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2010: The year of hot smartphones

The field of technology in the year 2010 was quite exciting and eventful especially in the segment of mobile phones, which returned as status symbols in India in its latest avatar - the smartphones.

The new generation devices was picked up by not just the wealthy or the forever-experimenting geeks but also became a must-have productivity tool for business executives and young professionals as well.

Led by a sharp drop in prices, the rise of social networking phenomenon, the need to stay connected while being on the move, aggressive marketing by handset manufacturers as well as peer pressure, smartphones became the hottest gizmo this year.

All other sought-after gadgets like portable music players, digital cameras, radios, gaming and navigation devices were left behind in the race as smartphones offered the ultimate convergence solution for all needs and moods of the consumer.

Mobile phones ceased to remain mere telephonic devices as it started meaning different things to different people and playing myriad roles in their lives.

"It is like a mobile computer and a one-stop solution for all my communication requirements. And the best part is that it also doubles up as a complete entertainment device," says 28-year-old engineer Abhijeet Singh, who opened up his wallet for an i-Phone earlier this year.

Mumbai-based Singh is one among the multitude of Indians who are now checking e-mails, editing documents, operating Twitter and Facebook, clicking high-resolution pictures, getting road directions through GPS navigation system and watching YouTube videos besides being available for online chats - all from the handiness of their smartphones.

Those who could only dream of buying expensive phones were rescued by a number of 'desi' and Chinese brands that were selling smartphones for even less than Rs 4,000.

"I have always wanted an iPhone but buying it at the price of Rs 30,000 plus is way beyond my budget. Nowadays cheaper handsets also look very trendy and smart besides sporting a good number of features," says, Rajiv Bansal, a businessman who recently bought a Micromax set.

According to industry figures, the smartphone market in India had expanded to around 7 to 7.5 million handsets in 2010 growing 30 per cent year-on-year.

In the next five years, smartphones are expected to have 25 per cent share in the overall mobile phone market which has around 600 million connections.

Globally it is estimated that there are nearly 500 million smartphone owners, predicted to go up to 1 billion by 2013.

Following the lead of Apple and RIM ( Research in Motion), the makers of the the iconic iPhone and the executive-class BlackBerry, a number of handset manufacturers quickly made a beeline for the lucrative smartphone market in the country in 2010.

While the market leader Nokia found it difficult to control its declining sale figures, sleek models from other players like Samsung, HTC, Motorola, Sony Ericsson and Dell turned out to be the cynosure of all eyes.

To give the ever-increasing popularity of Google's Android software platform a competition, Samsung launched its cheaper 'bada' operating system with a vision of "providing a smartphone for everyone."

However, owning a BlackBerry, which provides exclusive instant messenger and encrypted mail delivery services via a dedicated server, and the application-rich iPhone retained their cult status.

Next year Apple is scheduled to release its iPhone 5, which is expected to come with an RFID (Radio Frequency Identification), enhancing the phone's functionality as a mobile wallet.

But even before many Indian consumers could update their basic handset, technology took another leap toward the end of this year with the introduction of giant smartphones, labelled as tablets.

Apple's much-hyped iPad will be available for the consumer segment in India next year while Dell's 5-inch tablet PC and Samsung's 7-inch Galaxy Tab have already created a flutter among gadget freaks.

Samsung is so bullish in this new segment that it is predicting a million users for tablets in 2011 in the country.

With more than 500 million active mobile phone users, industry experts have estimated that the next generation of Internet users would be connecting via phone and not their desktop computers.

As 3G services are set to roll out early 2011, the smartphone phenomenon is all set up for an upsurge, marking the evolution of a new era in telecommunications and information management.

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