Smartphones: over .99 billion served

Smartphones: over .99 billion served

Summary: The consumer electronics industry will ship more than 1 billion (!) smartphones this year, accounting firm Deloitte says. But what is a "smartphone," exactly?



Manufacturers of consumer electronics will ship more than 1 billion smartphones this year, according to a CNET report on as-yet-unreleased research from accounting firm Deloitte. And that number could reach as high as 2 billion, depending on how you define "smartphone."

The firm won't release all of its numbers until next Tuesday, but there are a few things of interest until then.

What you need to know:

  • One in five smartphone owners rarely or never connect to the Internet. That's about 400 million in total.
  • The reasons are myriad: some don't understand it; some don't want it; some can't afford it; some aren't served by it in their area.
  • In other words, there are many smartphone users out there whose needs would be satisfied by feature phones -- but either can't buy them (obsolete) or don't want to (desire for apps, touch, etc.). The use case remains, but the devices are hard to come by.
  • Unsurprisingly, there's no agreed-upon definition of smartphone. Touch input or buttons? Email, or web, or apps? The term is quite broad in practice. Which makes it all a bit ambiguous: if there's no "dumb" phone anymore, is any given "smartphone" really smart, relatively speaking?

Fascinating, particularly since so many wireless carriers bundle data plans with a smartphone purchase. It is a practice that is tremendously lucrative (just ask cable TV operators), but a major source of waste for the buyer.

Topics: CES, Mobility, Smartphones

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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  • A smartphone is a PC in your pocket

    A PC is personal. That means one major thing: side-loading of apps. If you can't "do what you want" with your phone, it isn't "Smart," although it may be pretty darned smart. Think slates running Windows RT (not a PC) vs. Windows 8 (a tablet computer).

    Thus, Android, Symbian, and Blackberry phones are smartphones. iPhones and Windows phones are feature phones. This is not to say one is better than the other. With the exception of Android, the world actually seems to be moving away from smartphone, since Blackberry 10 phones look like they will be feature phones.
    x I'm tc
    • I think you may want to rethink your definition

      ... of a smartphone vs. feature phone.
      Here's a source -->
      I also agree that the definition and the way some carriers are marketing the various handsets, may add to the confusion.

      I'm quite sure that many will disagree that the side-loading of apps is what really distinguishes the two categories.

      Personally I believe that the original iPhone (no app store) and the rebadged Kin 1 and 2, after MS killed the project, were more feature phones, since one could not do anything beyond the software that originally came with them.

      I'm also intrigued by that 400 million number of smartphone users not going online. I guess we'll have to wait for the full analysis.
    • Then smartphones have been around forever

      You've been able to install J2ME apps on "feature" phones forever.

      "Smartphone" is the same as "Linux". Something is a smartphone when categorizing that device as a smartphone helps to make the pundit's point. Something is not a smartphone when categorizing that device as a smartphone would hurt the pundit's point. Note that the same pundit could categorize the same device as a smartphone on one day and not a smartphone on another day. This won't phase the really skilled pundits at all.

      A phone you can install apps on is not a smartphone when you are trying to show that Wintel was a monopoly. A phone you can install apps on is a smartphone when you are trying to show that apple is crushing MS's marketshare of computing devices. Apparently, a phone you can install apps on is not a computing device when it is called a feature phone but a phone you can install apps on is a computing device when it is called a smartphone.

      It is also why Linux is now the #1 OS in the world because of Android (Android is Linux) but Linux is also immune to malware (Android is not Linux).
  • I Thought They Were Called Smart Phones Because..

    the Telco's are able to get a heap of money out of the phone users to use a heap of stuff they don't really need and often don't even know they are using.

    The user could do exactly the same thing using a bit of better planning and some different equipment and do it far more efficiently and cheaper.

    "Smart phones" were really invented for dumb users and their success obviously tells us something interesting about the general population.
  • Makes no sense...

    "One in five smartphone owners rarely or never connect to the Internet. That's about 400 million in total."

    "rarely" ?? I think this is a bad description. I think they mean that they do not use a web browser. Many who never think they "use the internet" actually do when they do something as simple as check their weather app.
    • The internet is much more than a weather map, and firing up a browser

      is a conscious decision by the user, unlike the weather app.

      Reality is that, my wife and I don't ever use the browse with our smartphones, and neither do my son or my daughter or her husband.

      Smartphones, for the most part, are overkill and priced much higher than what people use them for.

      For connecting to the internet, we all use laptops or desktops or tablets. The internet capability in smartphones is a feature which most people wouldn't miss if it were taken away.
  • What?

    My smartphone browses the Internet like a desktop, can use an keyboard like a desktop, can do just about everything a desktop can do, has higher screen resolution than some desktops, and costs $35 a month with ATT&T. It's an iPad with a car mount, so I can enjoy huge screen GPS turn by turn navigation, capture digital images as I shoot them, and allow me to both write my novel and budget my feature film wherever I go, not to mention program my Tivo at home and watch HBO in HD 1080 with a million pixels to spare. The iPhone equaling app is called Line2 ($120 per YEAR.) It has never failed to impress, costs very little compared to much less capable "smart phones" many with primitive and abominable attempts at mobile OS's (which fail all over southern California, by the by) and can access all features through the increasing saturation of "everywhere wireless Internet" which several competitors are installing in every major city.

    I find most people demand about 5% or less of their digital life's offerings. It's when you demand and need 110% that you weed out the chaff.