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Mobile phones and smartphones are not the same thing

Comparing a basic mobile phone to a spiffy new smartphone is like comparing a circa-1993 desktop computer to a Macbook Pro. They’re related in a basic sense, but the discrepancies are immense.

Why is this relevant? Because worldwide mobile phone penetration is high while smartphone penetration is relatively low. And if you’re a digital publisher trying to reach new markets, you better create material that works on the dominant devices. That means small displays and limited functionality. Arthur Attwell, co-founder and CEO of Electric Book Works, expands on this phone divide in the following interview.

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Comments: 5

  1. While I think that it is valuable to point out this difference between mobile phones and smartphones, and to say that in emerging markets smartphones will be a long time coming, he should have mentioned that the smartphone segment of the mobile market is the fastest growing.

    Smartphone shipments are expected to exceed PC sales by the end of 2011. There was a lot of coverage of this fact in the main stream media in September 2009 and again in Feb 2010 in conjunction with Mobile World Congress 2010. This forecast means that the total addressable market with smartphones is growing very rapidly.

    Why is this important, because the owners/users of smartphones have identified themselves as targets for further sales. Those who purchase smartphones are (most likely) the same people who have the *money* to spend on value added services and content (such as ebooks).

  2. christine makes a good point, but let’s extend it further.
    (or take it back to the starting line, i’m not sure which.)

    dumbphones might be “the dominant devices”, _but_
    there’s very little evidence people are reading on them.

    or — if you need me to make the obvious connection —
    spending money buying e-books for their dumbphones.

    publishers will discover that there _is_ no “market” there.

    so if they aim at “small displays and limited functionality”
    it’s likely that they’d just be wasting their time and money.


  3. “worldwide mobile phone penetration is high while smartphone penetration is relatively low”

    Three reasons.
    1. Mobile phone is cheaper while Smartphone is expensive.
    2.Mobile phone need only a simple carrier while Smartphone needs 3G network to give the best out put.
    3. Mobile phone plan is very cheap per month while Smartphone plan is expensive

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  5. what interview where? I am trying to listen to it and I can’t find a link or a transcript anywhere on this page.