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Smartphones edging out other gadgets
|25 марта 2009|
Smart phones are getting so smart that they're now outwitting other consumer-electronics devices.
Smart phones - beefed-up cellphones such as Research in Motion Ltd.'s BlackBerry and Apple Inc.'s iPhone - come with an operating system, do email, and surf the Internet. They also offer digital music, digital camera and personal-navigation features.
For a long time, these offerings paled in comparison to what you could get by buying separate specialized devices.
But more recently, smart phones have improved their horsepower and added larger screens, five- to eight-megapixel digital cameras, programs that can display turn-by-turn navigation, and free one-year subscriptions for unlimited downloads of music.
For many consumers, that means the time has finally come to shed multiple devices. Chester Vargas, for example, picked up a $319 Nokia Corp. E71 smart phone last month. Since then, the 30-year-old Miami resident has downloaded Google Maps onto the phone to help him find his way around town and purchased an eight-gigabyte memory card to store music on the phone.
Earlier this month, he also took pictures of his baby son using the E71's camera and printed them at a local shop; he says his family couldn't tell the difference between those photos and ones taken on his Canon Inc. digital camera.
"Why would you want to carry around so many devices? I have everything I need in one device," Mr. Vargas says, adding that he now hardly ever uses his stand-alone digital camera. He didn't previously own a music player or GPS device.
While personal-technology experts have long predicted that people would consolidate onto a single device, that change may now actually be starting to unfold. The Consumer Electronics Association predicts that overall smart-phone shipments in the U.S. will grow just over 30% this year to 37.4 million units from a year ago.
Meanwhile, sales of some stand-alone electronics gadgets like digital music players and GPS devices are running into trouble. Unit sales of portable navigation devices in the U.S. are projected to increase 15% to just over 17.4 million units this year, after jumping 73% last year, says the CEA.
Meanwhile, unit sales of portable media players are forecast to slide 6.2% in 2009, and digital cameras sales are expected to slip 8.6%, says the CEA.
Consolidating your mobile tech needs in one gadget can save money, at least initially. Consumers can expect to pay $199 for an eight-gigabyte iPhone with a two-year AT&T Inc. contract, a price that is heavily subsidized by AT&T. BlackBerry smart phones can be had for $199 for the Storm, or free for some models of the Pearl, with a Verizon Wireless contract. The BlackBerry Bold costs $299 with a two-year AT&T contract.
By contrast, a best-selling camera, GPS device and mp3 player from manufacturers such as Canon, Garmin International Inc. and Apple on the Best Buy Co. Web site add up to just under $390.
But consumers need to keep in mind that smart phones require data plans from carriers, which together with voice plans can drive the subscription fees above $100 a month.
Using a smart phone, such as the G1 from Deutsche Telekom AG's T-Mobile USA, for every application has other drawbacks. For one, using the digital camera or digital music functions of a smart phone too often can drain the device's battery.
Smart phones also don't offer many of the specialized functions that stand-alone devices do. For example, the phones don't offer red-eye reduction or most image-editing features that digital cameras typically include.
Tyler Grant, a disc jockey in Toronto, Canada, purchased a BlackBerry Bold smartphone for around 550 Canadian dollars (U.S.$444) in September. He uses it for most of his on-the-go electronics needs, including email, Web surfing and listening to music. But the 26-year-old doesn't like the phone's two-megapixel camera because it isn't able to focus and the pictures come out grainy. So Mr. Grant says when he travels frequently for work, besides his BlackBerry Bold he also takes along his Canon point-and-shoot camera to take pictures. "I don't need a whole lot in a camera, but this still needs some improvement," Mr. Grant says.
Makers of stand-alone electronics devices are fighting back, sometimes by borrowing some of the features of smart phones. In the past year, camera manufacturers such as Nikon Corp. and Panasonic Corp. have launched new models with built-in wireless technology or geo-tagging, which uses GPS to note the location where a picture was taken. The new digital cameras, for instance, can send pictures wirelessly to photo-sharing Web sites.
Meanwhile, navigation company TomTom NV is competing with smart phones by launching its first GPS device with wireless technology that can get local weather information, gasoline prices and traffic updates for a $10 monthly subscription fee (after a three-month, free promotional period).
The device, called TomTom Go 740 Live, is due to roll out early next month at a price of about $400. TomTom devices already can take advantage of a digital-map feature launched last month that allows customers to make corrections to maps on the device and share those with others when they reconnect the device to their PC.
Other device makers have decided to join forces with smart phones instead of trying to beat them. Makers of digital-music players, such as Apple and SanDisk Corp., are moving their consumers from portable players to multimedia phones such as the iPhone.
In November, SanDisk launched "slotMusic" memory cards that fit in several multimedia phones and that come pre-loaded with music. The company already sells blank memory cards for people to load their own music.
Garmin, a GPS and personal-navigational-device maker, has partnered with hardware maker AsusTek Computer Inc. to launch two mobile phones under the brand name Nuvifone later this year. The phones will provide navigation and location-based services, such as traffic data and fuel prices.
They will also be able to provide directions to any contact on the phone's contact list, and share a user's location with others via text, email or location-based social networks. The phones' carriers and pricing haven't been announced.
Mark Perini, Garmin's director of business development for wireless markets, says the company is moving into phones in part because consumers are increasingly installing software-based navigation applications onto their phones."We see there's a place for stand-alone automobile devices ... but what we see with the Nuvifone is you're able to get so much more," he says.
Источник: Total Telecom