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Who wants a Smartphone? Answer, Europeans and others shoe-horned into the EMEA regional category, who will buy 3.3 million units in 2003, according to Canalys, the UK research firm.

This will see Smartphone sales comfortably overtake those of PDAs - Canalys forecasts sales of 2.8 million units for the latter in EMEA in 2003. Is this any great surprise? PDA sales are numbered in the millions, while mobile phone sales are in the hundreds of millions.

According to Canalys, sales volumes in the mobile device market overall should double in 2003, with PDA handhelds rebounding after a poor 2002.

Question is: will the likes of the SonyEricsson P800 and the Orange Smartphone SPV reach out beyond the geeks and fashionistas and into the mass-market? Right now there is little sign of this happening: walk into a mobile phone retailer today and ask them to explain the benefits of 2.5G and the data capabilities of the phones that you are interested in buying. Smart doesn't register on the feature sales set.

This is a point that Canalys makes too. Chris Jones, analyst, notes: "For a start, the channels don't know how to sell a wireless handheld: the mobile phone retailers struggle demonstrating the benefits to potential customers, while the IT/data-centric channels don't really want to get into the tariff debate that becomes essential with a SIM-dependent device. Similar problems apply to smart phones, but mobile phone retailers will generally find it easier to sell something perceived as a mobile phone with added features than a less familiar type of device."

According to Canalys, the mass market will plump for "less expensive phones offering little more than colour, MMS and an integrated camera in a compact format... (these) are likely to appeal to many more consumers and will limit sales of true smart phones until users and retailers develop their understanding of what additional benefits the more sophisticated devices bring."

And what about convergence of mobile phone and PDA? Well, it's probably better to concentrate on device coupling through Bluetooth, Canalys recommends. Wireless handhelds are bulky, expensive and feature-poor compared with their non-wireless counterparts, the research firm argues. And they sell in very poor numbers. ®

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