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7 smartphone predictions for 2010

Among them: AT&T loses its iPhone exclusive deal

December 4, 2009 06:00 AM ET

Computerworld - Looking at smartphone growth by the numbers, it's a cinch to predict that sales will continue to boom in 2010.

But the real story of the smartphone's future is not in the numbers. It's a personal one told in many different ways by many smartphone users. One such user, John Davis, has been a physician for many years. He owns a new Droid smartphone, purchased at a Verizon Wireless store near Boston in November.

Davis cites many reasons for buying a Droid, the main one being that it is the closest thing to Apple Inc.'s fantastically successful iPhone that runs on the Verizon network. Having been a Verizon customer for years, Davis said he trusts the Verizon network more than he does the one offered by AT&T, the wireless carrier with exclusive rights to the iPhone in the U.S.

Aside from some initial voice echo problems, Davis sees the Droid as being handy for personal use and in his medical practice, where he can use it to browse for new research and exchange e-mail with colleagues. The Droid's GPS capability is another plus.

But in the end, this is how Davis summarizes what could be the smartphone's biggest impact in the world of computing and communications: "Eventually, this thing is my computer."

He means, of course, that the Droid or a future smartphone could someday replace his desktop computer, laptop and even other phones.

Whether smartphones ever become the handheld computing/communication devices that replace other computers remains to be seen, but they are already powerful and popular. They have been popular enough, in fact, to sustain the mobile phone market during a recession, and they will continue to generate healthy growth for the sector into 2010, according to several analyst firms.

So that's the basis of the first prediction for 2010, and it's a safe one:

1. Smartphones will grab an even bigger share of the overall mobile phone market

Of the more than 1.2 billion mobile phones expected to ship globally in all of 2009, nearly 190 million will be smartphones, Frost & Sullivan recently estimated. In 2010, nearly 1.3 billion mobile phones will ship globally, and 250 million of them will be smartphones, according to the analyst firm.

Frost & Sullivan analyst Gerry Purdy predicts that in the U.S., where smartphone growth is robust, virtually all phones sold will be smartphones within five years.

Because of the global recession, mobile phone sales have experienced slower growth during the past 12 to 18 months, but the number of subscribers still grew during that period, while the growth in smartphone sales was "amazing" and was in line with what could be expected during a growth market, Purdy added.

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