BOSTON (TheStreet) — Smartphone makers upped the ante this year with sleeker designs, better touch screens and new applications. Consumers, chanting "I want one too," responded with open wallets.
According to Gartner, smartphones were the fastest-growing segment of this year's mobile phone market, with sales rising from more than 318 million units in the fourth quarter of 2008 to 411 million last quarter.
The struggle for smartphone dominance escalated just as rapidly, as Nokia (Stock Quote: NOK) and its Symbian OS phones watched their market dominance wither. Nokia's share plunged from 47% at the end of last year to 39% last quarter. Meanwhile, Research In Motion's (Stock Quote: RIMM) BlackBerry products held 20% of the market all year, but heard Apple's (Stock Quote: AAPL) footsteps as the iPhone's share went from 11% to 17%. It hasn't been a three-horse race. With RIM, Apple, Google (Stock Quote: GOOG), Motorola and Palm seeing huge gains from their smartphone businesses, there were enough riches to go around.
Apple iPhone 3GS
Carrier: AT&T (Stock Quote: T)
Pros: There's a reason the iPhone is closing in on BlackBerry's smartphone market share. There are just so many toys to play with, especially as the number of apps approaches the 300,000 estimate of research firm IDC. The 16- to 32-gigabytes of memory and upgrades to the iPhone OS have placated adherents' need for speed, while the video recording and voice dialing features that had been standard on phones expanded the iPhone's playground. Its GSM digital format also makes it an easier global travel companion than its CDMA counterparts.
: It may be popular, but the iPhone
still won't let users change the battery or take flash photos. Its 3-megapixel camera is the weakest among its peers, its Bluetooth connection still doesn't allow for file transfers, it doesn't have a memory card and its voice quality remains pitiful. On top of all of that, U.S. users are saddled with an AT&T plan that costs roughly $90 a month and sometimes offers the service equivalent of cans and string. If AT&T were a tent, the iPhone would be the lone pole propping it up.