Hardware

iPhone vs. Pre vs. Android vs. Storm: Mobile Web the Winner

The new Palm Pre is getting some very favorable early pseudo reviews, including when compared to the iPhone. But is it "better" than the iPhone?

Every wireless journalist or tech blogger, it seems, wants to crown this or that handset an "iPhone killer" or a "BlackBerry Killer" and so on. As one example, here's an article citing a Teletra exec. who claims the company's forthcoming Android phone  is "better than Pre." 

Which smartphone is the one to "beat"? Is it the iPhone, the G1, the Storm or, now, the Pre? While it's fun to compare all these handsets, we should step back for a moment and look at how fast the market is evolving.

Smartphones currently represent about 15% of the market. The thing that holds them back is price and the related cost of data plans. However, the price of these new smartphone handsets is now generally under $200. (The Pre hasn't been priced yet.) Phones like the HTC Touch/Pro that maintain higher price points will lose sales to other phones that are "sexier" and cheaper.

While we're probably never going to see smartphones achieve market dominance, we will likely 50% penetration (at least in the US) in a reasonable period of time. Why? Because "culturally" it will be important to have one of these phones to access the mobile Internet. And the people who buy these phones will indeed be going "online" with them, because that's the whole point. 

Over the next 10 years, in the US and EU, we're going to see a shift from the "desktop" to mobile devices as the primary access platform for the Internet. It's already happened in some developing countries without an installed base of PCs. In our research, we've already seen very striking levels of mobile search in the US. Search volumes on mobile devices will eventually overtake the desktop, with corresponding implications for paid search advertising.

Indeed, there are some profound implications for publishers and marketers in this shift. However most are still dealing with the transition from traditional to online media and haven't really considered mobile. That's why we're holding Internet2Go -- to help provide a "crash course" for marketers, agencies and other "mobile curious" folks. 

Palm Shows Off the Sexy Pre

At CES Palm Chairman (former Apple exec) Jon Rubinstein introduced Palm's heavily anticipated new smartphone: the Pre. It runs a new Palm OS and is designed "from the ground up" for mobile Internet access. Pricing is unclear, but initially it will be available in the US only from Sprint (some time in the first half). This is likely to hold off some iPhone defections from Sprint. Out of the gate it beats the Instinct, HTC Pro and other Sprint handsets (unless you're tied to a BlackBerry). 

It offers a 3.1-inch touch screen, a 3MP camera (better than iPhone) and a slide out QWERTY keyboard (some will cheer, but not really necessary any longer). The apps apparently can be easily navigated on a flowing carousel-like stream that glides across the screen. It also features an "Opera speed dial" or Chrome-like bookmarks interface. From the coverage I've seen so far it appears pretty sleek and impressive. The test will come when you get one into your hands. 

The Pre will showcase the new Palm apps store. Reportedly developers can build apps for it without learning any new, specialized language.

It also has a "personality" unlike the myriad iPhone clones from LG or Samsung. And dare I say it? It also appears to have more moxie than the G1. 

sprint palm pre

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Related: Engadget has an extensive (positive) review, images and some video. Scroll to the bottom for the video. 

Update: There's a rumor/report out that Palm will offer a "Centro 2" with the new WebOS that powers the Pre. What's significant here beyond an improved user experience is that the Centro was cheap ($99). So if you have a terrific mobile Web experience available for that price, you may see lots of people jump for the phone. It also goes to the argument I made that we'll hit 50% smartphone penetration in the US in several years. 

A Host of IP Consumer Devices Are Coming

Call it "attack of the IP-connected non-phones." OK, so that's a bad description. But we're going to see lots and lots of devices coming that are effectively mobile Internet access tools (or some version thereof) and aren't phones. The connectivity issue just has to be worked out.

The model is Kindle, with Sprint's EVDO network built into the proposition. You don't pay for access. Verizon has just said that the company is going to do something similar with third party devices:

Verizon Wireless is poised to have rivals of Amazon's popular electronic Kindle reader use its network to download material such as books and newspapers wirelessly, according to an executive for the wireless service provider . . .

Now Verizon Wireless has certified 29 wireless devices that can run on its network but are sold by independent vendors. So far these are mostly business specific devices such as tracking devices and healthcare products.But this ebook reader support will quickly move to other devices as well. 

This ebook reader support will quickly move to other devices as well. 

Early devices that also point the way include a prototype Android tablet and a watchphone from LG. The pre-existing Chumby is another such device, although it's not intended to be mobile.

I've talked for a long time about a "two device scenario" where people carry non-phones (e.g., iPod Touch) for mobile Internet access. The examples mentioned above are only the beginning of a broad range of mobile consumer devices that offer some version of Internet access on the go and ride on third party telco or other networks.  

Will a 'Green' Phone Help Motorola?

Struggling handset maker Motorola today announced what it's calling the first "carbon neutral phone." The literally and figuratively green MOTO W233 "Renew" is made from 100% recycled materials and claims to be totally carbon free:

MOTO W233 Renew delivers the quality you expect from a Motorola device while empowering you to reduce your carbon footprint. Not only is the plastic housing of Renew made from plastics comprised of recycled water bottles and 100 percent recyclable, but it is also the world’s first carbon neutral phone. Through an alliance with Carbonfund.org, Motorola offsets the carbon dioxide required to manufacture, distribute and operate the phone through investments in renewable energy sources and reforestation. The phone has earned Carbonfund.org’s CarbonFree® Product Certification after an extensive product life-cycle assessment.

Certainly Motorola gets a bunch of good press from this and creates a favorable association with its brand among "eco-conscious consumers." But it's the phone's capabilities (which include 9 hours of talk time) and price that will determine whether it succeeds as a product rather than simply a marketing vehicle for the company. 

Though consumers generally do care about environmental impact and corporate responsibility, those buying considerations have moved down the priority list somewhat in this recession. 

New Palm Device to Launch: New Life or Last Gasp?

At this week's CES Palm is set to announce a new smartphone to complement its Centro and Treo Pro offerings. The new phone will reportedly feature the forthcoming proprietary Palm "Nova" OS and have both a touchscreen and a slide out keyboard. It will also promote the newly created Palm apps store. CrunchGear says the device is likely to be manufactured by HTC.

Palm, which arguably invented the smartphone category, has seen its fortunes deteriorate with the rise of BlackBerry in particular. By some measures, Palm still has a larger installed base than the iPhone but the company has negative momentum. As an example, see this survey data on purchase intent and market share from Changewave (US): 

Next 90 days: purchase intent

Market share

Elevation Partners recently injected $100 million into Palm in hopes of buoying the company's fortunes -- literally and figuratively. Despite the fact that the Centro was popular and the Treo Pro has been well received, the company desperately needs a big hit with the new phone. 

Friday Mobile News Roundup

The following are some interesting stories that I don't have time to thoroughly "unpack":

From ReadWriteWeb: Hyperlinking the Real World. This story is about an Austrian company called MOBVIS. It's one of several companies working with "point and search" or "augumented reality" technology. That's where the camera on the phone is used to input an image or location data and enhanced information about that image or location is displayed. Various mobile shopping apps, such as Amazon's "Remember" function on the iPhone, ShopSavvy's barcode scanner, SnapTell and others are examples of this functionality. There are also GeoVector, NeoMedia and iPointer in this general space. We'll see many more developments in the realm of "augmented reality" via mobile phones and other mobile devices (e.g., IP-connected glasses) over time. 

From Boy Genius: Garmin Releases Screenshots from Upcoming Nuvifone. The PND market is threatened over the long term by smartphones (unless prices go lower and/or they broadly integrate IP connectivity). That's why Garmin's effort to develop a mobile handset is significant. Screenshots are here:

Picture 4

Without actually using the phone it's difficult to assess its prospects in a highly competitive smartphone market. But one thing can be said for sure: a majority of handsets in the relatively near future will qualify as "smartphones."

From the WSJ: How the Lowly Text Message May Save Languages That Could Otherwise Fade:

Native-language boosters in Ireland and Britain have successfully pushed for development of Gaelic and Welsh languages on cellphones for texting so they remain relevant for young people.

Breandan Mac Craith, marketing director for Dublin-based Foras na Gaeilge, which promotes Gaelic, says, "It's extremely important that language isn't something that's only in books." In 2006, Foras began working to develop texting software for the Irish language with market leader Tegic. He says "texting way surpasses voice calls," but "trying to find the accent marks that we put on some of our vowels is very time consuming. So texts got written in English."

Once the software was available, Foras started pushing carriers and handset makers to install it on their phones. Last year, Samsung Corp., trying to steal a march on market leader Nokia Corp., added an Irish-language handset to its line. "They're fabulous tools for us," says Mr. Mac Craith. "It facilitates the Irish language as a communications tool for every day -- not just in the classroom."

In other parts of the world, text capability on cellphones can be vital to economic development and helping people who don't speak or read English buy and sell goods. Indian carriers offer at least 12 of that nation's 22 official languages, and Tegic says it is working to add Kashmeri to the list.

iPhone Nano rumors persist. If they were true, it would be very interesting. Questions include:

  • What would be left out?
  • How much smaller would it be?
  • How much cheaper ($99?)
  • Would all apps work on the iPhone Nano?
  • Would it cannibalize sales of conventional iPhones? (suggestions are that it would offer 4G of memory) 

I remain quite skeptical but these rumors are tantalizing nonetheless.

And finally from the NY Times a broad overview and survey of the developing applications ecosystem for the iPhone and other mobile platforms.

Physical vs. Virtual Keyboards on Smartphones

First there was the iPhone. And then in the frenzy of market response came the all-touch-screen BlackBerry Storm. The BlackBerry, which people love because of the scroll wheel and physical QWERTY keyboards, ditched both to compete with the iPhone.

According to Changewave, users are split on the Storm's touch screen:

Respondents were asked what they liked best and disliked most about the Storm. The results show that RIM made the right choice in producing a touch screen phone, being that it's a highly popular option in the smart phone market. One-in-two (49%) say Touch Screen Interface is what they like best about their BlackBerry Storm. Other key likes include Screen Size (46%) and Screen Resolution (43%).

At the same time, the touch screen interface represents one of the BlackBerry Storm model's biggest Achilles heel. In terms of dislikes, Lack of a QWERTY Keyboard (21%), Touch Screen Interface (20%) and Difficult to Use (20%) were top issues, along with Short Battery Life (21%).

While the Storm abandoned the keyboard, HTC's Android/G1 pointed to its physical keyboard as a differentiator vs. the iPhone's virtual version. Yet the lack of a virtual keyboard is a problem on the G1 and so one is going to be added via new software update. That will remedy the "portrait-landscape-portrait-landscape" problem wherein one has to turn the phone and flip out the keyboard to enter queries, or always surf in a landscape position. 

As an aside, I've come to prefer the virtual keyboard on my iPod Touch to the physical, slide out keyboard on my HTC WinMo 6800/Mogul. But people in general appear to be split. Accordingly, an interesting Photoshop mock-up imagines an iPhone "Elite" or "Pro" that would offer a slide out keyboard. 

While there are all sorts of rumors of an iPhone Nano and a larger iPod Touch floating around, it's unlikely that Apple will bow to the pressure and offer a physical keyboard on its iPhone. It will be interesting to see if successors to the Storm try to have it both ways and add a keyboard, while other BlackBerry models add a touchscreen. 

Of the two approaches, however, the touch screen has the momentum it would appear. 

Nielsen: Top Ten Mobile Phones, Sites

As part of the year end "top lists" ritual, Nielsen released a bunch of US top ten lists. Among those of interest to this blog:

 Mobile phones in use:

Nielsen: mobile hardware

Mobile site traffic:

Nielsen: sites

 Compare traffic to online sites:

Nielsen: mobile sites

Of particular interest is how Facebook appears in the top 10 on mobile but not online. Also note the prominence of email among the mobile sites listed. 

AOL Sees Xmas iPhone Search Surge

According to AOL (search blog) iPhone search traffic doubled on Xmas day, but interestingly:

We did not see a similar increase in traffic for our Blackberry, Windows Mobile or other versions of Mobile Search that day. So if you're following the mobile wars between Apple, RIM, Nokia and Microsoft it looks like Cupertino has the lead.

Based on our logs here's what's most popular among the new iPhone crowd:

  • Most Popular Application: AIM 
  • Most Popular Web Site: MySpace 
  • Most Popular Celebrity: Jennifer Aniston
  • Most Popular Gift: Stanley Tools
  • Most Popular Xmas site: Santa Tracker

RIM vs. iPhone vs. Android vs. WinMo

Changewave has done an interesting analysis of US market trends and user satisfaction, comparing the BlackBerry and iPhone. Here are the charts:

Market share:

 Market share

Next 90 days, purchase intent: 

Next 90 days: purchase intent

Storm vs. iPhone: satisfaction:

Storm vs. iPhone

What these data show is that RIM needs to keep pushing to stop the iPhone's charge. However, stepping back, it's not a zero-sum game. There's room for as many as three smartphone platforms in the US. The applications ecosystems will be a significant factor in consumer buying decisions over time as well. Those with no apps or weak selection will fade vs. those with more apps (think: Sprint's Instinct vs. the iPhone). 

RIM and iPhone can co-exist and will, with many people owning both: a BlackBerry for "corporate" purposes and an iPhone for personal use. It's unlikely that RIM will succeed in eroding Apple's consumer appeal; their game is to prevent enterprise defections and satisfy those BlackBerry users who only want to carry a single phone. The real question is whether Apple can make genuine inroads in the enterprise.

What about Android, not discussed by Changewave? This report argues that HTC's G1 is selling well and even hurting sales of HTC's other line, Windows Mobile-based handsets: 

The HTC executive has also admitted that the new Google offering is hurting sales of Windows Mobile devices of which HTC are the biggest maker in the world.

The charts above suggest that Palm is all but dead, abset some fantastically compelling new device. And if the unnamed "HTC executive" is telling the truth Microsoft should be very concerned. Symbian will continue to dominate outside the US but may find it all-but-impossible to penetrate the American market.

As Samsung and Motorola release Android devices next year WinMo, without a splashy upgrade, may also find it even more challenging to get consumer attention over the constant buzz and coverage surrounding the iPhone-RIM-Android troika.

Here Comes the Android G2?

The BGR is reporting on a rumor that by April we'll see a T-Mobile G2. The HTC device would have no physical keyboard, which is somewhat ironic given that this is the main differentiator between the G1 and the iPhone (aside from the open Android market). The G1 is also from HTC.

Remember this is a rumor but if it's true it signals a growing bias against physical keyboards in favor of thinner and sleeker smartphones. The BlackBerry Storm is indicative of that trend. The forthcoming Samsung Android device (T-Mobile, Sprint) may or may not have one; it's not yet clear.

The Agora Android devices in Australia have phyical keypads but they don't slide out.  

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Related: Here's a video of the forthcoming virtual keyboard for the G1. And here's a (probably fake) image of a rumored iPhone Nano. There were previously false rumors of a $99 iPhone to be sold at Wal-Mart.

Google also reportedly replaced cash bonuses with Android mobile phones for many of its employees. 

Samsung to Bring Android Phone to Sprint in Q2

Samsung, maker of the Omnia and Instinct, among other touch-screen phones, said it will offer an Android-based phone in the second quarter of 2009. T-Mobile (which has the current G1) and Sprint will be the US operators carrying the phone.

This comes on the heels of a quasi/informal Sprint statement that the company would in fact be bringing out an Android phone in 2009. AT&T has also suggested that it may release one in 2009 as well. 

Officially there are two Android phones today: the HTC G1 and the Kogan Agora/Agora Pro (Australia). Motorola is reportedly working on one or more handsets based on Android and now comes the Samsung announcement. 

As a Sprint customer I'm likely to wait and stay with the carrier now to get the phone rather than switch to AT&T. 

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Related: Google optimizes results pages for iPhone and Android. Google announced this several weeks ago but only for selected "entry points" on the iPhone. Now it's true across the board and for Android as well.

RIM Results: Q3 OK, Strong Holiday Start

RIM, maker of the BlackBerry, posted Q3 results that were basically in line with expectations (after those expectations were managed downward by the company). Here's the summary of results from Reuters:

RIM said it earned $396.3 million, or 69 cents a share, in the three months ended November 29. That was up from a profit of $370.5 million, or 65 cents a share, a year earlier.

Revenue was $2.78 billion, up from $1.67 billion in the same quarter of last year.

However the company also said that it had gotten off to a fast start for Q4 and the holiday shopping season, causing its shares to climb in after-hours trading:

Waterloo, Ontario-based RIM said it expects fourth-quarter revenue of $3.3 billion to $3.5 billion, and earnings per share of 83 to 91 cents.

That was better than analysts expectations for revenue of $2.97 billion and earnings per share of 83 cents as compiled by Reuters Estimates.

"We have enjoyed our best-ever start to the holiday-buying season over the past few weeks," RIM co-CEO Jim Balsillie said in a statement.

There had been a recent spate of rumors that the much-hyped Storm was being returned by as many as 40% of buyers. But Verizon issued a statement contradicting those rumors:

“The Storm has the lowest return rate of any of our PDAs and at this point in its life cycle, it has the lowest return rate of any PDA we currently sell.”

In my brief experiences with the device in the Verizon store I didn't particularly care for it; but I'm not a BlackBerry user and didn't really have enough time to make a fair assessment. Apparently initial satisfaction levels with the device are decent but not as high as the iPhone. According to Silicon Alley Insider quoting an RBC/Changewave consumer survey:

Dec RBC IQ / Changewave data (new Storm owners) shows Blackberry Storm lags iPhone on initial satisfaction; 33% of Storm owners were Very Satisfied, 46% Satisfied -- vs. 77% of iPhone (original) owners initially Very Satisfied and 15% Satisfied.  These satisfaction ratings are lower than iPhone but inline with satisfaction ratings for initial owners of other phones.

Regarding Potential Returns: 2% of respondents are Very Likely and 7% Somewhat Likely to return the Storm – not an alarming result, but higher than typical (est. 1-2%) returns.  Reasons for returning: battery life (21%), touchscreen (20%), difficult to use (20%).

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Related: Palm reports another loss:

The company reported a net loss of $508.6 million, or $4.64 a share, including a tax charge of $396.7 million. That compared with a loss of $9.6 million, or 9 cents a share, in the same quarter a year ago.

Revenue dropped by 45 percent, to $191.6 million from $349.6 million.

Excluding charges, Palm said it lost $80 million, or 73 cents a share. Analysts expected a loss of 38 cents on sales of $207.3 million, according to polling by Thomson Reuters.

Wal-Mart Brings the iPhone to "Hockey Moms"

There were rumors that Wal-Mart was going to start selling a 4GB iPhone for $99 dollars. Those rumors have proven untrue according to Engadget, which got its hands on an apparently authentic internal Wal-Mart communication about the impending iPhone program:

  • Reported launch is December 28, 2008
  • Pricing: 8GB ($197) and 16GB ($297). That's just $2 off standard pricing. A two-year AT&T contract is required.

Wal-Mart is also selling the Android G1.

What's interesting here is not the pricing -- although it would've been if the $99 iPhone had been real -- but the potential broader exposure the phone will gain through the world's largest retailer. The population that visits Apple stores is likely quite different from that shopping at Wal-Mart, hence the headline of this post.

With most Apple products, touching or using them is a key part of the sale. That holds true for the iPhone as well. That's why Apple retail stores have been so successful, among several other reasons. 

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Related: Orange (France Telecom) loses iPhone exclusivity in France but will appeal the judicial decision:

The iPhone will no longer be available for just Orange subscribers in France after a decision by the national competition council announced Wednesday.

The council in September received a complaint from Bouygues Telecom, which, of course, is welcoming the decision, and will launch the iPhone as soon as possible, the company said.

The decision will also affect Orange's role as a wholesaler for distribution of the iPhone, and also the distribution contracts proposed by Apple obliging resellers to distribute the iPhone only with an Orange network contract, according to the council.

Orange will appeal before the Court of Appeal in Paris.

A similar episode happened early on in Germany, with Vodafone suing T-Mobile to block exclusivity. T-Mobile subsequently won on appeal but Vondafone later became an iPhone distributor in Europe and elsewhere. 

Consumer Reports Delusional in Picking Samsung BlackJack as Top Smartphone

It's possible that two people can see the same movie and have opposite reactions. Such is the case with me and Consumer Reports, which recently published its top rated smartphones. Here they are in order:

  • Samsung Blackjack II (WinMo; overall winner)
  • T-Mobile Wing (HTC WinMo)
  • Motorola Moto & T-Mobile Shadow (tied)
  • BlackBerry Pearl Flip & Pantech Duo (tied)
  • AT&T Tilt (HTC WinMo)
  • Palm: Centro, Treo 800 & 755 (tied)
  • iPhone (tied for 6th with Palm devices)
  • Android G1

The BlackBerry Storm and Bold were not evaluated.

Here's how Consumer Reports explains this overall scoring:

Overall score is based mainly on Voice quality, Ease of use, Talk time, and PDA ease of use, with Sensitivity also considered. The displayed score is out of a total of 100 points.

When pricing, voice quality and talk time, etc are factored in I can see how some of these phones might succeed. However, this ranking is nothing less than delusional in terms of utility and usability. Yes, I have my personal biases but the emphasis placed on certain of the criteria are misguided in the smartphone context. 

Palm Launches New Apps Store

Palm's popular Centro and attractive Treo 800 devices are appealing but overshadowed by RIM and Apple's devices (and the G1). Indeed, the troubled company appeared to be falling further and further behind in a category -- smartphones -- that it essentially invented. Part of the reason for that is the ecosystem of software applications that has emerged around the iPhone in particular and is emerging for the other devices.

The newly introduced Palm apps store instantly makes Palm devices/platform more viable and potentially competitive for many consumers who are starting to use the availability of software applications as a criterion in making hardware buying decisions. Impressively there are "already" 5,000 apps available according to the site (compare 10,000+ for the iPhone). Many/most would have been largely unknown but for the aggregation of these in a single location:

 Palm apps store

 Picture 20

This launch also shows how Windows Mobile would similarly benefit from the aggregation of its developer applications into a single, user-friendly location. (Indeed the Treo is a WinMo phone.) Of course there's Handango but most users are not probably not aware of the site. 

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Related: Pandora comes to Windows Mobile

Rising Netbook Popularity Reflects Demand for Mobile Internet

The most popular laptops on Amazon's list of top-selling computers are so-called "netbooks," small-screened computers with full keyboards:

 Amazon laptop list

Today Radio Shack and AT&T announced a very compelling offer: a $99 Acer Aspire with a two-year service agreement ($60 per month) for wireless broadband:

The Acer Aspire one netbook is priced at $99.99 for customers who sign up
for a qualifying two-year AT&T DataConnect mobile broadband service agreement
with plans starting at $60 a month. Once activated, this netbook allows
people to easily access the Internet anywhere within AT&T's wireless network.

This is going to be a very successful offering, although the mobile broadband pricing is steep.

The surging netbook category is somewhere between a traditional laptop and a smartphone like the iPhone. The small screen is no fun to actually do work on, but the ultraportability makes them appealing for many people as an Internet access device.

It's neither fish nor fowl in a way but reflects the demand for mobile Internet access. I've previously argued that as mobile broadband becomes cheaper and more accessible there will be new classes of IP-connected devices that emerge -- neither phones per se nor laptops. 

Sprint to Offer an Android Phone 'Within a Year'

Bloomberg is reporting comments from Sprint executives that basically confirm the carrier will be introducing an Android-based phone "within a year":

“We believe in the vision for Android, so we want to see it get bigger and get healthy,” Kevin Packingham, Sprint’s vice president of products and devices, said yesterday in an interview. “We can, when the timing’s right, pull the trigger.”

Sprint and Google are partners in mobile search and in Sprint's 4G initiative. The US carrier would become the largest to date to offer the phone (T-Mobile is number four after Sprint), though number two AT&T has implied it will offer one in 2009 as well.

I wrote a lengthy diatribe the other day about how I wanted to stay with Sprint myself but was frustrated by the failure of its available phone (Instinct, HTC Touch, Palm Devices) to measure up to the iPhone. A Sprint Android phone would prevent my defection, as well as by others no doubt, by introducing a more credible Internet phone. The public statement may also be a tacit admission that the Instinct has failed to stop the subscriber bleeding (almost four million subs lost over the course of a year). 

One of Sprint's major handset partners is HTC, the maker of the T-Mobile Android G1. But Motorola could be the provider of a Sprint Android model as well. From my perspective that phone can't come out fast enough. In one way, then, Android becomes a defensive play for carriers who don't have the iPhone, as a way to retain subscribers who might otherwise switch, but who would be satisfied with an Android model.

ChaCha Reports Dramatic Growth, 2.5 Million Users

ChaCha reported this morning "among pure-play SMS search providers ChaCha, Google SMS and Yahoo! SMS, ChaCha is the fastest growing service," according to Nielsen:

ChaCha’s 28 percent share of transactions is up from just seven percent in Q2, marking a 300 percent quarter over quarter gain, driven by a 660 percent quarter over quarter growth in overall ChaCha transactions. ChaCha reports that they now deliver 30 million impressions per month and have had more than 2.5 million users since the SMS answers service launched in January.

 The company also reported that it has gained traction among advertisers such brand advertisers as McDonald's and Coca-Cola.

The success ChaCha has had in transforming itself from a great concept but faltering desktop search engine to a mobile search tool, driven by viral adoption, is a great success story.

Sprint Courts Developers with New Open Platform

Recognizing the need to build a developer and software ecosystem, Sprint announced a new open platform for third parties:

Continuing its leadership in employing an open application model, Sprint today is introducing the latest version of its developer toolkit, relaunching its Professional Developer Program and preparing to deliver new Sprint devices and a new Java platform that will open the door to millions of developers who have traditionally designed for a desktop environment.

As a pioneering user of the Java mobile platform, Sprint is participating in JavaOne for the eighth consecutive year, offering its latest tools for developers to create wireless applications that customers can run on Sprint phones. At the Sprint exhibit during the 2008 conference, Sprint will launch its latest Wireless Toolkit, demonstrate the capabilities of its latest technology, including the new Titan platform, and launch its revised Professional Developer Program.

Sprint arguably has the best mobile broadband network and is ahead of rivals with the new Clearwire/Sprint 4G initiative. But it lags in terms of "sexy" hardware and mobile software applications vs. Apple, Android, RIM and WinMo.