Die, iPhone, Die

iphone look alikesImagine a team of Tarantino-directed ninjas, all dressed in fashionable black and rappelling into phone stores screaming, "Aiyee! Kill iPhone!" That pretty much sums up the state of the wireless market on this first anniversary of the phone launch heard around the world as everyone else chases that iPhone mojo.

Big touchscreens, cute icons and multimedia playback are de rigeur for the next wave of high-end phones. These cellular assassins aim their blades at the iPhone's famous weak points. The Samsung Instinct from Sprint, for instance, really piles it on with tactile feedback (aka "haptics") for its touchscreen keyboard, as well as voice commands and GPS - all absent from the iPhone.

Meanwhile, Apple's perennial sparring partner, Microsoft, continues to seethe over Apple's challenge to its Windows Mobile smartphone OS, so it joins forces with Sony Ericsson on the over-the-top XPERIA X1. This curved design boasts a VGA touchscreen, slide-out QWERTY keys and a stylus that ratchets up the input wars to include handwriting recognition. Expect even more novel solutions to the industry's iPhone problem. The sensei of mobile, Nokia, claims to have sold 60 million "converged devices," compared to baby-ninja Apple's 4 million in sales.

The rumor mill is filled with tales of a Nokia "Tube" that adds touch sensitivity to Symbian devices and hits the iPhone where it really hurts - its lack of Java support. But a year into iPhone hype, it is now clear that this feature-skirmish is not just a battle for coolness; it is about driving data and multimedia usage. According to M:Metrics, 85 percent of iPhone owners use the phone to browse the Web, compared to 13 percent of the general cell phone market, and that is a figure not lost on carriers struggling to drive more data ARPU (average revenue per user). And, like the iPod before it, much of the iPhone's success relates to the magnificent iTunes storefront. "There really is no phone out there yet that could replace it," says Dan Flanegan, CEO of BrandAnywhere. "I listen to more podcasts, buy more TV shows and movies from iTunes, and browse the Web more often." This iPhone "hit" may be more complicated than the mobile industry thought.
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