Apple isn't the only company pushing open mobile. To great fanfare earlier this year, Google introduced "Android," which it describes as a new wireless operating system that can be used with multiple carriers.
Google has been shy about releasing much Android information, but says we'll see phones in the second half of the year.
Unlike Apple, which produces its phone and has AT&T as the wireless network customers have to work with in the USA, Google is reaching out to many. Wireless manufacturers HTC, LG, Motorola and Samsung are all participating in Google's "Open Handset Alliance," along with carriers Sprint, T-Mobile and Japan's NTT DoCoMo.
A home run?
When the iPhone was released last year, eager consumers waited on line for days to get a crack at buying one of the first ones. A year later, Apple says it's sold over 5 million iPhones.
That pales in comparison with competitors. Windows Mobile, which provides software for phones from HTC, Samsung, Palm and others, says it will sell 20 million phones this year.
About 1 billion cellphones are sold every year. No. 1 manufacturer Nokia, for instance, sells more cellphones in a week than Apple has shipped to date. According to researcher Gartner, Nokia sold 435 million cellphones in 2007. Munster says the "real verdict" on the iPhone's success hasn't been reached. "The numbers are too small to call a home run."
Charles Golvin, an analyst at market tracker Forrester Research, says iPhone's impact has been felt by the entire wireless industry, which has been trying in vain for several years to sell lucrative add-on data plans.
"They have done a very poor job marketing these services," he says. "What Apple and the iPhone did was really communicate in a very simple way what the data plan could do for you. It's the Internet, but on your phone."
With a data plan, consumers pay an additional monthly charge — usually $15 to $25 — for access to the Internet on their phones, adding greatly to the carrier's bottom line.
Golvin says handset competitors such as LG, Sony Ericsson and Nokia are "really blatant" about how their new phones are clones of the iPhone. "The iPhone has raised awareness of what's possible."
Contributing: Leslie Cauley in New York