Much of the media has placed Apple's device, unveiled this month at the Macworld conference in San Francisco, in the same category as gadgets like the Palm Treo, the Motorola Q, and Research In Motion's BlackBerry Pearl. But the major difference between those devices and the iPhone is the fact that Apple's gizmo is closed to third-party applications.
"Therefore, we must conclude at this point that, based on our current definition, the iPhone is not a smart phone; it's a very high-end feature phone," says Philip Solis, an analyst for ABI Research.
At $500, the iPhone is considerably more expensive than smartphones, which are priced as low as $200. Many of those phones, however, lack the music capabilities of the iPhone.
Having an open, commercial operating system that supports third-party applications promotes competition in the software space and produces products that add value to the device, Solis says. "Feature phones have third-party applications too, but these are relatively weak and limited to applications that work with the middleware such as Java and Brew."
Applications designed for smartphones can access core functionality within the operating system and tend to be more powerful and efficient than third-party software on feature phones. "The competition in an open environment also yields more cutting edge, rich applications," Solis says.
ABI says the closed system chosen by Apple for the iPhone could hamper sales. "Consumers will not be willing to settle for a second-rate cell phone just to have superior music," ABI analyst Stuart Carlaw says.