Smartphones -> Web Phones

It’s been obvious that the iPhone sets the new gold standard for smartphones, and simplifies the definition of smartphone as web phone. But other cell phone competitors so far seem content (Michael Malone’s analysis is that they’re unable to respond to a risk-oriented product strategy) to ignore the competitive threat.

A January 14, 2008 article in The New York Times by Miguel Helft (“Google Sees Surge in iPhone Traffic” [at Christmas]) notes that the iPhone is the first cell phone on which web browsing is useful enough to generate significant traffic on Google. Even though Symbian and Windows-based phones are 63% and 11% of the worldwide smartphone market vs. Apple’s 2%, traffic from iPhones surpassed traffic from them on Google over the holidays. Wow!

I’d add to that the notions that “it’s the browser, stupid,” not built-in applications, that create the iPhone’s potential for value; and that it’s wifi that enables you to actually realize that potential value.

Looking at my own usage, I get little use out of the vast majority of the iPhone’s built-in applications. I’m using the browser as my platform (ok, except for camera, alarm clock and, absent VoIP telephony, the “phone.”) With the 1.1.3 version of the iPhone software, to which I upgraded yesterday, I’m even more aware of the browser focus, because now I could move unused applications off the main screen and out of the way.

In addition to not using built-in applications like the iPhone’s “Calendar,” wherever I have a choice between “mobile” and “desktop” versions of browser access to an information service, as is the case with Google Calendar, I choose desktop. The iPhone hits the sweet spot in terms of display size. Together with being able to stretch or squeeze the display to zoom or unzoom, what’s great about the display size is that you can have the convenience of fitting it in your pocket without giving up the convenience of being able to read web pages.

So how long will it be before other cell phone competitors make wifi standard and go to an iPhone-style display?

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