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Has Apple redefined “phone”?

Airport lounges and airplanes just before takeoff are a great place to observe people and their electronics.  Wanna know what the current hot handset is?  Watch a bunch of people hanging out in an airport lounge.  Are people texting more than talking? What does that tell you?  Listening to music?

For the last couple of years that I’ve been checking out my fellow passengers and their electronics, it’s been a steady progression from feature phone + laptop, to smartphone.  The predominant player in the smartphone arena has always been the BlackBerry, at least in Canadian airports.

Hanging out yesterday at the Porter Airlines lounges in Ottawa and Toronto I spotted just one BlackBerry — a new Bold, and only the second Bold I’ve seen “in the wild”. People had smartphones alright.  They were talking, sending mail, watching video, listening to music and texting — and they were all wearing those ubiquitous white ear buds, the tell-tale sign of an iPhone user.

Porter is a short hop commuter airline, primarily for business passengers who need to travel between Toronto, Ottawa and a few other eastern Canadian destinations.  Among that demographic, it would appear that Apple is winning the day.

Eighteen months ago, all mobile manufacturers were busily cranking out thumb-board style devices in an attempt to emulate and dethrone RIM.  Today every manufacturer of phones in the world is focused on delivering a touch screen experience.  Yesterday alone we saw Nokia unveil the MusicExpress 5800,  and a broadly leaked video of RIM’s BlackBerry Storm hit the web.

Apple redefined “personal computer” when they released the Macintosh GUI in the early 1980’s.  Shortly after, GUI’s began to appear on the PC – Windows, GEM, DesqView, and others.  From where I sit, it’s clear that iPhone has redefined “phone”, and the other phone manufacturers are now rushing to deliver their own copycat products.

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{ 4 comments… add one }

  • Andrew October 3, 2008, 6:25 am

    RIM has me and my entire network hooked with BB messenger. These people must not have used it before they switched to iPhone (or they are new smartphone users), as it is the single most productive application of any smartphone I have ever used.

    If Apple had there own secure/free/QOS proprietary messaging application (iChat/Skype) on the iPhone that gave free text to other iPhone users, then I would consider the switch.

  • Craig Fitzpatrick October 3, 2008, 10:01 am

    I think they’re catching on like wild fire partially because Apple products are now no longer MUCH more expensive than alternatives. They’ve always been better designed from a user experience perspective, but people weren’t willing to pay double just to get that. Now they only have to pay 10% – 20% more, so Apple is well within the “acceptable” price band. Charging a few bucks more isn’t going to scare most people, for what they get in return.

    I see lots of “iPhone killer” phones being released by other companies. I think they’re iPhone killers like a Toyota is a BMW killer. Just because it also has 4 wheels and a trunk doesn’t make it a BMW. The difference is, Apple products are now the BMW’s of computing, but they cost only 10% more than the “Toyotas” of computing. If a BMW costed only 10% more than a Toyota, how many more BMWs would we see? No offense to Toyota ;).

  • Gillian Brouse October 3, 2008, 10:13 am

    You should really take a look at the link Mark Evans recently pointed to, for the “pomegranate.”


    As he says, now there’s a smart phone I will buy! :)

    It’s a fun link, but have they captured where all of this appears to be heading?

  • Michael October 5, 2008, 8:16 am

    Redefined the phone? Probably not. Redefined mobile computing? Yes.

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