Like the T-Mobile G1, manufactured by HTC, Motorola’s Gphone is slated to feature a touchscreen and a slide-out QWERTY keyboard. Of course, last week’s reviews noted a few deficiencies in the first Gphone’s design, including issues with the keyboard/phone layout. Motorola’s latest phone, the Krave NZ4 (Engadget review) is a flip phone with an external and internal touch screen. It just arrived with Verizon last week.
Business Week also reports that Motorola’s Gphone will feature “a host of social-network-friendly features”:
The phone will appear among a new class of social smartphones designed to make it easy for users to connect quickly and easily to mobile social networks such as Facebook and News Corp.’s MySpace. Such phones let users message in-network friends directly from phone contact lists, for example.
That feature sounds interesting and may even be useful—but is that the real reason why people are springing for the iPhone and G1? Are we really that addicted to Facebook?
So far in this arena, yes, smartphones are used for social networking (beyond the normal phone calls and text messages), but that hasn’t been the primary reason for purchasing the phones. Most people who buy the top-of-the-line, laptop-in-your-pocket cell phones buy them for work. The play aspects are a peripheral advantage.
Of course, there are plenty of people who do spend $200 – $400 on a phone so they can write on their friends’ walls—and according to analysts, that number will grow tenfold in the coming years:
According to consultancy Informa, the number of mobile social-networking users will rise from 2.3% of global cell-phone users at the end of 2007 to as many as 23% of all mobile users by the end of 2012.
If that’s the case, will Motorola succeed in appealing to a quarter of mobile users in five years by launching a social-networking-integrated phone now?
Business Week says that even Q2 2009 might be too late, as other companies continue to work on their Gphones. Notably, “London-based INQ will unveil its social-networking phone, INQ1, in Britain and Australia in about a month. The slider phone, which integrates Facebook features into its address book and camera, is expected to enter the U.S. market next year.”
However, the INQ1 is slated to launch in the first half of 2009, and the manufacturer doesn’t have any relationships with US phone companies yet. But when it does create those relationships, look out—the company wants to create low-cost phones for “the 90%” that don’t buy high-priced phones.
What do you think? Is there already a huge demand for social networking on smartphones? Are these phones “ahead of their time”? Or will this wave of social networking smartphones create a larger demand for in-phone networking features?