Wi-Fi Now a Smartphone Must-Have

Though some operators are still not inclined to let Wi-Fi-equipped handsets into their networks, consumers nowadays are demanding the technology to be a standard part of smartphones, according to global consulting and advisory firm Ovum.

Artwork: Chip Taylor
Ovum's recent data (collated from DeviceMine and Ovum research) identified 77 smartphone models released by key manufacturers in the sample period. Of these, 59 handsets had GPS (Global Positioning System) capability and 49 had Wi-Fi. This indicates that these technologies are now key features across nearly all smartphones, not just high-end models, said Tim Renowden, analyst at Ovum.

"Some operators still have a reluctance to admit Wi-Fi-equipped handsets onto their networks, but Ovum believes consumers now expect Wi-Fi to be present in smartphones," Renowden said.

The analyst said both GPS and Wi-Fi remain to be in demand, citing that the widespread availability of GPS (across all of the major smartphone platforms) is great news for developers wishing to deploy location-based applications and services. But still few developers have taken advantage of this beyond basic navigation products.

Next Expectation: TV-Out

Ovum's smartphone capability tracker showed much lower penetration for TV-out capability, although this was of little surprise as it is only recently that most platforms have really possessed the multimedia abilities required to justify its inclusion.

Only the iPhone, Symbian, and Windows Mobile platforms produced devices with TV-out, with Samsung in particular being proactive in supporting the feature. Ovum expects TV-out to grow in popularity among media-centric smartphones, along with increasing processing power and screen resolutions.

On the processor front, most smartphones are currently based on ARM11 architecture, but Ovum expects some ARM Cortex A8-based chipsets to appear in devices within the next update, and platforms like Qualcomm's Snapdragon or Nvidia's Tegra to emerge later in 2009 as manufacturers seek to add greater multimedia functionality to devices.

Devices based on the ARM Cortex A9 multi-core architecture are expected in 2010.

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