smartphone
Business Management

Kasey Cassells (Global) - Mobile Business: Will The Smartphone Ever Replace the PC?

It seems like everyone owns a smartphone these days. In many parts of the world, smartphones are becoming an essential device for both consumers and business users. Mobile phones with Web access, push email capabilities and various applications have finally overtaken shipments of more simple ‘feature phones’ for the first time in Western Europe, with the rest of the world is looking to follow.

The growth of smartphones in recent years across the world is astonishing. According to research firm Gartner, in the past year alone (August 2010-August 2011) the global smartphone market has grown by 74%. In Q2 2011, smartphones accounted for 25% of the mobile device market, with 428.7 million units sold globally.

Across the world, smartphone sales vary – but there is a clear pattern forming that shows smartphone usage is on the rise. In Q2 2011, Asia Pacific (APAC) remained the largest regional market, with 39.8 million units shipping there, compared with 35 million in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), and 32.9 million in the Americas.

If you have followed the smartphone market at all in recent years, you will be aware of the ongoing battle between vendors and their operating systems. According to a Gartner report from August 2011, Google’s Android operating system currently leads the way with a 43.4% share of the global market, way ahead of Nokia’s Symbian at 22.1%. Apple’s iOS system follows with 18.2%, and Research in Motion (the company behind the Blackberry) takes 11.7%. Samsung and Microsoft bring up the rear with less than 2% global market share each.

One thing that all of these smartphones have in common is a range of features and connectivity capabilities that appeal to business users. In fact, some business professionals are becoming obsessed with their smartphones. In a survey by Ringcentral, 49% of business users said they check their smartphone for updates before they even get out of bed. The survey also found that 7% don’t feel the need to take their laptop away for business if they have a smartphone, and 34% use a smartphone more than a PC for doing business overall.

These statistics highlight how the increasing capabilities of mobile devices are encroaching on business. But will the smartphone ever replace the PC?

Many of today’s smartphones are powerful enough to deliver 95% of the functionality a typical information worker needs to work. They are the most portable of work devices – not only as they are small in size, but thanks to the connectivity most of these phones offer (3G, EDGE etc.) as well as a longer battery life than laptops in most cases.

However, there is only so much you can do with 95% functionality. In terms of practicality, most workers would find it difficult to work with a screen that is just a few inches wide. Typing can also be an issue – it is simple enough to draft a quick email from a touchscreen or small QWERTY keypad, but for creating longer documents these options are just not viable.

Despite great advances being made in the security of these devices, this is still a concern when working on sensitive documents. No matter how well you protect a device from outside attacks, once it’s in someone else’s hands it’s a different matter – and smartphones are much easier to lose than desktop PCs and even laptops.

There is still a long way to go before smartphones are fully integrated into businesses. There are countless everyday business tools that are not optimized for mobile use, and businesses also struggle to integrate employee-owned devices into the business environment, meaning many workers feel the need to carry separate devices for work and pleasure. While the smartphone is a fantastic tool for business users and consumers, it’s not yet capable of taking over the PC for everyday use.

By Kasey Cassells, E-Content Writer, IDG Connect

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