It has been a busy week for the smartphone sector, with Apple looking to disprove suggestions its star is fading and Android celebrating its fifth anniversary.
Apple just capped off its biggest product launch in the company’s history, announcing it sold more than 9 million iPhone 5s and 5c handsets in the first three days of the product hitting the street. In many Apple stores, both phones remain on back order.
The announcement may put to rest analyst fears that the new models would underwhelm consumers, after some suggested a lack of new features and a higher-than-expected price point for the iPhone 5c could harm sales.
When the concept of the smartphone began to gain traction in the early 2000s, few could have predicted just how quickly the phones would become commonplace. When Apple launched the first-generation iPhone back in 2007, it had its fair share of detractors.
Co-chief executive of RIM at the time Jim Balsillie dismissed the smartphone as a poor productivity device due to its lack of a physical keyboard. He famously said: “Try typing a web key on a touchscreen on an Apple iPhone, that’s a real challenge. You cannot see what you type.”
The contrasting fortunes of the two firms since then shows just how wrong he was. BlackBerry announced this month it expects to lose nearly $1 billion in the second quarter. The company is currently on the auction block, with the company’s biggest shareholder offering to buy BlackBerry for $4.7 billion, or $9 per share.
By comparison, Apple is trading at a market cap of $441 billion, ranking it the most valuable publicly traded company in the world.
BlackBerry wasn’t the only firm to fail to see the potential of the new breed of touch-enabled smartphones. This week, outgoing chief executive of Microsoft Steve Ballmer described his company’s sluggish response to the emerging sector as the biggest regret of his time at the helm of the tech giant.
“There was a period in the early 2000s when we were so focused on what we had to do around Windows that we weren’t able to redeploy talent to the new device called the phone,” Ballmer told an audience of Wall Street investors and analysts. “That is the thing I regret the most.”
But even though Microsoft was focused elsewhere, Apple didn’t have the smartphone sector to itself for very long. Just a few months after the iPhone was launched—5 years ago this week—Google introduced Android to the world.
Though the operating system had a slow start, it has since grown into the dominant smartphone OS. Recent figures from International Data Corporation show that more than three-quarters of smartphone sales now run Google’s OS.
Overall, smartphone sales now outpace those of older feature phones, a milestone Gartner reported the sector reached last month, when smartphones accounted for 51.8 percent of all mobile phone sales. And this growth shows no signs of slowing down, as IDC estimates total sales of smartphones will surpass one billion units this year, and climb to 1.7 billion by 2017.
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