back to article Smartphones 'out sell' PCs for first time

The smartphone is the new personal computer of choice. According to the device counters at IDC, makers of smartphones shipped 100.9 million devices in the fourth quarter of 2010, an 87.2 per cent increase from the 53.9 million units that were consumed in the final quarter of 2009. For the first time, smartphones have surpassed …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    smartphones, media centres, SoHo NAS, tablets, netbooks

    guess the beige box has had it coming

  2. D. M


    Apple's iCraps spread like weed.

    Not everything popular is good. I wish I have super hero power to bring some clue to general public.

  3. Tigra 07
    IT Angle

    Not completely unexpected, but...

    Microsoft isn't doing too good here, any word on whether the phones are decent?

    Other than that data using yahoo bug there isn't really much news or bragging about them.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    2 reasons

    1 - My PC was last updated in 2005, yet CPU load is typically 1% and RAM load less than 50%. If I upgraded it, it would just be idling more. My phone on the other hand can still be slow at times, so more memory and more CPU power on newer models would help, as would longer battery life and faster internet, hence why I'd upgrade my phone rather than my PC.

    2 - People walk in the street with their PC to show that they have an expensive PC, making them look part of a class higher than they actually are. On the other hand, people definitely show off their mobile phones. E.g. here many people proudly display an iPhone (look, i'm classy trendy and possibly better paid than you!) when they really only use it as a phone because they are not techies, and as a phone an iPhone is not really any better than my old Nokia in terms of call quality, battery size and weight (yes, you know the things that actually matter in a mobile phone).

    That's why I'm not surprised that smartphones are better seller, but it doesn't mean that it replaces PCs (I don't know anyone pretending that they bought a spanking new phone to replace their PC, and for that matter, I never saw someone ditching their PC after buying a phone).

    1. januaryfirst


      You must have a truly slick rig to register such a pathetic cpu load. For a machine approaching its 6th year, I look forward to hearing about your 2% load in 2017.

      1. Vitani

        Re: 1%?!

        My 3GHz P4 work-PC idles at 2-4% usage with all my development tools, browsers and whatnot up and running. Not sure how old this PC is, but 5-6 years sounds about right to me, so 1% for a home* PC seems reasonable.

        * although he didn't specify "home", he did say "my", so I'm guessing that is the case

  5. M Gale

    Didn't think toyphones and computers were in competition with each other!

    See title. It's not like I'm going to be lugging a desktop or even moderately capable laptop onto the bus with me. Netbook battery life isn't up to much either. At the same time, I don't expect this little droidslab to be up to a 10,000 word essay, or playing Crysis like a real computer.

    Plus, with the iToys, you can almost guarantee that every owner has a computer already to tether the stupid bloody thing to that godawful iTunes monstrosity. Apples (lol) and oranges, perhaps?

  6. Jon Smit

    Apples & Oranges

    Course phones are outselling PC's. I have a 4 year old computer, I've never had a phone last anywhere near that long.

  7. Robert E A Harvey


    This is a worthless statistic. Like the time that Panasonic told the world that Microwave ovens were outselling electric cookers. it didn't mean microwaves were more popular, it just meant that everyone had an electric cooker already and they last four times as long as microwave ovens.

    Most people who want a PC have already got one, at least in countries where people can afford smartphones. And you can easily make a PC last 5 years. Smartphones, especially those on contracts that offer upgrades, will be lucky to get to 2 years. That does not include any evidence that 'the smartphone is the new personal computer of choice'

    This statistic is about as meaningful as saying that sheets of toilet paper out sell crinoline doll toilet roll covers. Tosh and drivel.

  8. Cameron Colley

    But people aren't using smartphones much, really.

    OK, so there are a lot more people using smart phones for twitter and facebook. But there are many, I'm sure, who don't use them for anything but texts and calls but have bought them because they were cheap or free and looked "cool".

    Oh, and as far as replacing PCs goes I agree with the above comments that a phone cannot replace a PC any more than it can replace an AGA -- which I am sure they are outselling also.

    1. Mark Aggleton


      It's almost impossible to buy a 'non' smartphone now - surely they should now just be called phones?

  9. Monkeigh

    Stop Press: Milk out sells smartphones! Smartphones are dead.

    This sensationalist stuff is just junk news.

    Smart phones aren't comparable with desktop or laptop computers, they are used for different tasks and most people have both. Phones have a 24 month lifetime max whereas computers are often used for far longer than that.


  10. The main man

    Load of Bullfrog

    This is a load of bull. For starters they have different price points and smartphones are not anywhere near PC's and both are used differently

    1. Michael C

      more precicely

      A PC is good for 4-6 years commonly, and most households have 1 or 2, and on rare occasions 3. Its also a market with very slow annual growth.

      Smartphones are an emerging market, tracked separately from general cell phones. They have 1-3 year lifespans, cost a lot less, and are wholly personal devices. A family of 6 might have 2 or 3 PCs, but they might have 4-5 smartphones, and buy replacement smartphones twice or three times as often as PCs.

      My house is a bit odd, far from the norm. There's me, the wife, and our 3 yr old daughter. We have 2 desktops, a NAS systems, and a current total of 4 actively used laptops, with a 5th on the way, and likely another desktop purchase later this year. 5 laptops for 2 people you ask? She has one, and her older one is still kicking around used for guests and as a set-top box. I have a personal laptop, a work laptop, and I'm expecting in a loaner to be used for testing as part of a partner program. One desktop is a gaming rig, another runs basic sharing services and manages backups (old gaming rig). The new desktop will be a Mac for primarily video editing, and some VM work, since I'm not willing to cannibalize the gaming rig for that. My daughter uses none of these systems, but might get something akin to a highly limited (locked down by us) netbook class system in another 2 years. We have but 2 smart phones, and even when she's old enough to drive, our daughter will only have an emergency phone, and not one with her own number for general use (not under my roof).

  11. GrahamS
    Jobs Halo

    Haters gonna hate

    So much blinkered naysaying. :)

    Many folk I know with (decent, non-Nokia) smartphones, including myself and the missus, use them every day for tasks that used to be solely performed on the PC (email, news, chat, facebook, casual games, general web).

    These days the home PC only gets fired up when I need to do some heavy lifting (editing photos or video) or when I'm creating something (documents, presentations etc).

    As other, more focussed devices start treading on more of the traditional desktop PCs territory (c.f. tablets, dedicated Media Servers, PVRs, etc etc) I expect many people will start wondering why they have one at all.


      Creationists and Apple fans...

      The thing about smartphones is that they are above all PHONES. They are sold as Phones. They are generally not bought as portable computers. The fact that they can act like a portable computer is not necessarily terribly meaningful. They are just another evolution of the portable phone. They are rather interchangeable and fairly disposable.

      El Reg on the phone or even Facebook is just something to kill time with.

      Either is still a pale imitation of it's PC counterpart.

      The phone simply gets in it's own way.

      1. GrahamS
        Thumb Down

        Re: Creationists and Apple fans...

        Not sure that is true. I bought mine as a "pocket computer" after being impressed with how useful an iPod Touch was. To me it is a "pocket computer" above all. I use its "computery" functions every day, multiple times a day. I typically only use it as a "phone" once or twice a week.

        Aside from the tragic sad sacks that buy them because they are "fashionable", I think most smartphone users do utilise at least some of the "computery" bits - even my pensioner mum uses it for email, taking/sending photos, instant messaging etc.

        Those that only ever used their PC for email and web are left wondering why they should toddle upstairs and spend 30 minutes sat at a PC doing Windows Updates, anti-virus and malware scans just so they can email Uncle Bob a photo of little Sue, when it takes all of 30 seconds to do the same thing on their phone.

  12. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    Desktop Linux and profit margins

    Desktop PC's are sold at low margins. Distributors make their money from additional software and crapware. No-one is offering money to pre-install their crapware on Linux. A Linux box has software to do everything, so does not generate additional software sales for the distributor. If you try to buy a desktop Linux box from a distributor, the saleman will spout utter drivel in the hope that he can get you to pay for something with a profit margin. Last time I went through all the hassle of finding a Linux Desktop on Dell's web site, they offered pointless Window-only add-on software to go with it.

    Smart phones are walled gardens generating income for the network and app store. There is sufficient revenue from these sources to pay commission to the salesman. Microsoft have spent a lot on advertising that says Windows 7 is lean enough to run on a smart phone. Perhaps that is even true, but there is no way that a smart phone with anti-virus software and crapware could run Microsoft Office. Without that high margin bloatware, Microsoft has nothing to offer phone distributors.

    1. Michael C


      It is because of this pointless bloatware than in most cases, Windows is cheaper than Linux. We don't buy Limux machines, we buy machines with Windows Pro licenses (decidedly NOT OEM versions), that have manufacturer linux support, and then just load linux on it, and sell the Windows Pro license to employees... net cost is about the same, maybe a touch higher including the labor to install Linux ourselves, but given that we purge and re-install windows based on our own image anyway, its a non-issue.

  13. Gerry Doyle 1

    Smartphones are PCs

    In fact, there's probably no other computer quite so personal.

    I used to drag the laptop around with me on trips away, but these days even my relatively venerable E63, and the E61 before it, does everything that I used to bring the laptop for, and if there isn't some free wifi to be had, then there's always 99c 3G as a last resort.

    Opera 10 works very nicely now once you get the hang of it and seems to be able to handle everything that's thrown at it. The email isn't pretty but it composes, sends and receives email - which is no more than it should do. There's Google Maps for finding the way in a strange place, a usable QuickOffice suite, even a TCP/IP suite of tools for obtuse wifi situations, FTP just because I don't have a cable for it, a Usenet app because I'm that age, FM radio because I like to listen to UK radio when I'm there, video and sound players for whenever, and OK, I admit it - it does Facebook handily too. USB ports if you have the feckin cable without having to buy a Kindle to get one, and bluetooth for something or other. Of course, there's more, Converter, Calculator, Star Charts, apps for Youtube or Wiki or the odd newspaper, Calendar and Planner type things. No fart apps though.

    A full QWERTY keyboard for that old fashioned two handed typing thing completes the picture, so if all that doesn't sound like a Personal Computer, then short of a CLI, I don't know what does.

  14. Britt Johnston

    status symbol life cycles

    True status is accompanied by underpowered modules providing a small part of the functionality you might rationally expect: in the 50's the car, 60's the record player, in the 80's PCs, in the 90s laptops. Once they are readily produced, they lose their value as a status symbol. The mobile phone may be last decade's weak link, the next one might be a tablet, ... or health insurance.

  15. Mikel

    Profit dollars

    It would be interesting to see how these different markets compare with each other in terms of dollars of profit per year. I understand the margins on traditional PCs can be razor thin. Smartphones pull several hundred dollars each in profits for the hardware vendor, and many hundreds more for the carrier that subsidized the price.

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