It’s a great time to be a phone buyer, for we are seeing a whole new crop of what The Wall Street Journal’s Walt Mossberg calls super smartphones (I prefer the simpler “superphones”) come to the market. Motorola’s CLIQ, an Android-based device that launched at our […]

iphoneIt’s a great time to be a phone buyer, for we are seeing a whole new crop of what The Wall Street Journal’s Walt Mossberg calls super smartphones (I prefer the simpler “superphones”) come to the market. Motorola’s CLIQ, an Android-based device that launched at our Mobilize 09 conference, is just the latest device to make its market debut. I will eventually get around to my review, but the handset is solid and MotoBlur is a refreshing take on the mobile web.There are several more handsets powered by Google’s Android OS that will be released in coming months. And despite all that, Apple’s iPhone is unstoppable. Here’s why:

Our favorite technology analyst, Ashok Kumar, in a note to his clients this morning points out that shipments of the iPhone in September exceeded Wall Street estimates of 7 million units by 25-30 percent. According to Kumar, the iPhone now accounts for 15 percent of the smartphone segment.

What’s going on? I have a wild theory: The $99 iPhone is proving to be a monster hit. By offering its older 3G model for $99 with a 2-year plan, what Apple has done is essentially make that the bare minimum price for a great superphone. It has and it will constantly force its rivals to lower prices on their handsets, to a point where they are almost entirely dependent on the carrier’s largesse to eat the costs. So far none of those devices have displayed iPhone-like magnetism.

With Apple opting for polygamy in its choice of iPhone carriers, the company has a chance to increase its market share even further. With China and India as new market opportunities for lower-cost versions of the iPhone, Apple could become a dominant superphone market force. The thriving App Store is going to continue to be an advantage that Apple has over its rivals.

In related news: During the third quarter, Mac sales grew 11.8 percent over the same period in 2008, to 1.64 million.

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  1. The iPhone is unstoppable right now because of the goodwill it generated over 2 years and the fact that it is now affordable.

    Most people heard about the phone and wanted to go for it , But lots of people stayed away because it was
    a) Expensive
    b) Only on AT&T which means that you would be hit with a penalty of you shifted from another carrier. Also this sort of agreement was held by Apple in a lot of markets…

    The funny thing is that the iPhone is still on AT&T and the networks still sucks, But that is ignored…

    They key point for competitors like the Palm Pre which I may point out are following the carrier exclusivity mantra is that it would take close to 2 years for real mass market growith with a killer device if you are carrier exclusive. I do not know why more phones arent trying to be carrier neutral.
    Maybe its hard in the US, But its not so hard in other markets which have traditionally separated the carrier and the phone…

    Also the iPhone has very limited success chances in markets like India and China. The phone costs a ridiculous 700 dollars in India. Apple seems to be trying to market the phone as an upmarket status symbol of a device. I am not sure that it is working !

    1. I don’t believe official sales have even begun in China. As for Europe–not sure. Do you have numbers to suggest a problem?

      1. I think China already has 50 billion clones for $20 already for the past year :P

  2. iPhone will continue its big sales in the short term, yes, and its a great product! But…

    What’s was today’s news about Nokia?

    Ultimately, beyond short sighted quarterly sales reports, Apple’s draconian policies and closed platform will cause the iPhone adoption rate will plateau. Should Apple adopt Nokia’s “we’re the best, why change?” policy, the same fate will be met.

    Reminder: Open beats closed, every time, without exception.

    1. Oh yeah, that’s why iPod still has only had 70% marketshare every year since 2001. Without EXCEPTION closed models fail. *rolls eyes*

      I’ll have to remember your brilliant dogma the next time I plug in my Xbox controller into my Playstation so I can have fun playing Halo. Yep, openness wins every time in the console wars, too!


      1. The iPod was not an app-centric consumer device; before the iPod Touch, it was just a “dump” media player. There is no platform worth mentionning.

        As for the XBox and Playstation, both are closed. So it’s beside the point.

    2. “Reminder: Open beats closed, every time, without exception.”

      What are you talking about?

      How’s Linux on the Desktop (open!!!) doing vs Windows (closed) or Mac (closed)? Whatever you answer – I bet it is not that Linux beat either.

      How’s OpenMoko doing vs well, just about anybody?

      Don’t confuse what you wish for with reality.

      1. Ummm LAMP stack’s 1,000 to 1 use over Windows server in the Enterprise?

      2. Todd – you may want to look at your original post.

        “Reminder: Open beats closed, every time, without exception.”

        LAMP, SHMAMP – unless Open beats closed, every time, without exception then you are wrong. Proving individual instances doesn’t help your case.

        It’s such a ridiculous comment, that surely you didn’t mean it. Perhaps, you’d like to take it back?

      3. Nope, standing by it.


      4. Open standards are good. Open source software frequently beats commercial-ware (Apache– world leading server; Firefox– WAY better than competitors (even better than Safari, IMHO)). Open PLATFORMS? Well, gee, OS X is SEMI- open; based on BSD UNIX. For PLATFORMS, I care about what works best FOR ME; not who’s profiting. Semi-open works great for Apple. Outsiders contribute; Apple makes sure everybody gets a great User experience.

      5. sfmitch:
        windows is hardly closed. anybody can write an app for it. thats why it hurt mac. apple learned from that mistake by allowing apps for the iphone. at least in theory…

      6. Windows is not an open operating system. Microshaft controls the development of it, just like Apple controls the development of OSX, there is no difference.

    3. Nokia is having problems because they have become stale. While iPhone, WebOS, Android, etc were being released, Nokia kept the bulk of their line on Symbian with at best, lackluster hardware. I don’t believe their decline had anything to do with their open/closed policies.

      Now if Apple doesn’t change something in the iPhone (the same basic design is now well over 2 years old), then they may get eclipsed by something bigger and better.

  3. Now if my iPhone didn’t drop calls like crazy that would be something.

    1. And yet we continue… The point is that the device itself is so easy to use, interfaces with the products I use, and just works (except for AT&T) is the draw.

  4. Om Says:

    “What’s going on? I have a wild theory: The $99 iPhone is proving to be a monster hit. By offering its older 3G model for $99 with a 2-year plan, what Apple has done is essentially make that the bare minimum price for a great superphone. It has and it will constantly force its rivals to lower prices on their handsets, to a point where they are almost entirely dependent on the carrier’s largesse to eat the costs. So far none of those devices have displayed iPhone-like magnetism.”

    Om, I understand and pretty much agree that what you describes affects the profitability of competing handset makers, I have no clue how what you said explains large iPhone sales. Unless, your point is that $99 iPhones are attractive because they are cheap. If so, that isn’t much of a “wild theory”.

    The (continued) success of the iPhone sure doesn’t seem to be a big mystery. The iPhone delights the vast majority of its’ owners – they in turn recommend the phone to others. Additionally, the runaway success of the App Store dramatically increases the desirability of the iPhone.

    Let’s also not forget that the competition isn’t putting forth insanely great products. It continues to amaze me how hard other Smartphones are to use. I just helped a friend get the photos off of her BB – it required the use of a Roxio product that was VERY unfriendly. I was helping another friend with his Palm Pre – I was shocked to find out that it doesn’t sync with Outlook – Outlook!!!!! Everything syncs with Outlook, doesn’t it?

    Back to the subject. Apple created a great device and then created great tools for developers and made it EASY for iPhone users to get 3rd party apps and now does a great job marketing the iPhone. Throw in a couple of nice hardware upgrades and aggressive pricing and we may just have a winner.

  5. @Todd
    “Reminder: Open beats closed, every time, without exception.”

    What does open or beats mean? Revenue? Installed base?
    From where I stand:
    Good enough beats open. Microsoft, Open Systems
    Integration beats open. iTunes, MP3 (early days)
    Perceived stability beats open. Oracle, PostgreSQL
    Innovation beats open. Apple, Linux
    Where did all the open systems (Unix late 80’s go)?

    Only if open(Product) meets early adoption, open wins. Apache. But it’s not all the time.

    Open standards is something different, since different products can be build on top. Then there is the org. RFC process where the best of many implementation were consolidated, which got lost in the process over time. But it was build to encourage open implementations to compete.

    Open Product != Open standards.

    1. While not denying the iPhone is the best internet tablet yet devised I fail to see why it’s obvious weak points are so readily overlooked.

      Bluetooth your files to your iphone. Oh I forgot Apple only permits the audio stack. WTF.

      Copy work files easily to your device via cable/wireless as per Windows Mobile/Symbian. Pass.

      So credit where it’s due but still lacking in some rather basic areas to say the least.

      1. Huh,
        I fail to see where I talk about the iPhone as the greatest device.
        I actually broke mine and was very close to replace it with an Android based phone.
        Why didn’t I.
        Remember DOS in the early days.
        IBM had one
        TI had one
        MS had one

        Only after the HW got standardized was MS able to corner the market. So far I haven’t seen that in the Phone market. Why got the market standardized, reverse engineering on Compaq’s part, which where TI guys(been there)
        The last one of these follies, remember “write once debug everywhere”?
        Maybe I’m getting old, been there done that. So far not impressed with Googlies, looked at the WAVE API last weekend.

  6. “open” beats closed everytime? Well, personally – maybe that is true for the worldwide audience of 5 M hackers but 2-BILLION cell users want a phone to use and not to program so Apple will win because Nokia cannot produce a decent smartphone to save its life – why? Bureaucrats. Too many cooks involved in everything so you end up with a super chunky phone that 25 departments checked off and ‘got their way.’ Consumers are the LAST person they ran it by. RIM is not a competition ecause honestly, other than email, who uses a RIm phone for anything else. They were forced by Apple to actually try and develop a Blackberry OS that did other things but really, you actually expect innovation from them? And of course, their main goal is to sell Blackberry servers not phones. Palm is full of employees Apple was willing to let go so what can you expect there? It’s a decent iPhone knockoff but with no marketing budget (or wasted on that white than white girl – WTH was that?) – where were they for 9 years? They can’t even name the product – what’s a PRE? Or PIXI? Yea, both guys and women will enjoy telling other they are a pixie. Moto – the RAZR was a great looking phone but counting on an OS from them – even with free tools from Google? Not going to happen. Samsung is trying hard but when you can’t even get icons in color or to look as if one designer did them (or not Win98 icons) – good luck there … and of course, MS – only MS would think that slapping the Zune name on a phone would be a good thing. MS has not had a consumer suuccess since 1998 and at the rate they are going, in 8 years, they will beat a retreat to the server market and license the name for lamps and blank discs like Xerox or Polaroid.

    1. Nice post and I agree with you full-heartedly. Additionally, the problem for other phone makers is their make-up. When you have a company, such as Apple, that controls the hardware, software, and has the most innovative team, you will always end up with the best of bread product. All the other phone companies do not control both sides the way that Apple does, those that do have control are using non-relevant software. On top of that, you have a CEO who demands the highest quality from Apple products. The main problem for other phone makers is that they are chasing Apple, instead of re-inventing the phone. When Apple came out with the iPhone, there was no comparison on the market. Everyone right now is simply trying to build a better iPhone look-a-like and you are not going to win on Apples field. WinMo is a non-issue and does not deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence as the top tier phone makers, you can’t polish a turd.

      Your comment on openness are spot on. When the average consumer goes to buy a phone, they do not consider wether or not the operating system is open or not, only developers care about that. But Apple created a field for he developers to play in when they handed them the tools and a vehicle to sell their apps. Its a win-win situation.

    2. Albeit some of the stuff you said are half-truths but boy, the way you put it, you seem to live in the infamous reality distortion field.

      The battle of the smartphones has only began. The iPhone is still ranked behind Nokia’s and RIM’s.

      About Nokia, for a company of that size, I’m actually impressed by how quickly they move. The upcoming N900 looks very promising. Heard of it? You may call it “chunky” but lots of people prefer that form factor; not everyone likes a flat and wide phone that’s actually tough to grasp and operate with one hand.

      Anyway, the phone itself and the UI is not really the problem. The real challenge for Nokia, RIM and Android is building and developing a significant apps ecosystem and mindshare, which Apple did in record time. Phone’s physical appeal and UI eye-candy and easy of use, everyone can emulate the iPhone’s (to some extent). But the amount of apps and the people wanting to develop for the iPhone, that’s more challenging to capture.

      Personnally, the iPhone itself as a device I’m far from being impressed but I give full kudos to Apple for “revolutionizing” the mobile phone industry — instead of standing still, every mobile phone company is sprinting, afraid to be left behind and die. We know see exciting smartphones coming out every month and it will only get better.

      1. I don’t think you want to boast about Nokia right now. Their sales are falling and falling fast in the smartphone area. If they are moving quickly, they had better find another gear cause they are hemorrhaging as we speak. The battle right now is RIM and Apple, all others are on the sidelines.

      2. Umm, Nokia just posted a loss of 559 million Euros today. They are (still) leading in marketshare but can’t seem to figure out how to make a profit, and otherwise seem clueless. Let’s see, over 200 different phone models for sale in the US alone, plus they can’t seem to decide which OS they are going to use and their Ovi app store was not just a disaster but a “complete disaster” according to most commentators.

      3. What the fu%k do you mean with

        “Personnally, the iPhone itself as a device I’m far from being impressed but I give full kudos to Apple for “revolutionizing” the mobile phone industry”

        I am no Apple fan boy but damn the device is a generational shift. What the hell would impress you ..mind melding?????????????

  7. what nobody talks about is that apple does a great job in supporting older iphones. this is a 2 year old technology now, and yet a 2G iphone can run 95% of all the apps and it being updated with the latest software. I can’t think of a 2 year old phone that is still supported like that. Compare to Nokia and version x.x of s60.

    1. Agree 100%, thats the beauty of APPLE ecosystem.

    2. I’m a developer, and I still use the iPhone 2G that I bought on day one. I should upgrade, but it works fine. I am noticing a touch of slowness, particularly with the 200meg app we designed for a label. That is pushing it!

      Everything works…

  8. I own an iPhone and I like it. I am an Apple shareholder too.

    Having said that, I have seen a lot of momentum behind Android. Momentum in terms of OEMs, developers and Carrier adoption. None of the other smart phone OSes have the buzz.

    With a little bit of history in perspective (not that history repeats exactly), my belief is that Android might become the major OS for Smart Phones. Remember Apple was successful PC business before DOS/Windows based systems came to market and took the large market share. With many device OEMs competing and in the process reducing prices for Android based devices, it is likely to succeed. The development environment for developing Android applications is very competitive too.

    Apple will become a niche player like it is now in PC market.

    1. You are looking at this from the perspective that it’s Apple against the world. It is not Apple against the world, it is Apple against other vendors. This is the whole problem with the PC vs Mac argument. Apple is not concerned with it’s 10% market share like most people focus on. It is concerned with sales. Apple is among the top 5 in PC sales. Do you know how many companies would give up their left nut to be in that position? Look at it this way, when Dell sells a PC, what effect does that have on HP? None what so ever. Apple does not need to own the market like they do they do in MP3 players. Now we have Android, an open source OS, wow! What does that mean for the vendors? Nothing, they still have to perform and produce an amazing product that differentiates itself from other Android phones. This will create problems because now you will have splintering of the OS in an attempt to make your product different. If having an open operating system was so great, LINUX would not be where it is today, at the bottom of the heap. The average consumer could care less what OS is running his phone, he wants the ecosystem, believe me, and Android can’t deliver that.

    2. You are also forgetting how well Apple has prepared for this mobile era.
      1. Hardly anyone has the mobile hardware savvy that Apple has acquired in the last 8 years with the iPod. Not MS, not Palm, not Sony and definitely not Google. Nokia could have but they frittered their chance away.
      2. Hardly anyone has the mobile OS savvy that Apple has either. They’ve taken a full-blown Unix OS and shrunk it down to a pocket device, helped no doubt by their experience with the iPod and probably with the Newton as well. MS now has at least two mobile OSes, Zune and WinMo and they are very different from Vista. Android may be Linux based but Google has little experience developing an OS and a development platform.
      3. iTune online store: no one anything like it, even after seven years it blows all the competion out of the water and give Apple instant access to 100 million credit card accounts. A major reason why the App store has grown so astronomically. Most iPhone users already had iTunes accounts.
      4. Apple Retail. Don’t overlook the brick and mortar store’s significance. Apple gets to show off all its shiny hardware in high-traffic, high-dollar, strategically placed stores around the world. No one else has anything like this either.
      5. With the PC, IT departments drove purchasing decisions not average Joe consumer because the entry price in the 80s was too high. With phones, it is the average Joe consumer that will be driving purchasing decisions, not IT departments.
      6. Apple is using all the same parts as everyone else this time, and is already such a high volume buyer that it moves market prices. Apple will not be undercut on hardware prices this time around. That was a stupid mistake that John Scully made when he priced the original Mac $500 higher than necessary. MS can’t even come out with a 64GB Zune, for example and no one else can price their smart phone less than Apple.
      7. iPod touch. NO ONE else has anything like it in their mobile arsenal. Apple practically doubles their mobile market with this device. Developers realize this and millions of people who can’t afford an iPhone subscription or can’t stand AT&T simply buy an iPod touch. I predict this Christmas we’ll see absolutely blowout iPod touch sales and by this time next year, PSP and Nintendo will be wondering what hit them.

  9. “While not denying the iPhone is the best internet tablet yet devised I fail to see why it’s obvious weak points are so readily overlooked.”

    1) Because those weak points are in areas that don’t matter too much to the user.
    2) Because the good points are just so good that its user quickly forgives and forgets the other stuff.

  10. Om,
    The sad thing is this will be the pinnacle of APPLE’s sales. I doubt they will continue to sell at this rate for long.

    My theory , its been two plus years since iPhone was introduced. Folks who are with ATT for the two years might have gone thru their contract cycle. Customers who are up for the renewal can’t resist the 99 dollar phone. So my theory is sales are peaking now for APPLE , because of many dumbphone users are now upgrading to iPhone.
    I highly doubt folks would be switching to ATT from other carriers in masses. Sure there are defections , but not so much like the earlier days. They have choice now , the Pre, G1/G2, Hero, Storm2….. the list goes on.
    Besides folks will know more about the high prices of ATT.

    To keep the sales momentum APPLE has to spread the phone to other carriers.

    Nokia is the loser here. They continue to loose overseas too.

    1. @bgp — I think history will prove you wrong, very wrong. There is no way iPhone sales have peaked.

      The smartphone market will continue to grow, grow and grow some more. More and more people will give up dumb phones and eventually feature phones for smart phones.

      Even if Apple’s marketshare (%) stays the same, its’ units shipped will grow, grow and grow some more. There is little to suggest that the iPhone marketshare (worldwide) will not continue to grow. There are finally some handsets that are in the same class of the iPhone but you don’t knock off the champ by being in the same class. iPhone competitors need to surpass the iPhone to steal market share.

      The larger the installed base of iPhones (and let’s not forget the iPod Touch) the more attractive it is to developers and accessory makers. The larger the ecosystem of accessories (car integration, speaker systems, hardware integration (e.g. sonos)) and the larger the number of apps available, the more attractive it is to customers. Repeat cycle.

      As for now, iPhone and the other winners will make sales to new smartphone customers as well as steal market share from the losers (Windows Mobile and Nokia).

      1. Oh well, I didn’t say their sales come to a stop.
        I said there are 50 some million ATT customers , of which all of them cycled thru their contract. Now that its cheap they are snapping it up.

        And there is a difference between 2007 and now in terms of smart phones.
        While you can argue till the cows come home , the other smart phones are selling millions of them ( G1, bunch of BB models ).
        International sales are different to US sales. APPLE makes may be 70 % ( my guess) their sales here in US. Why , because its 99 dollars.

        In summary APPLE has to start selling it to other carriers.
        If not , sorry they are reaching their peak .

        I bet they would announce new US carriers next year. They have another 100 million untapped customers out there ( Verizon,TMo, SPRINT).

      2. Apple is selling less than half (about 46%) of iPhones in the US. I would expect the US % to go down over time.

        Source: Apple and AT&T quarterly results. Apple sold 5.2mm iPhones and AT&T activated 2.4mm iPhones.

      3. The only other network in the US Apple to sell to is T-Mobile and they are not clamoring to bring it to their network.

        Apple’s not going to go backward to CDMA, so it might only be on Verizon in 2011 or whenever LTE is deployed.

        But Verizon has a history of restricting device manufacturers from offering solutions. The only one I can think of with Apple has been the bluetooth issue of updating contacts and files. Apple is unlikely to be on Verizon, unless Verizon accepts giving Apple a lot of freedom, not just in the technology offered but also in marketing the product.

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