We are now fully in the era of the smartphone. At no other time have we had such numerous choices of quality devices from companies like Samsung, Apple, Nokia, Apple, HTC, Motorola and RIM, to name just a few. Adoption of smartphones by both consumers and enterprises is big. This year, more than 70% of new phones brought in to U.S. enterprises will be smartphones. In the next few years, over 90% of business users will have a smartphone. No doubt the choice, quality and price is driving this adoption. In the past couple months I have tried out a few of the newer models–Apple iPhone 4, Samsung Galaxy S and the RIM BlackBerry Torch. Each has its strengths–iPhone 4 for ease of use, the Galaxy for its amazing screen and the Torch for its management and customization capabilities. Though the BlackBerry Torch will be adopted primarily by enterprise users, it has a much-improved touchscreen (compared to the variations of the Storm) and it does a nice job managing social networking. I think all three will have some success (duh!–tough analyst prediction here) but in the near term, the thing that will drive users, with most things being equal, will be the apps that are available for download.
Right now, Apple is in the lead for sheer quantity of apps, with over 300,00o available for its platform. Android is fast approaching, just topping the 100,000 mark. Now I’m not saying the more apps, the more devices sold–in fact, I think we’ve hit a bit of a plateau and it gets to a point where ten of the same app isn’t adding any value. But when users are making a decision between platforms, and the hardware and functionality of the device is almost equal, having a large number of apps to choose from is going to drive a big part of the end user decision. This means those that have fewer apps–averaging under 15,000 each–RIM, Windows Phone 7 manufacturers, HP Palm–are all fighting an uphill battle. Nokia has survived so far, but the Symbian platform is under pressure in Europe from competitors, and next year will feel the full impact. We have now entered the era of the smartphones, and apps are leading the way. And all platforms aren’t equal there.