Smartphone capability tracker

GPS and WiFi are hot

Ovums data (collated from DeviceMine and Ovum research) identified 77 smartphone models released by key manufacturers in the sample period. Of these, 59 handsets had GPS capability and 49 had WiFi, indicating that these technologies are now key features across nearly all smartphones, not just high-end models. Some operators still have a reluctance to admit WiFi-equipped handsets onto their networks, but Ovum believes consumers now expect WiFi to be present in smartphones.

The widespread availability of GPS (across all of the major smartphone platforms) is great news for developers wishing to deploy location-based applications and services, but so far few developers have taken advantage of this beyond basic navigation products.

Ovums smartphone capability tracker showed much lower penetration for TV-out capability, although this was of little surprise as it is only recently that most platforms have really possessed the multimedia abilities required to justify its inclusion. Only the iPhone, Symbian and Windows Mobile platforms produced devices with TV-out, with Samsung in particular being proactive in supporting the feature. Ovum expects TV-out to grow in popularity among media-centric smartphones, along with increasing processing power and screen resolutions.

On the processor front, most smartphones are currently based on ARM11 architecture, but Ovum expects some ARM Cortex A8-based chipsets to appear in devices within the next update, and platforms like Qualcomms Snapdragon or Nvidias Tegra to emerge later in 2009 as manufacturers seek to add greater multimedia functionality to devices. Devices based on the ARM Cortex A9 multi-core architecture are expected in 2010.

RIAs and widget frameworks are not

Widgets are another buzzword in the industry, but the tracker shows that only around 10% of smartphones support Internet widget frameworks. This is another area where we expect rapid growth in adoption through 2009/10.

Ovum has previously discussed the potential for rich Internet application (RIA) frameworks as application platforms in mobile handsets (see Ovums report- Rich Internet applications in mobile and consumer electronics: impact analysis) but the tracker shows how little impact RIAs have so far made on smartphones. Adobes Flash and Flash Lite have achieved the best penetration, with 41 smartphone models supporting Flash. Symbian dominates this figure: 25 are Symbian-based (all except one of the Symbian handsets released support Flash). Windows Mobile has patchy support for Flash (manufacturers even support it inconsistently across their Windows Mobile portfolios), and iPhone OS and Android currently do not support it at all.

Of the other RIA frameworks tracked (Adobe AIR and Microsoft Silverlight), penetration is zero, indicating that usefulness of these platforms for application developers is still some way off.
App stores are cooking unevenly

One of the biggest talking points in the industry in the last 12 months has been the rise of on-device application stores. Despite the limitless hype, for the sample period very few devices were released with pre-installed app store clients. Apples iPhone, HTCs Android devices and several Nokia handsets (featuring Nokias Download! client, not the newer Ovi Store) were the only devices with app stores pre-installed.

We expect a big change in this area in the next version of the smartphone tracker, as platform owners and manufacturers have now begun to respond in earnest to the app store buzz. On-device app stores have launched on BlackBerry and Palms WebOS, Nokia now has Ovi Store, Windows Mobile 6.5 will feature an app store, and a greater proportion of new handsets will feature these clients in the next version of the tracker.

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