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February 2, 2010

Making the peoples’ phones smarter

ConvergedGLOBAL – Tucked away in last week’s financial announcement was a little number that surprised many. “Nokia grew its converged device market share to an estimated 40 per cent, from an estimated 35 per cent in Q3 2009”. In normal parlance converged device is a smartphone, in that they share many of the same features and functions. So what of that rise? In such adverse conditions, too. The global economy is just about picking itself up and dusting itself down, and that’s before we consider the massive progress the competition has made in the last 12 months. How’d it happen, then?

As Mike wrote last week, we’re not ones for horn-tootin’ or number gazing, but the rise of the converged device goes beyond mere numbers (we’ve had enough of that this past week, ed.). The leap has more to do with the filtering down of smart tech into more handsets and consequently, into more people’s hands. And that’s the bit which I think is interesting.

So how do we define a converged device? Right now there are 31 Nokia devices available in the UK which sport GPS as standard. The bulk of these run a version of S60 (though there are also a few Series 40 devices, and the Maemo-packing Nokia N900). Of these, 28 sport a screen larger than 2-inches and of those, 20 sport WiFi and support push email. Those same 20 also have a camera that’s greater than 3-megapixels. And of course, all these devices come with contacts, calendars, Internet access and, for S60 and upwards, the ability to extend the device’s use through the addition of apps.

Steve Litchfield wrote recently on All About Symbian that Nokia’s success relates directly to range. He highlights the most affordable converged device from Nokia starting at about £100 (before subsidies) and running right up to £450 (before subsidies). The thought being that Nokia has a wider range of devices, to suit a wider range of people and budgets than most others. Steve also talks about geographic range and the reach Nokia has across different continents, and countries.

Trace back the origin of this range of devices and you’ll land somewhere towards the end of 2006 and the announcement of the N95. Then it was said that in time, the features and technology rolled out in that device would filter down to mid-range handsets. We were also painted a picture of everyone having devices that were connected to the internet, and location aware. We can see already the range of devices in place to make that happen, and with the recent Ovi Maps announcement of free walk and drive navigation, the services to go with it.

And that’s how those numbers are masking something much more important than a five per cent rise. What we’re seeing is quite a major social shift. Steve quotes figures that say converged devices (or smartphones) still only make up 20 per cent of the mobile phone market. Not surprising, really, but it does show the room that there is to grow still. We’re in the early days of this seismic shift, and the exciting times ahead are when we see everyone connected to the same internet, and all our devices become location aware. These latest results show that this has started to happen. The next set should give us an indication of how quickly. Exciting times indeed, don’t you think?

Photo by carbonnyc