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Report: Android Seen As Smartphone Catalyst

A new report out by ABI Research pegs Google's Android platform as the tipping point that will cause smartphones to become mainstream devices and not just gadgets for geeks and business users.
A new report out by ABI Research pegs Google's Android platform as the tipping point that will cause smartphones to become mainstream devices and not just gadgets for geeks and business users.As evidenced by The NPD Group's research, three of the five top-selling phones in the U.S. are "smartphones." They include the Apple iPhone, and the BlackBerry Curve and Pearl. Even so, smartphones have only captured about 14% marketshare of all mobile phones sold worldwide.

What's preventing smartphones from being more popular than they already are? Cost? Size? Complexity? Overkill? For many, probably all of the above.

Another roadblock, however, is the wireless network operators themselves. ABI says, "The challenge is to convince operators that having more phones in their lineups and more subscribers using those phones based on standardized operating systems is good for them. Standardization delivers easier manageability at the technical level and greater ease in marketing services to all their subscribers."

I don't think the operators need much convincing. Based on the success of the Apple iPhone, they already are beginning to realize that powerful mobile platforms paired with high-speed wireless data is the way to go.

Kevin Burden, director for ABI Research, said, "If Android is to become the ubiquitous mobile phone platform that Google and the Open Handset Alliance hope it will be, it will be because operators and handset OEMs recognize the value to their own business models of using standard platforms, not because wireless subscribers clamor for feature-rich phones, much less an Android-based phone."

Burden may not think so, but consumers need to have their eyes opened as well. I think about my parents and siblings. None of them use smartphones, but they always are impressed with the capabilities of the various smartphones that I've demonstrated over the years. Why haven't they chosen to upgrade to a smartphone? They're not interested in the features of smartphones, don't have a use for them, or just don't want to spend the money. A real change needs to occur here if they -- and millions of other users -- are to be convinced to adopt any smartphone platform, let alone Android.

ABI goes on to say that even in the future, "users won't always be aware of what they're buying: they will buy simply because they're in the market for a phone, not specifically a smartphone." The burden, then, will be for the employees at wireless retail stores to effectively demonstrate to consumers the power of smartphones (compared with standard feature phones) if they are to adopt devices using Android, Apple OS, Windows Mobile, BlackBerry OS or Symbian.