Smartphones Continue Mobile Domination

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Smartphones still rule the mobile world, and Windows Mobile has a surprisingly high OS adoption rate

The latest report from ABI Research has offered a snapshot of the global mobile handset industry on 22 April, and found that approximately 1.15 billion mobile handsets shipped in 2009. Smartphones and “enhanced phones,” versus simpler feature phones, accounted for 81 percent of the estimate.

Smartphone Domination

“In recent years the major technology and application trends in handset design have focused on 3G (and beyond) capabilities, including web surfing, social networking, multimedia, connectivity, better cameras, VoIP [Voice over IP], pico projectors and more,” ABI analyst Celia Bo wrote in the report.

When it comes to mobile handset design, ABI reports, five trends are particularly influencing the market.

The first is a move to 3.5G handsets – the fastest-growing segment amongst all vendor-announced models, reports ABI. In 2009, 3.5G models accounted for 56 percent of all handsets, while the numbers of 2G and 2.5G models fell.

Another trend is GPS, with the percentage of handsets deployed with the technology rising from 29 percent in 2008 to 48 percent in 2009. In addition to mobile phones, ABI notes that GPS has “secured a solid position in the automotive segment.”

The two markets have much in common, with many handsets wirelessly communicating with in-dash systems, and on 9 April the connections was furthered, when BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion announced its planned acquisition of QNX Software Systems and intention, said RIM co-CEO Mike Lazaridis, to “integrate and enhance the user experience between smartphones and in-vehicle audio and infotainment systems.”

Pleasing Form Factors

Also of note, according to ABI, is a preference for “candy bar style,” or bar form factor phones (think: Palm Pixi or Nokia E55). Bar-style phones accounted for 51 percent of announced models in 2009, versus sliders, with 27 percent of the market and, following a resurgence, clamshell models, which now account for 19 percent.

Talking Chips

Additionally gaining popularity are handset chipsets, and with them select manufacturers. “While Qualcomm’s Snapdragon, [Texas Instruments’] OMAP, Intel Atom and Nvidia’s Tegra are driving the markets for 3G and 3G.5 technology,” according to ABI, “the development of 4th Generation LTE and WiMAX chipsets is primarily led by Altair Semiconductor, Wavesat and Comsys Mobile, among others.”

Chip designer ARM Holdings also received a bit of the spotlight lately, along with a jump in stock prices, when rumours swirled that Apple, which uses ARM chips for its iPhone, was considering purchasing the company.

Microsoft Windows Mobile

ABI’s final noteworthy trend regards mobile operating systems. “Microsoft Windows Mobile still has the highest adoption rate among operating systems of newly launched models,” ABI reports, “with Symbian taking second place.”

Analytics firm AdMob, however, which measures ad requests, has found Google’s Android to be the fastest-growing mobile operating system. While in February 2009 Android handsets accounted for 2 percent of requests, by February 2010 that figure was up to 24 percent. The top five Android devices making the requests, it reported 25 March, were the Motorola Droid, the Motorola Cliq and the HTC Dream, Hero and Magic.

AdMob additionally attributed the Windows Mobile OS to 2 percent of smartphones worldwide in February 2010, while Android was allotted 24 percent and the Apple iPhone OS 50 percent.

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