Smartphone or Superphone?

Posted by Zealot on Sep 23, 2008

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nokia-e61i-iphone John Sangiovanni wrote an excellent guest column at GigaOm recently in which he looked at the high end phone market as it exists today and sees a new device category developing…Superphones.

He numbered in this new Superphone category such devices as the iPhone, Samsung Instinct and LG Dare and sees them as devices with “vastly better performance, desktop-grade web browsing, and high-resolution displays”.

I definitely agree with his main point, and feel that a serious paradigm shift is taking place in the smartphone market as devices like the iPhone are transcending even the broad feature sets found in smartphones. Just as the first smartphones such as the Treo and the original BlackBerry melded the cell phone and the PDA (killing the PDA category in the process), so I feel the iPhone and it’s cousins are merging smartphones and MIDs (soon to follow the PDA into Betamaxland). They are more or less the mobile Internet devices that we have seen alot of vapor about, without many actual releases. The slow roll out of WiMax in the US, the duck soup of 3G standards in Europe and Asia and the resulting dependency on WiFi for mobile internet by many devices has effectively shut the window of opportunity on the MID as a mass market device in my opinion. As an ultra mobile notebook replacement MIDs have been overwhelmed by the Netbooks, and as a Mobile Internet device by the so called Superphones .

Even at this early stage, these Superphones have the instant on and internet anywhere capabilities that were to be the MIDs killer app, at 3G speeds, along with the traditional capabilities of feature phones and smartphones.

So what capabilities does Mr. Sangiovanni  feel qualifies a device to be called a Superphone? He lists the following:

Hardware

  • Display with at least 320 pixels on the short axis
  • 3G connectivity or greater (plus additional radios as appropriate…Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, etc.)
  • Location-sensing technology (GPS, high-resolution signal-strength-based location, or equivalent)
  • Hardware-accelerated graphics subsystem

Platform

  • Integrated web browser that supports current desktop development standards
  • Published native developer SDK that allows programmatic access to the specialized hardware/software features listed above.

Distribution

  • Integrated process for certification and searchable catalog distribution of 3rd-party applications.

I do not completely agree with his feature set. While I feel that high level graphics capabilities are need to support the higher resolution screens, I would add a high level CPU such as an Atom (likely to appear in Apple iPhones next year) as well as a large amount of onboard storage (4G plus). His demand for a desktop standards compliant web browser would leave the iPhone off the list, as Safari is more and more crippled by the lack of Flash support so I feel that qualification may need to be fudged a bit. His call for and SDK and third-party application certification process is essential, as it gives birth to the the Apple App Store, the Android Store and Windows Mobile’s upcoming application store. As I have said in past posts, the key to mobile devices now is content such as third party apps and multimedia along with seamless feature integration and that cannot be stressed enough here.

Overall however, I completely agree with the concept of a Superphone category emerging. The only question is which current category will it cannibalize more, Smartphones or UMPCs?

So what do you think? Is the iPhone an overhyped smartphone, or a MID killing Superphone? Do we even need yet another category?

Zealot (839 Posts) - Website | Twitter | Facebook


By day a department manager and writer for a major network device vendor...by night Zealot stalks the mean magnetic streets, striking fear into the hearts of bandwidth abusers and theme park mascots. Zealot has been involved with mobile devices for more than a decade now, starting off with dumb phones, moving to PDAs and then to smartphones, notebooks and netbooks with the odd PMP thrown in. Most of his mobile time currently is spent on a Treo Pro, Zune HD, Thinkpad T61, HP Mini 311, iPod Touch 3G, iPad 16G or a Hackintoshed Compaq Mini 704. He proudly groks the Geek community and considers himself a Neo Maxi Zune Dweebie (thanks Wil Wheaton!).

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