How smart is the iPhone?

Summary:Like most people with a pulse in their wrist and a love of tech in their hearts, I saw the Macworld keynote the other day. I know it's not going to win me any friends but does anyone else think Steve Jobs mightn't be so good on numbers?

Like most people with a pulse in their wrist and a love of tech in their hearts, I saw the Macworld keynote the other day. I know it's not going to win me any friends but does anyone else think Steve Jobs mightn't be so good on numbers?

Said Steve of his newest mobile baby: "We have garnered a 20 percent market share of the US smartphone market."

The Nokia 5500

I don't know Steve, I'm just not sure you have. I'm not doubting the black polo-necked one's ability to see how many iPhones have left the shelves, more querying how he determined what counts as a smartphone.

It's worth noting that Steve Jobs is only using Gartner's numbers on the whole smartphone issue; more specifically, Gartner's US smartphone market share numbers for the third calendar quarter of last year. According to the numbers Jobs cited, RIM picked up 39 percent market share, the iPhone came second with 19 percent, leaving Palm, Motorola, and Nokia to take third, fourth and fifth place with 9.8, 7.4 and 1.4 percent respectively.

Does anything about that seem wrong to you? It does to me. While Nokia is not as popular in the US as it is in other territories, such as Europe, there's no denying it can still flog a few handsets -- handsets which are for the most part running on the Symbian OS. In the same quarter as the Gartner stats Jobs referenced, Symbian shifted 20 million phones but apparently undersold the iPhone by some quite considerable margin.

For Nokia to undersell RIM, Moto, Palm and Apple in Gartner's statistics, there's clearly a divergence of opinion on what constitutes a smartphone.

The Nokia E61

For Gartner, a smartphone is a large-screen, data-centric, handheld device designed to offer complete phone as well as PDA-type functionality. Presumably, it judges devices like the E61 in that category, while excluding the more familiar candy-bar stylings of the Nokia 5500 Sport.

For most people, however, any device running the Symbian OS would be considered a smartphone, as would anything running Windows Mobile or Linux, for that matter.

The iPhone, however, would not. Not yet anyway.

One of the key defining characteristics of a smartphone is openness -- the ability to add and remove programs freely, and a programmable OS. And Apple has yet to sanction this completely -- an SDK is yet to arrive, although it's scheduled for February. Until then, it looks like users are forced to take the jailbreak option, turning the iPhone into a smartphone against its will.

Disclosure: Jo Best did not visit San Francisco as a guest of Apple. She watched the keynote at her desk like everyone else. Sorry.

Topics: Apple, iPhone, Linux, Mobile OS, Mobility, Nokia, Open Source, Operating Systems

About

Jo Best has been covering IT for the best part of a decade for publications including silicon.com, Guardian Government Computing and ZDNet in both London and Sydney.

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