Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics

by Reads (65,843)

IDC has released its figures for last quarter’s handheld sales, and I’m sure many of you have read about them on other sites. However, Brighthand will not be publishing an article about them, and I urge all of you to not pay any attention to IDC’s report on this subject.

I don’t have a grudge against IDC; I simply don’t think its definition of what constitutes a handheld is correct, and this makes its figures on handheld shipments equally incorrect.

According to IDC, handheld shipments decreased 4.6 percent when compared with the previous quarter, and 8.7 percent when compared with the same quarter of last year. But IDC isn’t counting huge numbers of handhelds.

To IDC, anything with a cellular-wireless modem in it is a “smartphone” and therefore isn?t counted in its total of handheld shipments. This means no RIM BlackBerry shipments are counted, nor is the iPAQ h6315, or other devices like it.

I couldn’t disagree with this more. A handheld with a cellular- wireless modem is still a handheld, not a smartphone. There’s no way you can convince me that a h6315 and the Motorola MPx220 are the exactly same type of device. The h6315 is clearly a wireless handheld with one more type of radio in it, and therefore should be called simply a handheld. The MPx220 is a mobile phone with PDA functions added, and therefore is a smartphone.

By IDC’s definition, the iPAQ h6315 and the iPaq hx4700 are completely different types of devices. This makes as little sense as saying that a laptop with a wireless modem should be called a “smartPC,” and sales of these devices should be kept separate from sales of laptops without wireless modems.

What’s IS a Smartphone?

I know, defining what’s a smartphone and what’s a handheld is a tough question. I understand it was a major topic of discussion at this week’s Smartphone Summit. But IDC’s is the worst definition I’ve heard.

We have to look towards the future. I believe that eventually almost all handhelds will have some form of cellular-wireless modem. If we say that these are no longer handhelds, it will mean that there will be no more handheld sales, even though millions of people are carrying around cellular-wireless handhelds.

The True Story Is Coming

Some time next week, Gartner is going to release its figures for last quarter’s handheld shipments. I haven’t read the report yet, but I know Gartner analysts use a more logical definition of what constitutes a handheld, and therefore I predict it will say that handheld shipments are up, not down.

Update: Gartner has released its figures and, as predicted, worldwide handheld shipments are up over 13 percent. You can read all the details in this article.

As Bart Simpson once said, “People can come up with statistics to prove anything; 14 percent of people know that.” If all you did was look at some recent headlines, you might think that handhelds are doomed. But this isn’t the case, and I’ll soon have the statistics to prove it.



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