Last week, by coincidence on a single day, I happened to meet three friends wielding business phones that were not BlackBerrys – the company that made the familiar QWERTY keyboard enabled corporate e-mail device an executive status symbol (or the technological leash by which honchos held their serfs by the neck).
Simply put, smartphones are mini-computers (personal digital assistants) with mobile phones built in, and enable office applications like an Internet browser, e-mail, presentations and a host of other things, though features vary, depending on wireless capabilities and features such as a camera or USB port.
Also last week, I read that the iPhone 3G made by Apple has overtaken Microsoft-powered smartphones as well as BlackBerrys (made by Research In Motion) in quarterly sales, emerging next only to Symbian phones (now in Nokia's fold after the Finnish giant acquired Symbian).
The gist of all this is simple: the smartphone/business phone market is headed for a big shakeout. RIM is making its own “cool” touchscreen phones to compete. Increasingly, the battle is about software, features and user design and less about the brand.
Smartphones are also getting cheaper. Reliance is about to launch under its own brand a Rs.10,000-model. I spotted on the Web an HTC 3400i loaded with quad-band, Bluetooth wireless (No wi-fi or QWERTY, though), mini USB, Push Mail, camera, Outlook mail and touchscreen for around Rs. 10,000. A slick HTC 710 with a sliding QWERTY can be bought for around Rs. 15,000.
A goodlooking iMate JAQ with a touchscreen can be had for under Rs. 6,500, but it is clear that as you dip below Rs. 15k, there are tradeoffs on features.
Nokia and Samsung have their own smartphone lternatives, signalling an aggressive battle ahead.
As the cool and the smart converge, customers can have fun. But make sure your match features and price – and also have the right data/Internet plan that enables overall value.