Reuters is reporting that Smartphones will outsell computers in 2012 based on a recent Gartner report. The industry is thinking that the PC paid content may be a lost cause, but smartphones are a relatively new phenomena and there is a chance to break away from the "everything is free" mentality.
To some extent, I think that line of reasoning has some logic to it. You can buy a PC anywhere and hook it up to your home internet connection or any WiFi hotspot. There is a sense that it is your computer and you have hooked it up to a dumb pipe, so let the content start flowing.
Smartphones on the other hand cannot be purchased anywhere, at least not in the US. The overwhelming majority of phones come directly from the carrier, and it is with that carrier that nearly everyone buys their connectivity from. In fact, more and more carriers are mandating you purchase a data plan with a smartphone.
For years, people have been paying $2.99 for ring tones and they think nothing of it. Yet that same person balks at paying $.99 for a full blown MP3 file of their favorite song of the day on their PC. The same goes for wallpaper, games and even content from sites like ESPN.
I think there is a possibility that content on your phone will be a mix of free and paid, and that the general public won't a small fee a hindrance to getting some content the way they do when sitting at their computer. Maybe they are just more used to the idea of paying for stuff on their phone. Maybe they don't want to spend 10-15 minutes of searching for free alternatives. That is easy to do on a PC with a full sized screen, keyboard and fast internet connection. It is a bit tedious on a 3 or 4 inch screen with no keyboard and an internet connection that can fluctuate between 56kpbs and 750kpbs. It can be worth it for many to just get the data you want right now.
There will always be those that subscribe to the "browse free or die" philosophy, but when it comes to these smaller devices, there will be those that will click on the "buy" button and let a few pennies here and there get added to their monthly phone bill.