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iPhone is 'not a smartphone'

Handset lacks third-party apps, say analysts

The iPhone may be capable of doing a great many things, but don’t call it a smartphone, say two ABI Research analysts.

ABI defines a smartphone as a mobile phone that uses an open, commercial operating system supporting third-party applications.

“It turns out that this device will be closed to third party applications. Therefore 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,” said ABI’s principal mobile broadband analyst Philip Solis.

Feature phones are closed to third-party development, according to ABI, with features that are controlled by the mobile phone service operator or device manufacturer. While feature phones may support third-party applications in the form of Java or Binary Runtime Environment for Wireless (BREW), Solis contends that those applications “are relatively weak and limited”.

“Applications designed for smartphones can be written to access core functionality from the OS itself, and are therefore usually more powerful and efficient. The competition in an open environment also yields more cutting edge, rich applications,” said Solis.

ABI’s wireless research director Stuart Carlaw suggests that with no track record in the mobile phone market, Apple will face an uphill battle and must get the engineering right.

“Consumers will not be willing to settle for a second-rate mobile phone just to have superior music,” said Carlaw.

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