Smarter Than Phones

The phone business is changing at a rate so fast, and on such a curved path, that Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle comes to mind. Where it is and where it's going may be conjugate variables, but trying to reconcile the two is kind of futile.

In November 2008, the research firm Canalys released its Q3 2008 report on “smartphones”. Worldwide sales were up 28%. Nokia still held the lead with a 38.9% share of shipments, but that was down 3.5% from a year earlier, and the number of phones shipped was down too. Apple meanwhile moved into second place with a 17.3% share, with unit numbers up 523% over the year before. And, that's with just two generations of a single phone—not a fleet of phones such as Nokia's...and everybody else's.

Among operating systems, Symbian was first and Apple second. Following were RIM, Microsoft and Linux, which had a 5.1% share and 49% growth. But that was before Android.

T-Mobile's Android phone hit only last October 17, 2008, early in Q4. Here's a telling quote from the report: “Motorola, currently holding onto fourth place in smartphones thanks largely to its Linux-based models, recently announced it would move away from using the Symbian OS and focus more on Android.” Which is also Linux.

Both the iPhone and the Androids are platforms for running countless applications, only one of which is voice telephony. I know lots of people whose day-to-day digital lives are moving from their laptops to their iPhones, BlackBerries and, yes, Androids. Although the “war” between iPhones, BlackBerries and Androids will attract the most attention, all three will win the battle of computing over telephony in the mobile world.

Still, it's hard to do serious computing apps on networks built for routing calls and charging out minutes. It'll take longer for that battle to be won, but it'll happen too. The phone system will become a data system. It will be borged by the Net.

What happens next is up to developers. For more about that, see this month's EOF column in Linux Journal, “Net Development”, on page 80.


Doc Searls is the Editor in Chief of Linux Journal


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I've had my iPhone for

Timothy Leveur's picture

I've had my iPhone for around 4 months now, and whereas my "wow" factor usually fades away with new phones after a couple of weeks, I still absolutely love what my iPhone can do. I don't think I'll ever switch away from this phone. I went with the 3G 16GB version, which of course has the iPod which is great, but the applications available and the features in text messaging, emailing, maps (brilliant!), and so-on makes this phone the best on the market in my opinion.

If you haven't already got an iPhone...get one! Especially with the new software planned for later this year which looks like improving the phone even further.

(My sites - very cheap laptops ~ gas fireplaces)

iphone is so nice, must have

Hotel Finder's picture

iphone is so nice, must have phone to use


Ruth's picture

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


iphone and linux

Anonymous's picture

I'm very pleased with iphone - that it was cracked so we can not only do mundane things like "who" and "top", but we can ssh and install anything on it - for example I installed VSFTPD on it yesterday.

The fact that linux runs on it is a great asset to this phone, and puts it miles ahead of any Symbian that I have used in the past.

I think you missed something

Political Penguin's picture

As regards the statement that iPhone and Android are for running many applications.

I'm assuming that this article is very north American centric because there are far more applications out there for Symbian than for iPhone and Android. Unlike the iPhone Symbian based phones can actually run more than one application at a time.

They are also more business and productivity related than the plethora of distractions available for the other two OS's.

I know that mobile technology is limited over that side of the Atlantic but here in Europe mobile data transmission is well advanced, not that either north America or Europe compare to the mobile data infrastructure of Japan.

Written sitting on a train with a Linux netbook hooked up to a said Symbian based phone operating as a Wifi router via a 3G connection for said netbook while said phone simultaneously multi-tasks as a music player, GPS and still lets me send texts and receive calls at the same time. ;-)

PS, Symbian - open source y'know. Some would say a bit more than Android which remains a proprietary OS built on a Linux stack.