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Upside for New Dual-mode Wi-Fi Smartphones

Wi-Fi enabled handset shipments have exploded over the past year, and will continue to show strong growth over the next several years. With the increasing availability, Wi-Fi hotspot usage by handheld devices has increased significantly.

As a percentage of total network connects, handhelds (mobile smartphones, etc.) increased from 20 percent in 2008 to 35 percent in 2009. By 2011 handhelds will account for half of hotspot connects, according to the latest study by In-Stat.

Other factors are affecting handheld Wi-Fi usage growth as well. There are now a predominance of mobile carriers offering services within the hotspot market, resulting in the promotion of Wi-Fi enabled handset devices.

New dual-mode Wi-Fi phones are coming to the market. Growth in applications, such as content download, or even more so VoIP over Wi-Fi (VoFi), will drive usage of handheld devices over the coming years.

Emerging high-growth markets, such as China, are now witnessing the launch of new hotspot services -- where they had previously restricted Wi-Fi usage on handhelds.

"The ubiquity of Wi-Fi has created hotspot coverage as an expected amenity at many places of business," says Frank Dickson, In-Stat analyst.

While consumer or leisure users do not often carry a laptop, they do have Wi-Fi enabled handhelds and are using these devices to access hotspots. This, coupled with the service being bundled with mobile plans, is making hotspot access much more consumer-oriented compared to the former business focus.

In-Stat's market study found the following:

- Hotspot estimated usage increased in 2009 by 47 percent, bringing total worldwide connects to 1.2 billion.

- Wi-Fi handset shipments grew from 2007 to 2008, by over 50 percent. This growth is a result from increased phone functionality, falling price points, and carrier promotion.

- Wi-Fi-enabled entertainment device, such as cameras, gaming devices, and personal media players (PMPs) shipments will increase from 108.8 million in 2009 to 177.3 million in 2013.

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