As newsmedia companies grasp the new and emerging mobile and tablet arena, it’s sometimes difficult now to get swept away with a total focus on Apple products and services.

But should we be putting all our “eggs in one basket?” What about other platforms?

The answer lies in the rise of the smartphone and the implications for our future businesses.

What exactly is a smartphone?

Surprisingly, there is no industry standard definition of a smartphone. However, of all the attempts to determine what one is, I prefer the definition that a smartphone is a mobile phone offering advanced capabilities, often with PC-like functionality (PC-mobile handset convergence). Essentially, an electronic handheld device that integrates the functionality of a mobile phone, PDA and/or other information appliance.

A staggering 450 million smartphones will be sold in 2011 (and an estimated 1.1 billion in 2015), and a further 69 million tablets will be sold in 2011 (with sales of 294 million tablets forecast for 2015). So says Gartner’s forecast in April this year.

Who is behind this?

The number of smartphones shipped and the respective market shares are shown in the chart below (also from Gartner). Note how Android will come more to the fore in the coming years.

And the tablet market shows a similar pattern, as Apple’s dominance is slowly eroded.

Points to beware

Before we move all our resources to Android however, let’s look at some interesting factors behind those headline stats.

  • 18% iPhone users spend more than four hours a day on their device (compared to just 4% Android and BlackBerry users).

  • BlackBerry owners tend to be higher earners with 10% earning over £50,000 annually (7% of iPhone owners and 5% of Android owners).

  • Most of BlackBerry’s UK users sit in the 55+ age range (21%). Google’s Android however is most popular amongst 25- to 34-year-olds.

  • 63% of iPhone users say social networking apps are amongst the top three apps that they spend the most time on.

  • 32% of iPhone users are between the ages of 18 and 24 (as are 29% of Android users and 17% for BlackBerry.

So, we do need to look carefully at where our audiences are and decide what’s right for us. As ever, there is not one panacea, no one idea/plan that fits all. But we do need experiment and decide what works for us individually.

What we should not overlook is that while Apple is no longer the biggest platform, it is still the biggest individual vendor in terms of direct sales of hardware and handsets, and app store dwell times and revenues.

So while Apple’s app store is being matched for volume of apps by Android Marketplace, amongst the big app stores, Apple still is forecast to take a 76% share of revenues this year. This could partially at least, be explained by the fact that as an open source platform, Android has less curation and less of a paid-for download environment. The money majority still lies with Apple.

Conclusions

Apple remains the No. 1 priority for many, for now. But we now can’t afford to ignore Android. The world awaits success (or not) of Playbook. Will this give RIM the truly engaging app environment that has so far eluded them in the same way Android and Apple platforms have marched onwards?

Microsoft/Windows Mobile? I feel that they have not quite “got their act together” yet. But they still have lot of money to experiment in this area so don’t discount them.

The rest? Still to convince, still to penetrate the market in any significant way.

But, the world changes … and fast. Make sure you keep aware of these changes and don’t get left behind!

See my earlier blog posting regarding my eight checkpoints for a mobile strategy (awareness being very much one of those points).