Smartphone vs. feature phone arms race heats up; which did you buy?

Smartphone vs. feature phone arms race heats up; which did you buy?

Summary: Smartphones such as the iPhone and the BlackBerry might get all the headlines, but most Americans continue to opt for less-expensive feature phones.Feature phones, which are dumb phones that have elements (but not the full connectivity) of smartphones, accounted for an astounding 72 percent of new handset sales in the U.

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Smartphones such as the iPhone and the BlackBerry might get all the headlines, but most Americans continue to opt for less-expensive feature phones.

Feature phones, which are dumb phones that have elements (but not the full connectivity) of smartphones, accounted for an astounding 72 percent of new handset sales in the U.S. in the second quarter, according to a new report by NPD.

Make no mistake, the tides are changing, and more Americans than ever are ponying up the dough for a real-deal smartphone (sales are up 47 percent year-over-year, to 28 percent market share). And feature phones sales slipped slightly, 5 percent.

But when it comes to which phone rules the roost, it all depends on the features.

In Q2 2009:

  • The LG enV2 and Samsung Rant led feature phone sales
  • The Apple iPhone 3G and RIM Blackberry Curve led smartphone sales
  • Wi-Fi capability is now on 20 percent of all new handsets, a 300% increase
  • Touchscreens were on 26 percent of all new handsets sold
  • QWERTY keyboards were on 35 percent of all new handsets sold

The success of the feature phone rests on the ability for it to match the smartphone feature-for-feature, without attaching a pricey data plan to the device. (Hank Williams writes on his blog that it all depends on the operating system.)

When it comes to mobile devices, which did you opt for?

[poll id=24]

Topics: Enterprise Software, Hardware, Mobility, Smartphones, Telcos

Andrew Nusca

About Andrew Nusca

Andrew Nusca is a former writer-editor for ZDNet and contributor to CNET. During his tenure, he was the editor of SmartPlanet, ZDNet's sister site about innovation.

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12 comments
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  • Smartphone vs. feature phone arms race heats up; which did you buy?

    I have a feature phone, and it works ok. The only things I'd like to see improved on it is a better web browser and apps. The browser is ok, but still doesn't give as good of a web experience as one would like. That Verizon web browser leaves a lot to be desired. Oh and the other complaint would be cheaper apps, not the monthly subscription that Verizon charges for every app.

    I'd like a smart phone, I considered the BB storm, but did not want to pay the extra money for the data plan so it was back to the feature phone for me with a much cheaper data plan.
    Loverock Davidson
  • Smartphone without data plan

    It is the best compromise between features and price. Data plans are just too expensive.
    paul2011
  • Feature Phones Not Always Good....

    Got the Rant, 1 week later it locked up many times, look online and seeing users having same issues, I took it back to sprint and now have the Blackberry Curve. Should have gotten the Curve first. Plus, it is the same for the plan so really a smart phone is a no brainier and works better. I could have done the Pre, or a Windows Mobile phone. "Feature Phones" after having one are ripoffs.
    sandmanfvr
  • I got a smartphone from the real innovators

    HTC Touch Diamond running WM6.5 baby! Why settle for the fruity imitator when you can get the real thing? :)
    NonZealot
    • But can you fingerpaint?

      and watch low res movies and have access to 65000 useless apps?

      I didn't think so.

      I've been waiting for 6.5 ;-)
      tonymcs@...
  • Smartphone: Omnia

    After great consideration, reading reviews, and in-store testing, I went with the Samsung Omnia. The "additional" data plan is $10 a month on the plan I'm on. Thanks to a couple mods, Google Maps works with the embedded GPS, WM 6.5 is running on it, and the TouchFlo interface is running with no problems. Between Opera Mobile and SkyFire I have no browser problems, and the 5 MP camera is surprisingly crisp for a camera-phone.
    MariusSilverwolf
    • I am waiting on the Omnia 2

      Rumor has it comming to Verizon in the next couple of months.
      GuidingLight
  • I gots me a Nokia N95

    nt
    Dietrich T. Schmitz
  • RE: Smartphone vs. feature phone arms race heats up; which did you buy?

    I bought a Motorola ZN5 which has a 5 megapixel Kodak camera, WIFI, and a browser. The photographs I have taken with it are of comparable quality to those I've taken with our 6 megapixel Olympus camera. It is not compatible with my macbook, but with WIFI and the browser I can upload photos to Flickr directly from the phone. It does not have a QWERTY keyboard, but I rarely send text messages. I work at home, rarely make phone calls, and am grandfathered into a $20 T-mobile plan; for an additional $10 per month I can make unlimited WIFI calls, but as I mentioned above I rarely make phone calls. I make so few phone calls and spend so little time away from home that it makes no sense to have an expensive cell phone plan.
    bklnpoet
  • The best of both worlds...

    I wanted a smartphone for the better calendaring and ability to sync with my PC and have just ONE calendar that I can update in multiple places. I ended up getting a Samsung I760 (now discontinued at Verizon) but skipped the data plan. Instead I chose to go with the pay-as-you-go option if I connect through the phone network which is rare. The secret is the I760 has built-in Wi-Fi so I can get connected wirelessly when I am at home, work and many times out to lunch. I had to pay more up front to get the better phone but I don't have to pay the huge monthly bill for the expensive data plan. This is the first phone I have had that I have been completely happy with.
    flyerbry2
  • None of the above

    Smartphone without a data plan. Nokia's E63 all the goodies of a smartphone, including wi-fi and I have no problem finding a free wifi hotspot when I need it. And I have no contract tieing me up.
    bunkport
  • If only "smart" didn't mean "expensive" (nt)

    nt = no text
    CobraA1