The increasing interest in smartphones is encouraging cellular providers to bring these devices to the mass market. Research In Motion, creator of the BlackBerry, is expanding beyond its business clientele, offering the BlackBerry Pearl model for casual consumers. Palm is moving beyond PDAs and into the cell phone arena through its Treo and Centro products. And perhaps no product more exemplifies the potential appeal of an all-in-one smartphone than the Apple iPhone, a product clearly designed to appeal to a market well beyond business customers. The rapid price reductions on the iPhone certainly reinforce an urgent desire to move beyond the smartphones' luxury status and toward everyday ubiquity.
On a nuts and bolts level, the increasing competition faced by telecommunications providers from internet services is pushing manufacturers to improve their products from the ground up, which has driven the smartphone field. Just look at the recent outbreak of Wi-Fi enabled cell phones, which combine cellular communications with PC technology to compete with desktop services like VoiP.
The integration of internet technology with cell phones will also change the way websites and businesses structure their operations. Websites tailored for mobile access tend to be more about getting information quickly and succinctly and less about flashy presentation.
Indeed, while the U.S. is only now becoming aware of the wonders of web-capable smartphones, Japan has fully embraced and integrated such technology into every day life. In Japan it's fairly standard for websites to be designed for mobile access on a small screen; shopping can often be conducted on a cell phone. Over 50 percent of Japanese cell phone users access the internet on a regular basis. It's not a big stretch to assume U.S. users will follow suit, especially as the English-speaking portion of the internet begins to accommodate the growing number of online-capable smartphones.
Where once there was darkness, there is illumination and information. The entire world is nestled in your hot, little hand. The smartphone has taken all the utility of the internet and shrunk it. And provided you've got the signal bars, your world will never be the same.
Hugo Torres is a freelance contributor to The Escapist.