I Spy Smartphones when I Fly

One thing I’ve done since I’ve been in the mobile device business to take my own unscientific observations of devices I see people using when I travel. I mainly do this while at an airport waiting for a flight. I try to keep an eye out for anyone talking on or using a PDA or smartphone and mentally keep tabs on what the trends happen to be.

Toy_Plane_on_PhoneYears ago when I started doing this there really wasn’t such a thing as a “Smartphone”, so I mainly took note of PDAs. Of course, the majority of those devices were Palm OS device, so I was mainly trying to track of if people were using Palm Vs, HandSpring Visors, Sony Clie’s, etc. Occasionally I would spot the rare “Business type” pretending they were actually being productive with earlier WinCE device.

As years went on, Palm made carrying “Smartphones” a trendy thing to do. I think that I mainly ended up counting just the number of Treos… and tried to sneak peeks at what they were actually doing with them (always getting a kick out of seeing someone using or just having a Natara application on it).

A couple of years ago when Rich, George and I were going to the Microsoft MEDC (“Mobile and Embedded Devive Conference”. Microsoft’s equivalent of Palm’s PalmSource developer conference) the majority of “Smartphones” were Treos also. I have to say though, I’m not certain iff the majority of those were Palm OS or Windows Mobile Treo devices since both existed at the time… and this was a Microsoft event.

Last year while at the airport for a family vacation trip the mix of devices I spotted started to change. Treos were no longer the majority, but about even with the number of Windows Mobile and RIM devices I spotted. Still, I held out hope for Palm. At the time I had no clue as to what their much anticipated secret third product line was, which turned out later to be the “stillborn” Folio. It’s been a steady downfall ever since.

Last week I was on vacation again with the family and at the airport. We were headed to sunny Florida (Sanibel Island). Given the area that we were headed to I assume that the majority of people who were traveling on the same airplane probably where also there for vacation purposes (and not business). What I saw (device wise) surprised me. I didn’t see a single person carrying a Palm device (Treo or Centro). I didn’t see a single Windows Mobile device (with the exception of the one I carry). I didn’t even see a single iPhone in use while at one of the countries largest airports (Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport) What I did see where lots of RIM BlackBerry devices being used by a younger (20-ish) crowd. Not at all what I had expected. Every person who I spotted with a phone either had a standard “feature phones” (Razr, LG, Sanyo, etc. Those cheep phones that cell phone carriers practically give away) or a BlackBerry devices.

I understand the steep drop in Treo counts. I don’t think we’ll ever see what we saw back in the Treo “Hay Days”, But what I don’t get is where are the Centros? Where are the iPhones? Where are the Motorola Q’s and T-Mobile Dashes? Why all of a sudden the surge in “CrackBerry” phones? I guess I shouldn’t all be that surprised. For the past year now we have gotten a steady stream of requests for ports of our applications to the BlackBerry platform. I assumed we hadn’t gotten as many requests for Windows Mobile ports because folks that were aware of our products knew we were already at work doing that, and that very well may be the case. I also have been waiting for more requests for iPhone support, but so far those have “trickled” in. But still, the number of requests for BlackBerry support for our products outnumbers the other platforms combined. Perhaps it is because of the fact that if you get stuck with a BlackBerry, your choice of 3rd party software is slim to say the least (even compared to the number of current “hacked/unofficial” iPhone 3rd party applications available today).

So, I’m curious. What has been your “unscientific observations” of the more popular devices you see other folks using today?

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5 Responses to I Spy Smartphones when I Fly

  1. Todd says:

    I have definitely seen far fewer people with a Treo than in the past. I keep expecting to see a lot more iPhones, but your post made me realize that I have actually seen far more blackberries when I have been traveling.

  2. Steve says:

    I was at the New Orleans Jazz Festival last weekend. At the airports, the festival, evening concerts, etc. I saw mostly Treos — and a fair number of them were 650’s.

    What was interesting to me was the number of men around my age with Treos (51) let alone younger folks.

    Not many Iphones, but there were plenty of Blackberries — I don’t get understand the attraction there.

    Most had “plain” cell phones.

    Another observation I’ve made. When I’ve seen a woman with a smartphone it’s a Treo. Always.

    Oh, one other thing. When someone asks me about my phone (680) they always ask if it’s a Blackberry. Irritating .


  3. Derek says:

    Here in Canada, Blackberries rule. They seem to outnumber Palm smartphones four or five to one. The main reason I am still on my Treo is Bonsai. Pretty much everything else I do on the Palm can be handled by a Blackberry, but Bonsai is just too useful to give up. I keep waiting for the next Palm to be something great but I’ve been waiting a long time. I’d probably switch to Blackberry if I could use Bonsai, because every new model is significantly better than the one before.

  4. So, according to THIS ASSOCIATED PRESS ARTICLE my unscientific poll is somewhat accurate.

  5. Linda says:

    I have a Treo 680 now, and I’m looking to move to an iPhone once more applications are available (soon). One of my frequently used apps on my Treo is DayNotez, and I would love to see that on an iPhone. I also use Macs and would like an OSX desktop, but I’m getting by with Parallels and DayNotez desktop for now.

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