One of my friends asked me last week whether he should buy his wife a smartphone or get her an iPad and just upgrade her current mobile to a slightly newer model. My gut was that she needed a tablet, which means that she is a bit out of the average, according to some new data from market research firm Gartner.
That data found that U.S. consumers were more likely to buy a smartphone than they were to buy a personal computer, mobile phone, e-reader, media tablet or gaming device. (Not necessarily in that order.) In the United States, smartphones are supposed to hit 95 million units in 2011, compared with the 67 million units U.S. consumers snapped up in 2010.
Here's the implication: up until now, the smartphone has been mainly the tool of the technically astute, people like yours truly who are pretty much connected 24x7 and who have been relying on email and Web connectivity on their mobile device for years. I have even been known to correct blog posts via my iPhone although I wouldn't wish that on anyone. The interface still leaves much to be desired.
So, as more consumers adopt, you'll see the market start to tier out. Here's a prediction from Hugues de la Vergne, Gartner's smart phone analyst:
"Communication service providers should expand tiered data pricing to make open OS devices more affordable to the mass market. Introductory limited data plans of $10 to $15 a month will expand the market greatly for these devices, and in many cases, consumers will upgrade to higher-priced data plans over time once they get hooked on these services.
Heck, if more adopters will make my next iPhone cheaper, bring it on.