CNET News.com readers weigh in on smartphones

An unscientific poll of News.com readers shows that Windows Mobile is king of the smartphone, but only for now as anticipation builds for a 3G iPhone.

Tom Krazit
Tom Krazit Former Staff writer, CNET News
Tom Krazit writes about the ever-expanding world of Google, as the most prominent company on the Internet defends its search juggernaut while expanding into nearly anything it thinks possible. He has previously written about Apple, the traditional PC industry, and chip companies. E-mail Tom.
4 min read

If CNET News.com's readers are any indication, Microsoft's Windows Mobile has a better base of support than one might think, but all the winds are blowing toward Apple.

The results of our first annual (maybe) smartphone survey are in, and thanks to everyone who left comments here on One More Thing or over on Crave, and those who flooded my inbox with responses. Yes, I know we should have a survey tool, but we're working on other stuff right now that's more important. (You'll have to trust me on that one.)

Between the comments and the e-mails, we received 159 responses. I must note that this is not a scientific study; we're not going to be putting market research firms out of business anytime soon. But I thought it was time for a look at what some of our readers are using, and I was surprised at some of the results.

Smartphone market share

Windows Mobile-based smartphones were by far the choice of survey respondents. Of the 130 people who said they owned a smartphone, 42.3 percent said they were using a Windows Mobile-based smartphone. That category includes the carrier-branded models, mostly from HTC, as well as the Motorola Q and the Samsung BlackJack, the two most-popular "tier 1" brands cited in the responses using Windows Mobile.

"This past weekend I traded in my BlackBerry Pearl for the HTC Tilt on AT&T's service," said a Crave reader with the screen name Yieeman. "So far it has been great. I like the fact that it works more like a computer for the organization of e-mails and documents, but also has amazing call clarity."

With 19.2 percent of the responses, the BlackBerry was the second most popular device among readers when the data was sorted by operating system. Apple's iPhone came in third, with 17.7 percent. Palm and Symbian tied for fourth place with 10 percent each.

Most of News.com's readers come from the United States (Thursday, 70.7 percent of our readers were in the U.S.), and most of the Windows Mobile phones claimed by respondents were carrier-branded models, with the AT&T/Cingular 8525 and 8515 popping up the most often. Symbian is by far the leading smartphone operating system provider in the world, but its phones are generally harder to find in the U.S., where RIM dominates the smartphone market.

Sorted by manufacturer, RIM and the HTC models were tied, with 19.2 percent of the survey respondents. I counted most of the carrier branded models as HTC models, in the cases where the carrier-branded model was a carbon copy of the HTC-branded model. Most people referred to their HTC designs with the carrier brand, AT&T, T-Mobile, or Sprint.

Apple was just behind RIM and HTC, sorted by manufacturer, with 17.7 percent of the survey responses. Apple was followed by Motorola, Palm, and Samsung, in that order, each with around 10 percent of the responses. Surprisingly, Nokia, the worldwide leader in smartphone shipments, was used by only 4.6 percent of respondents. Sony Ericsson was used by 5.4 percent.

And it's clear that while Apple's iPhone isn't the smartphone of choice just yet among survey respondents, it hasn't escaped their notice. When asked which smartphone might be their next model, survey respondents cited the iPhone most often by far.

Of the 159 total responses, 66 people said they would consider an iPhone as their next (or first) smartphone. That was three times as many mentions as the second most desired smartphone, the BlackBerry.

Smartphone market share

"If I were in the market for a phone today, especially in light of the coming apps and integration with Exchange servers, I would likely get an iPhone," Ryan Hendley said over e-mail. "My current phone, Samsung Sync, does not integrate well with my MacBook calendar and contacts. In fact, it doesn't sync at all."

All those Windows Mobile users appear to be considering a switch, as HTC's models were cited by 10 respondents, but no other major manufacturer, including Nokia, Samsung, Motorola, or Palm, received more than 5 mentions. Several people cited multiple phones on their potential wish lists, so I just counted everything that was mentioned.

Most of the people looking at the iPhone were waiting for either a 3G version or a version that worked with their carrier, citing a desire to avoid AT&T. They were also intrigued by the business features slated to roll out in June, which gives them the option of using their iPhone at work.

The statistics were interesting, but I had also asked people to share the reasons they bought a smartphone in the first place, and whether they liked their current model. Most people did in fact like their current phone. The Windows Mobile users probably grumbled the most about their devices, but still, more than half of them were happy with their experience.

Most people bought their smartphones because they wanted to access e-mail, Web browsing, and telephone calls on a single device, as might be expected. I had thought going in to this survey that most respondents would mostly be using their phones for business, but an overwhelming number of people said they used their devices both for business and pleasure.

The BlackBerry users might have obtained their phone to check their corporate e-mail, but that doesn't mean they don't check sports scores in between meetings, or plot directions to the campground on the weekend. This will be the next big source of growth for smartphones, devices that can balance multimedia consumer desires with business needs. People aren't going to want to carry multiple devices for fun and work: that's why they got a smartphone in the first place.

So, again, thanks to all who participated. Stay tuned for the big CTIA Wireless conference at the beginning of April, which should bring new smartphones, new operating system news, and tons of coverage from both News.com and our colleagues at CNET Reviews.