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The Big App Debate And The Low-End Theory At CTIA 2010 (Plus Photos!)

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Now that the week-long CTIA Enterprise & Applications is far behind us and we’ve gotten over the post-conference flu, here’s our recap on everything worth remembering from the 2010 show.

The high-level summary is that show delivered as advertised. Conversations were largely about apps (a subject we actively engaged in) and the enterprise (a subject we tried to stay awake for). Two other areas of focus were 4G and the mind-boggling number of Android phones targeting first-time smartphone buyers. We left convinced it will be a white, err…green robot kind of Christmas. Overall, the show felt a little sleepy, and one day we even played hooky to go check out Twitter’s new headquarters.

Slideshow after the jump…

Native apps vs. web apps: This debate started before the show got started. At a well-attended Mobile Monday event, the question thrown about was whether developers should build applications that are downloaded to the handset, or if everything should be accessed through the browser. After hearing a panel of experts, the consensus in the room by a show of hands was that the browser will dominate in the next three to five years as handsets become more capable and networks carry more bandwidth. The huge benefit being that it will reduce some fragmentation (now synonymous with the “F-word”).

One debate centered around Google (NSDQ: GOOG) Maps. Today, most users access it through the browser on the PC, but on the mobile phone there’s an app for that. Critics argued it should be no different in mobile, but app fans argued the phone is more complicated. Users are accessing location-based data, providing directions and turn-by-turn navigation. Some of these tasks are expected to be addressed in new evolving web standards, like HTML5.

But on a panel I hosted the following at an iHollywood event, the participants felt completely different — and that three to five years is an aggressive estimate. Essentially it came down to the business model: Today, applications are primarily distributed through app stores, which offer consumers an easy way to discover new ones, but also offers businesses a way to monetize their content through easy-to-use billing systems. Opera, which builds browsers for the PC and mobile phone, was all too happy to join the debate. It recognized that there will be a need to monetize content as it shifts from applications to the browser. To that end, it which launched an advertising network to help monetize the mobile web as part of its recent acquisition of Ad Marvel.

Android Fanboys: It wasn’t just the handset makers that were eager to talk about Android phones, it was the carriers — and well, just about anyone. I guess it’s time to root for Windows Phone 7 in order to be a contrarian! The Android developer track was well attended with everyone eager to pick up a T-shirt at the door. One guy even had spooky iridescent green robot sneakers…but truly, the only thing to report about Android is that people were at the show to talk about their apps for the platform, and how many Android handsets they were selling.

The hot commodity at the Samsung booth was the Samsung Galaxy S smartphone line-up, but also the Galaxy Tab, one of the first Android tablets. Sprint (NYSE: S) unveiled three new phones the Samsung Transform ($149), Sanyo Zio ($99) and the LG (SEO: 066570) Optimus ($49). All run the Android OS, and will come with something they call Sprint ID (if you read my story, you learned it is a way to bring branded experiences to the phone for advertising revenues).

Most predominantly, Motorola shamelessly hosted a press conference on the eve of CTIA at the same facilities associated with Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) events, to unveil six Android smartphones — the largest collection it claimed were ever unveiled at one time. To recap, there was the Citrus, Spice, Flipout, Bravo, Defy, and last but not least the Droid Pro. Most of the devices are compact. Some have keyboards. And, all but one are aimed at the low-end of the market, which Motorola (NYSE: MOT) expects to blossom as first-time smartphone users buy devices around the holidays. The one high-end device was the Droid Pro, which is designed to satisfy the demands of the IT department, and therefore target BlackBerry users, leaving no rock unturned.

4G: Verizon Wireless announced that it will soon say when its 4G network will be available, seriously. The network will be available from day one in 38 markets. We heard it first during the keynote when Verizon’s Lowell McAdam said it will unveil six phones and tablets on stage at CES in January with Google’s Eric Schmidt standing by their side (more Android!). Then, we heard about it more at their press conference. And, then we heard about it for a third time during an interview with Verizon’s CTO Tony Melone.