It just depends on how you look at things.
Something has really got me thinking the last few days. It started with the first emerging news about Apple’s upcoming iPhone, and specifically about the people commenting on various forums (particularly any S60-based ones) explaining that the ‘iPhone is no smartphone’. At first, I kind of agreed..after all, how can it be a smartphone if ‘you cannot install 3rd-party apps’…eh….hold on a minute….is that the definition of a smartphone? that you can install apps on it?
Well, that got me thinking. So I started to pick up from the forums more and more that this is the largest reason how someone can define a smartphone, rather than a ‘dumbphone’ which does not allow apps to be installed. Right. glad that’s cleared up.
Except its a fucking stupid yardstick. Surely THE most important aspect of a smartphone is the ability to seamlessly integrate with your central data repository (read: computer)? And allow the installed apps to communicate (if necessary) with their big brother app on the computer? When you start to judge a phone by its willingness to integrate into your existing infrastructure, then I believe you are getting close to what a smartphone is. Let me give an example.
I own a Nokia E61 smartphone. I also own a Mac. The E61 has the possibility to install hundreds of applications on it (which I did already, in my ‘honeymoon’ period of ownership. Then I deleted most, as they were IMO buggy, ugly, or just plain crap). Out of all these apps, I basically worked out that what I actually used was (in order of importance): Email, Internet (browsing), Sync of addressbook and calendar, multimedia and navigation. The Email aspect works (its slow with many mails, but) fine, because its standalone (as in direct comms with the IMAP servers in my case), the Web browsing is fine, but clearly is a pain at first because I cannot import bookmarks that I already have from my computer, and it cannot sync new bookmarks to my desktop browser. Sync of addressbook/calendar is handled by iSync, with no issues. Multimedia is another matter entirely. It is quite simply rubbish, as there is no way to easily integrate the phone into my Mac’s ‘circle of friends’ to grab music or vids. As for installing 3rd-party apps, a grand total of zero actually can communicate when necessary to your desktop machine for exchange of data (unless its a web-based app), thus rendering some of the apps useless (for example, if I run a dBase prog on the E61, it will not sync the changes to a desktop-based dBase prog etc). I wonder if even on the Windows platform these apps can talk and sync with its desktop counterpart? I have not really seen this with S60 apps and neither with PC Suite, as it has a fixed list of things it does. Nokia provides no software solution for the Mac (although, they are not the only ones) to integrate any of the tasks listed that I do. I bought a smartphone, and I have to jump through hoops to get it to do above and beyond what a normal ‘dumbphone’ can do. The situation with the Mac is that companies like Nokia, SonyEricsson and even BlackBerry dont really give a rat’s ass about the platform. They may do in the future, to play catch-up when the iPhone starts biting into marketshare, but then it will be too late anyway. Apple will have really saved the day for most Mac-computer running People, Businesses and Companies with the iPhone. The iPhone WILL HAVE TO ‘just work’, gulping down the data that it needs from your desktop Mac. Browserbookmarks? SYNCED. Email read/deleted? SYNCED. music? SYNCED. videos? SYNCED. and you can bet what you like that when Apple releases the SDK necessary to make iPhone apps, that the apps that need SYNC will get SYNC. Expect a torrent of development/developers for widgets/apps for the iPhone that SYNC with their desktop counterparts. On the Mac platform, if we are judging a smartphones worth by its ability to integrate/assimilate with its ‘mothership’, then S60/UIQ/Blackberry are fucked. And while the Windows crowd will shout ‘SO WHAT? THE MAC’S ONLY GOT 3% MARKET SHARE BLAH BLAH..’ the iPhone will relatively kick the living-shit out of a stagnant industry. I predict a new yardstick for the tag ‘smartphone’, and that yardstick will be the iPhone whether people want it or not.
Its not about whether you can install 500 apps on your phone, its about the integration stupid!