I am touched by the number of comments, Twitter Retweets, and various Forum discussions that the US vs World posting about smartphones generated. As a tangent (not on the same topic of comparing US and world) at All About Symbian, Justin Berkovi wrote a good analytical (and partly historical) posting under the heading of The Perfect Mobile - Impossibility or are we close? A very good analysis and I agree with most that Steve writes about the currnet crop of phones.
But there is an underlying assumption - is it even humanly possible to produce a single device that would be considered perfect by the vast majority? I say no. Its like in cars. Some like a slick, sexy fast car. Someone else wants a big safe car. Someone else wants all luxury and no hassle while yet another wants an eco-friendly small car.
Same with phones. You can have a 12 megapixel camera on your phone (LG and Samsung already sell them in Europe, have had them for 2 years in South Korea). You can have a big 3.5 inch screen like the iPhone. You can have in-built digital TV tuner (DVB-H or DMB or MediaFlo) like for example in the Nokia N96. You can have a slider keyboard like in the Pre. You can have a "real flash" ie Xenon (not LED) flash like so many in the SonyEricsson Cybershot series. But in almost every case, it is a compromise. You have to decide, do you really want a large screen or good camera or in-built keyboard or flash or digital TV tuner or what. Exactly like in a car, yes there are very expensive "hybrid" prodcuts like a BMW branded SUV, but its not really a sportscar, and its not really a full-sized SUV either, won't match the Jaguar on the road and won't match the Range Rover off-road.
We are humans. We have differing needs. Personally, I absolutely love that extra-wide 800 x 320 (letterbox movie wide) screen inside my E90 Communicator. I like everything about that phone, but I love the fabulous screen. I have all sorts of short clips and music videos that are in letterbox and I just love how crisp and sharp and WIDE they are on that pocketable smartphone. The picture is wider, but not as tall, as the same movie on say an iPhone. I am a vidiot, I love my video content whether its the two killers scene from Pulp Fiction or the "We found a witch, may we burn her" scene from Monty Python's Holy Grail, or any modern pop music video thats shot in wide screen.
For me that ultra-wide (and 800 pixel, ie SVGA wide) screen is the ultimate treat on that super-expensive phone. But its not for everyone. Its a big, bulky and many say ugly phone. Certainly its heavy. And while it has a 3.2 megapixel camara, I never use that camera, because in my other pocket I have my other cameraphone with the 5 megapixel camera and its Xenon flash. (plus I get to split my content with the two devices: pictures in the right pocket, videos in the left pocket).
Now, is the E90 Communicator as good a music player as the iPhone? Of course not, nobody is as good as Apple in music. But even though I used to be a DJ and am passionate about music (rap music, ha-ha) - that is not the deciding factor for me. but it will be for many. For others it will be gaming and they may prefer an N-Gage enabled N-Series or the iPhone with so many gaming titles now available. For others it will be SMS text messaging and theyd' probably go for the Blackberry (and again, the full QWERTY keyboard in my E90 makes it a killer SMS phone). We can't have one phone be everything for everyone. Just like we can't have one car be the perfect car for everyone.
And the more your "all-in-one" perfect-phone-wannabe tries to be best at all, it will add to cost, size and weight; and it will drain batter, CPU and memory. The digital device in our pocket is a compromise and the further we move along, the more what one person will love, to someone else will be a medicre phone.
It is only better for the industry to have lots of makers, with lots of innovation, to help expand our options. Its not eough to have only the big five of Nokia, Samsung, LG, SonyEricsson and Motorola. We need RIM and Apple and Kyocera and HTC and Panasonic and Palm and Sharp and ZTE and Sendo and all the myriad of smaller makers.
We will have phones that are optimized for one or two abilities, and are acceptable at the others. While they've be in and out of profits and have trouble maintaining market share, I do think SonyEricsson's Cybershot/Walkman strategy (perhaps one day also PSP?) is smart. Where Ford sold any car as long as it was black, GM grew to be far bigger selling a luxury Cadillac and sporty Pontiac and family Oldsmobile and cheap Chevrolet, etc. Yes, now that strategy failed them the past few years, but it kept them the biggest maker of cars in the world for more than 70 years. They had segmented lines of products. Eventually Ford followed GM with Mercury and Lincoln brands (and almost released Thunderbird into its own branded line). Similarly now Nokia divides its premium phones as media devices (N-Series) and enterprise devices (E-Series). I do think we'll get more of these sub-brands than less, in the coming years, as smartphone makers get more "real" about marketing..
The trick is to try to figure out what are the major "categories" of the needs we have, like cars, teh convertible, the van, the SUV, the sedan, the sportscar, etc. Some sell lots, some sell less. Figure out which are the best opportunities. Is it musicphone (Walkman?) or gaming phone (Nokia N-Gage) or texting phones (Blackberry) or cameraphone (Cybershot) etc. Not one perfect phone for everybody, but rather understand the customer, find a good segment and make a perfect phone for that type of customer. Obviously this is also a moving target.. But yes, I am reminded of Grace Jones and her hit dance song from 1986: "I'm not perfect, but I'm perfect for you."