Is the iPhone Still a Toy?

After watching Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) enjoy super profits with the iPhone, computers makers are finally paying attention.

Or maybe they're panicking. China's Lenovo recently said it would buy back its mobile division for $200 million from private investors. Last year, the company sold its mobile unit for $100 million, trade e-zine Rethink Wireless reports.

Lenovo also plans a netbook that may as well be a smartphone, since it's based on ARM Holdings' (Nasdaq: ARMH  ) ARM processor design via a chipset built by Qualcomm (Nasdaq: QCOM  ) .

Dell (Nasdaq: DELL  ) , meanwhile, is creating smart handsets using Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) increasingly popular Android mobile operating system. China Mobile (NYSE: CHL  ) is planning to sell the devices, as is Brazil's Claro.

But are Dell, Lenovo, and others taking the iPhone too seriously? Users aren't. Mostly, they're using the iPhone for games -- certainly much more than those who own Android handsets. Here's a look at the top 10 paid and free apps for each platform:


Games and Entertainment*


iPhone App Store-Paid



iPhone App Store-Free



Android Market-Paid



Android Market-Free



Sources: iPhone App Store, Android Market.

*Data as of Nov. 30.

So iPhones are toys? I'm not so sure that's true. My iPhone is a serious business tool for me. But I also have Facebook and my favorite fantasy football app loaded on the device. I'm as guilty as the next iPhoner of mixing business with pleasure.

And maybe that's what makes the device so dangerous. Maybe that's why Lenovo is panicking, and Dell is rushing into the market. Smartphones are the star of the PC revolution's second act, and the iPhone is mixing it up like no other.

But that's my take. Now it's your turn to weigh in. Do you use your iPhone for serious business? Please take a moment to vote in the poll below. You can also sound off in the comments box at the bottom.

Apple is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor selection, Dell is an Inside Value pick, and Google is a Rule Breakers recommendation. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers had stock and options positions in Apple and a stock position in Google at the time of publication. Check out Tim's portfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Twitter as @milehighfool. The Motley Fool is also on Twitter as @TheMotleyFool. The Fool's disclosure policy is smarter than you think.

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Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On November 30, 2009, at 4:15 PM, SimchaStein wrote:

    The question needs to be reversed. Is the hottest new gaming/entertainment platform succeeding in business?


  • Report this Comment On November 30, 2009, at 4:23 PM, marv08 wrote:

    It's even more severe than that :-) I have never bought a computer or console game in my life (I bought an original Mephisto chess computer in the late 80s though). Since the App Store is open, I have accumulated almost 240 applications, almost 100 of them are games! While I am always happy to leave my computer alone at some point, the iPhone is a device that makes you want to use it, so even a complete non-gamer like me starts gaming.

    As far as I have been able to verify, most of the best-selling iPhone games do not exist for Android and most of them might never been ported to it, as Android devices differ too much in screen resolution, touch support and input methods/layouts. For games developers, this is a can of worms – and as all Android devices combined have been sold far less often than the iPhone 3GS alone (add the original model, the 3G and the iPod touch to the mix, and the difference in sales figures becomes maddening), there is also limited incentive. This might explain why games have a lower share of sales on Android devices.

  • Report this Comment On November 30, 2009, at 4:55 PM, gslusher wrote:

    Apparently, some major game developers are cooling on Android, or even dropping it from future development because of disappointing sales. It's almost a reverse of the computer game situation, where many PC game developers don't bother to develop a Mac version.

  • Report this Comment On December 01, 2009, at 11:11 AM, pstrisold wrote:

    Looking at Apple's app store alone for statistics is misleading. Jailbroken iPhones account for a significant portion of the total and the apps for jailbroken iPhones are much more serious business, that is, they make the iPhone a more serious business tool. Apple severely limited developers' access to phone features making applicataion development severely limited. Apple also has to approve every app that enters its store and rejects plenty. Android on the other hand is open source and apps can come from all over. WinMobile and Blackberry, while not open source, also have apps more openly developed.

  • Report this Comment On December 01, 2009, at 1:45 PM, saron1 wrote:

    I'm a hyper-frugal, "just the facts" business consumer. After resisting for years, I finally bought an iPod touch, 3rd generation, 8GB last week. My goal was to replace two devices with one, an aging PocketPC and a budget MP3 player used for workouts.

    Uncharacteristically, I've spent:

    - 15 hours and $25 on "fun" apps at the app store

    - 10 hours looking for GPS solutions for the Touch (coming soon) - I refuse to pay ATT monthly for basic navigation).

    - 5 hours looking for an FM tuner solution (my old MP3 player had one (also coming soon) - which I need for watching news during workouts

    The unexpected plus' included:

    - small, light form-factor which is not noticeable in jacket pocket

    - mild looks of envy from various people who are still resisting getting their own iPhone/Touch

    This is a complete lifestyle device for both business and pleasure. Every trade-off has been made with fore-thought and care - making it nearly impossible to displace as the top dog.

  • Report this Comment On December 01, 2009, at 2:39 PM, Ikarruss wrote:

    In general, gamers accumulate more app than workers. For a work phone more programs mean more work. For gamers they mean more fun.

    I just use the directory on my phone because its synchronized to my computer (and its turned from a tinker into a necessity).

    The less I have to fool around with my phone for work, more time I have to play with it, which doesn't mean that its not used for work.

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