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With the market changing so fast, what smartphone should you get next? It’s an increasingly complex question, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK as he lays out the landscape for your future options.

The single most common question put to anyone vaguely involved in the world of gadgetry is what phone they recommend. But it is impossible to tell someone else what phone they should use based on what you prefer. What works for one user does not necessarily work for another.

Just lately, however, the question has become even more complicated.

It goes: ‚What operating system should I choose when I buy my next phone?‚ Or: ‚Should I get a BlackBerry on my next upgrade because I love my current one but I hear they’re going down in the USA?‚

This usually develops into a debate about which operating system (OS) will be dominant a year or two from now, and whether existing brands will still be around by then.

While some trends are obvious, others are impossible to predict – in particular which brands will dominate two years from now. However, based on current research and trends, there are a few statements and assumptions one can make, while noting that anything can change the market.

This is the context within which brand choice is likely to be made: * The Mobility 2011 study, released in February 2011, showed that, based on consumer intentions, BlackBerry would be the fastest growing cellphone brand in South Africa in 2011. The study indicated it had a potential of reaching 24% market share among cellphone users aged 16+ living in cities and towns. During the first half of 2011, BlackBerry lived up to these expectations, taking a stranglehold of the smartphone market. By June, it was reported to make up as much as 70% of smartphone sales.

While its market share has slumped amid explosive growth of smartphones in Western markets, unit sales themselves remain strong, and it is maintaining a dazzling growth rate in the developing world. Nevertheless, poor strategic decisions by BlackBerry manufacturer Research in Motion means that the brand may well lose this momentum by 2012. But momentum is one thing: market share is another story altogether. For at least the next year, it will remain the dominant smartphone brand in South Africa, and will still have significant market share into 2013. Developers are avoiding BlackBerry at their peril.

* Globally, phones using Google’s mobile OS, Android, show both strongest brand momentum and market leadership. This trend is likely to have an impact on all markets, giving Android a powerful market position in South Africa in the coming two years. Led by Samsung, HTC and Motorola, as well as lesser-known brands ‚ in South Africa. That is ‚ like ZTE and Huawei, it will pose a multi-pronged challenge.

Google’s announcement last week that it was buying Motorola’s mobile business means that even that brand, written off in recent years as a contendor, may emerge as a powerful ‚new‚ player in the Android market. Its release last week in South Africa of the Xoom tablet and Atrix smartphone illustrated quite powerfully that it was still a force for innovation, 83 years later.

* Microsoft’s Windows Phone OS has minimal market presence in South Africa ‚ and is not even fully functional on local networks. However, it is appearing on cutting edge phones from Samsung and HTC. When its next version, codenamed Mango, is rolled out, it will become many people’s phone of choice.

More important, it has a sleeping giant waiting in the wings. While Nokia appears to have surrendered the smartphone market, it still has around 50% overall market share in South Africa. As Nokia migrates to the Windows platform, and the mass market migrates to smartphones, brand loyalty is likely to kick in to give it substantial market share. * Apple’s iPhone remains a small player in terms of market share in South Africa, largely because Apple’s business model limits the way it can be marketed and sold here. In effect, Apple has handed the Third World to Google and BlackBerry, and given Microsoft a foot in the door.

As the cost of iPhones come down, and availability bottlenecks are addressed, it will become an increasingly important player here ‚ but not a dominant one.

By 2013 we are likely to see a market characterised by strong competition between all four major platforms ‚ and even more difficulty for consumers looking for an easy choice.

* Arthur Goldstuck heads up the World Wide Worx market research organisation and is editor-in-chief of Gadget. You can follow him on Twitter on @art2gee

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Worldwide, however, employers are giving in to demands from employees to use their own smartphones, whose operating platforms are disparate, sometimes causing a management nightmare – though I personally believe this is still the best option. iPhone is increasingly used for business, as is Android. My Samsung Galaxy S2 has very strong security measures built-in, in partnership with Cisco and Sybase…so I think it would ultimately be folly for SA business to ignore this worldwide trend.

For an iPhone4 my pay-in is R3000, for a BlackBerry Torch it is R2000, and for a Bold 9780 it is R1000. Which phone will i take? The Bold. Which phone would i have preferred? The iPhone5.

So in my case it is still a matter of affordability, and i think this is the case for most smartphone buyers in SA.”,”body-href”:””}]

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