Has your smartphone changed your life?

That's the question I pose to Betanews readers on this fine Spring afternoon. If "Yes" then please further answer: How has your smartphone changed your life?

I'm raising the questions today because of AFP news story "Australia is social networking capital of the world." (Mike Cherng tweeted the story -- my thanks to him.) Reporter Amy Coopes quotes Danielle Warby: "My smartphone changed my life. Serious. It has my calendar, all my contacts and is an easy and intuitive communication tool."

I'm with Warby. My smartphones changed my life, starting with the original iPhone, which I described as "life changing" two weeks after buying it in June 2007. I've used many smartphones since -- and a few before -- including all three iPhone versions; several HTC models, including the AT&T 8525, Google Nexus One and T-Mobile MyTouch; Nokia E71, N97 and N900, among others.

In assessing the original iPhone's value I identified five areas as important: Synchronization, mobile Web, mobile mail, battery life and joy (from the user interface). I would add as important for more modern smartphones: Social media, mobile applications and quality photos and video (with easy sharing capabilities). Some enterprising marketer should use something like "Your life in your pocket," or "My life in my pocket" as a slogan to sell smartphones.

The smartphone can be life changing because it's so personal, in terms of how and how often the device is carried and how it is used to connect and to extend relationships. There's a real intimacy about cell phones -- smartphones, particularly -- that no other technology device matches. Probably many geeks reading this post are long-time smartphone users. But how many of you often use a smartphone as a makeshift PC on the go?

The South by Southwest conference convenes late next week in Austin. Following last year's event, Gizmodo's Jack Loftus blogged:

The tech and media savvy hipsters currently at SXSW could very well be a snapshot of things to come. The conference is chock full of smartphones, but there's nary a notebook (or netbook) in sight. It's anecdotal evidence, sure, but these folks are undoubtedly ahead of the curve on technology. And what they're saying is they're more comfortable using mobile devices as a primary computing and communications tool than they are with notebooks, or even netbooks.

There's a reason why AT&T loudly promises that there will be adequate service for SXSW 2010: Many attendees will pack smartphones -- and many will be iPhones.

Buzz? So What?

Sure there is big buzz about smartphones, but how important are they really? According to Gartner, cell phone sales -- not shipments -- were 1.21 billion in 2009, with 380 million sold in fourth quarter. Smartphones: 172.4 million for the year and 53.8 million for fourth quarter. Smartphone sales grew by over 41 percent year over year in 2009. Android's smartphone market share increased by 680 percent, while unit sales rose by 961.4 percent. Among American adult cell phone owners, 33 percent get news from cell phones; 88 percent of adults who have mobile Internet, according to PEW Internet.

In a report issued today, ComScore revealed that in January 30.8 percent of smartphone owners used their mobile Web browser to access social networking sites, up from 22.5 percent a year earlier. By comparison, only 6.8 percent accessed social networking sites from standard phones, up from 4.5 percent in January 2009.

Nokia C5Clearly manufacturers see potential in smartphones, which I repeatedly have asserted will replace the PC as primary connected-computing device in this decade (within five years in some markets, I predict). Yesterday, Apple sued HTC for infringing iPhone patents. It's competition by litigation -- like Apple-Nokia patent infringement lawsuits (one is suing the other).

Today, Nokia released Skype for Symbian^1-based devices, making free voice calls over 3G a possibility for some 200 million handsets. These include E and N Series devices.

Yesterday's Nokia C Series announcement is huge, not that many American bloggers or journalists seem to get it. Nokia is brilliantly taking smartphone OS features downmarket to standard handsets. Nokia, the global handset market share leader according to Gartner and IDC, sells more low- and mid-tier phones than any other category. The first device, the C5, will sell for €135 (US $185) unsubsidized. The phone is tiny, cheap but robust, particularly connected features like social sharing and networking.

Nokia is taking the right approach for persevering and extending sales particularly in emerging markets. Apple's iPhone might have sex appeal, but the C5 has worldwide mass market appeal. Come second quarter, dumb phones will be much smarter coming from the world's handset leader. Will the C5 pack enough punch to be life changing for many current dumb phone users in markets like Brazil, China, India and Russia (commonly referred to as BRIC)? That's a future question to answer.

The point: 2010 promises dramatic changes for the handset market. That brings me back to my questions for Betanews readers: Has your smartphone changed your life? If so, how? And how long ago (That's the bragging rights question for longtime smartphone users)? Please respond in comments or by email: joewilcox at live dot com. I'll collect the best responses for a follow-up post.

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