets" were laptops with swivelling screens, also requiring a stylus to use them. (And all running Windows.) In other words, very few people would have been predicting more than, say, two or three of these significant, market-shifting events.

Over at Asymco.com, Horace Dediu has a nice breakdown of Gartner's latest analysis and forecasts of the smartphone market.

In short;

  • Nothing interesting will happen.
  • The market will keep growing at the same pace.
  • Everyone's share of the market will carry on growing at the same pace. (Except for Symbian; Symbian users will apparently transform into Microsoft users.)

For what its worth, my own predictions for the smartphone market;

  • Apple will break their pattern of the last 3 for the iPhone releases (new release every summer, old model drops in price, new model comes in at a premium.) iPhone 4 will see a price drop, and the 3GS will remain on the market at a new, lower price point as Apple starts looking at the lower end of the market, rather than focussing exclusively on the mid-to-high end.
  • Android will continue an astronomical growth in smartphones, as people who aren't particularly interested in smartphones will buy them because they are cheap and (as the casual browser in the shop will be told by the sales assistant) pretty much the same as an iPhone.
  • Amazon will enter the market with an Android device of their own. (Maybe a tablet, rather than a phone. Maybe both.)

That's for this year, and maybe into next year. By the end of 2012, Gartners numbers will just look silly.

That's the one prediction that I'm really confident about.