Smartphone Shipments Explode, Raising Capacity Questions

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Customers do seem willing to pay for the comprehensive data plans, sometimes paying up to $2,000 a year for voice, data and messaging plans to carriers.

"Every time somebody gets a smartphone, it changes you," he said of the market psychology. "I used to just get voice. Now I have Facebook, e-mail and texting, and I'm downloading apps in the background. No wonder I might go from a $15 data plan to $30 a month, since I need the capacity," Morgan said.

Morgan said the rapid growth of smartphone shipments and sales has "reached an inflection point" as the upward curve continues to steepen. "Smartphone shipments have always been growing, but now [the growth curve] is steepening faster. We'll probably have 60% year-over-year growth at the end of 2010," Morgan said.

Morgan predicted that smartphone growth will slow to 25% in 2011 compared to 2010, since carriers will have "filled the demand vacuum."

At that point, the wide array of smartphone OS's will probably "boil down to three or perhaps four key operating systems," Morgan added.

Regarding data capacity with more and more smartphones using more data for the foreseeable future, Morgan said all the carriers worry publicly about spectrum efficiency and whether federal regulations will permit using more of the spectrum for wireless consumers.

Yet, at the same time, carriers continue to sell cheaper smartphones, some for $150 even without a long-term service contract, and add greater choices in data plans to attract more users.

"This growth is getting away from us," Morgan said.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen , or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed . His e-mail address is mhamblen@computerworld.com .

Read more about mobile and wireless in Computerworld's Mobile and Wireless Topic Center.

This story, "Smartphone Shipments Explode, Raising Capacity Questions" was originally published by Computerworld.

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