While the newly announced iPhone from Apple, Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) contains a variety of â€œvery high endâ€ features, and is â€œclever and capable,â€ it can't be defined as a smartphone, one research firm says.
Apple drew a great deal of attention with its first foray into the mobile phone market earlier this month. Industry observers were impressed with the firmâ€™s new iPhone, praising its user interface, innovation, and seamless integration.
A number of consumers and even media outlets have placed Apple's new cell phone entry in the same category as Research in Motion's Blackberry, or Palm's Treo devices, which are often called smartphones.
The two latter devices meet the criteria for smartphones, according to ABI Research, which defines the units as cellular handsets using an open, commercial operating system that supports third party applications.
While the iPhone from the Cupertino Calif.-based firm includes a version of Apple's own OS X operating system, Apple CEO Steve Jobs has previously indicated that the firm will not allow users to install software from third-parties.
It turns out that this device will be closed to third party applications, said ABI's principal mobile broadband analyst, Philip Solis on Thursday. We must conclude at this point that, based on our current definition, the iPhone is not a smartphone: it is a very high-end feature phone.
In its report, ABI says the phone is being categorized incorrectly.
â€œâ€¦while the iPhone is undoubtedly clever and capable, it is not correct to call it a smartphone, as much of the media has done,â€ the report states.
Solis explains that the features on the iPhone will be controlled by the operator, which will be AT&T's Cingular Wireless unit in America. A real smartphone he contends, is supported by a third-party ecosystem, where competition in the software space creates applications that add value.
Sure, feature phones have third party applications too, Solis elaborated, but these are relatively weak and limited applications that work with the middleware such as Java and BREW. Applications designed for smartphones can be written to access core functionality from the OS itself, and are therefore usually more powerful and efficient.
Apple said the iPhone will cost $500 - considerably more expensive than smartphones that are priced as low as $200. Many of those phones, however, lack the music capabilities of the iPhone. ABI feels this may not justify its price.
Consumers will not be willing to settle for a second-rate cell phone just to have superior music, Stuart Carlaw, ABI's research director.
Apple must get the phone engineering part of the equation right, and it is difficult to see how they will accomplish that with no track record in the industry.
Shares of Apple fell 45 cents, or 0.52 percent, to to close at $86.25 in Thursday trading on the Nasdaq Stock Exchange.