The list of challengers trying to steal market share from Research in Motion’s BlackBerry and Apple’s iPhone expanded with LG’s debut of Incite, the handset maker’s first-ever US smartphone.
The Windows Mobile handset, which is also LG’s first US WiFi device, features a haptic (vibrating) feedback touch screen, a three-inch display, international 3G capability and Microsoft ActiveSync 4.5 for Exchange connectivity. It also supports Microsoft’s System Center Mobile Device Manager 2008, an enterprise tool for managing and protecting Windows Mobile phones.
Smartphones are defined as mini-computing devices popular with professionals who need access to corporate communications and also want consumer-focused entertainment capabilities such as video streaming and high-quality music sound. The devices operate on robust operating systems that support fast Web access, data exchange and services ranging from social networking capabilities to GPS location based functionality.
LG said the Incite, sold exclusively by AT&T (NYSE:T) for $199 with a two-year contract and rebate, reflects today’s mobile user needs.
“There is obvious demand for a device such as the Incite specifically with the business professional segments but we are also noticing a trend across all segments for smartphone devices,” Ehtisham Rabbani, VP, product strategy and marketing, LG, told InternetNews.com.
“In both the business and personal usage space, there continues to be a consumer demand for stylish devices. LG is known for its stylish design and form factor and we want to convey this same message with our new smartphone devices,” he added.
The battle for smartphone leadership spiked this year as carriers are experiencing robust revenues from data services tied to the handsets which is driven by increasing user dependence.
According to the CTIA, a wireless association, data service revenues for the first half of 2008 hit $14.8 billion, representing a 40 percent jump compared with the first half of 2007 when revenues totaled $10.5 billion.
LG’s first smartphone for the U.S.
A recent study reported users are so attached to smartphones that 87 percent of U.S. professionals bring a PDA into the bedroom to get some last-minute peeks at before going to sleep. More than one-third, 35 percent, said they would pick their PDA over their spouse.
The smartphone frenzy initially ignited with the first iPhone launch about 18 months ago and hasn’t slowed since.
Research firm NPD Group has reported Apple’s (NASDAQ: AAPL) slice of the market went from 11 percent this past June to 17 percent of the market overall by the end of this August.
A recent Gartner study reported that US smartphones sales hit 32.3 million units in the second quarter of 2008 — a 15. 7 percent jump over the second quarter of 2007.
LG’s Incite arrives just days before Research in Motion (NASDAQ: RIMM) officially debuts its first touch screen BlackBerry, the Storm, this Friday.
The Storm is just the latest of a long list of devices that have hit the market in a few short months. Google and HTC’s G1 Android smartphone, viewed as top iPhone challenger due to its open development platform, arrived in late October.
“Smartphones are now being used for personal use opening up a few more doors for consumers to keep in touch with one another in an easy and efficient way,” said Rabbani.
LG has traditionally partnered with Verizon Wireless in debuting new mobile phones, marketing its first camera phone and mobile TV handset with the second-place carrier.
The switch, said Rabbani, was tied to AT&T’s smartphone portfolio needs.
AT&T is the exclusive iPhone and Bold seller. Verizon Wireless is the exclusive Storm seller.
“The Incite gives AT&T customers a new and outstanding choice in AT&T’s Windows Mobile smartphone portfolio,” John Kampfe, director, media and industry analyst relations, AT&T, told InternetNews.com.
AT&T said the handset appeals to mobile professionals who want a Windows Mobile operating system, a snazzy touch screen feature and the traditional QWERTY keyboard.
The Incite gives users two on-screen keyboard options, a full QWERTY in landscape mode and a 20-key keyboard in portrait view that include haptic keys providing vibration feedback.
“We believe that the Incite will appeal to those who want a very attractive smartphone with great voice quality and using either 3G or Wi-Fi both here in the states and overseas,” said Kampfe.