iPhone Arrives On Verizon (February 2011)
After three-and-a-half long years, Verizon subscribers finally get an iPhone. Millions are eventually sold, but analysts and observers are quick to note the lack of first day lines.
AT&T Tries To Buy T-Mobile And Fails. (March - December 2011) Number Two goes for Number Four, in an attempt to become Number One. The Justice Department, the FCC and most of the country don't seem to like this idea. In December they withdraw their bid, but not without a breakup fee.
Android Eclipses 50% Of The Smartphone Marketplace (Spring To Fall 2011)
Android hit two major milestones in 2011. In the spring, Google's mobile OS surpassed Apple's iOS (and a fading Blackberry) to become the most popular smartphone platform in the United States. By the fall Android had captured more than half of the entire smartphone market.
Smartphones Are The Majority Of New Phones Sold in US (Summer)
The rapid adoption of smartphones accelerates in 2011. By the end of the year you can even get an iPhone 3GS for $1 to compliment the plethora of free Android phones on the market.
Google Buys Motorola (August 2011)
Google dives deeper into the mobile handset business by purchasing Motorola. How this affects other Android handset manufacturers going forward is unclear. What is clear is that the mobile patent war is on.
The Mobile Patent War Goes Nuclear (Summer)
Microsoft continues its march toward milking patent licensing fees out of all Android handset manufacturers, Google bids and loses pi billion dollars on the Nortel patents, but they buy Motorola who is locked in a patent battle with Microsoft.
HP Kills webOS Then It Doesn't Then It Open Sources It (August - December 2011)
HP announces it is killing off webOS. The webOS powered TouchPad actually moves units, though only after it's slashed to fire-sale prices. After considering spinning of their PC business as well, HP makes another curious move by announcing that they’re open-sourcing webOS. The future isn’t clear, but it doesn’t look good.
The Rise Of Group Text Messaging (Spring To Fall 2011)
GroupMe and a few other group messaging apps make an end-run around the carriers for group texting among friends. Skype ultimately purchases GroupMe and then Apple introduces iMessage, its own BBM clone.
Amazon's Kindle Fire Is The First Serious iPad Challenger (Stepember 2011)
For nearly a year-and-a-half no one could produce a tablet that posed any threat to the iPad's dominance. Amazon, understanding that content is key, not specs, puts forth the first serious challenger with the bargain-priced Kindle Fire. Initial reviews aren't great, but Amazon seems to have broken through.
Steve Jobs Passes Away (October 2011)
As unlikely as it would have seemed as recently as 2006, Steve Jobs will be remembered as one of the most important people in the history of mobile. The iPhone completely upended every aspect of the wireless industry. Apple wasn't always first (app stores, smartphones in general) but it is undeniable that there are pre and post iPhone eras.
There Is No iPhone 5 This Year, But Will Siri Disintermediate Google? (October 2011)
Amid widespread speculation of a 4G-packing iPhone 5, Apple introduces the iPhone 4S…and still sells over 1 million of them in the first 24 hours. More important is the sometimes clever, sometimes not-so-clever voice-based interface Siri. Google pushed Android into the market to drive mobile web usage in order to sell more search ads, but Siri presents the glimmers of a threat to go around Google and connect consumers directly to the content they are looking for.
Nokia Goes All In On Windows Phone (October 2011)
Nokia, long a global leader, stumbled badly over the past few years. They struggled to sort out multiple operating systems, at the same time suffering from compressing margins and inaction in the face of the post-iPhone reality. In October, they cast their lot with Microsoft's updated, promising Windows Phone platform.
Adobe Throws In The Towel On Mobile Flash (November 2011)
For years Apple and Adobe clashed over Flash on iOS. Apple wanted no part of Flash, while Adobe always claimed that a better version was just around the corner. In the end, Apple's arguments against mobile flash won out. The rapid advancement of a bundle of technologies collectively labeled HTML5 was the nail in mobile flash's coffin.
Sprint Bets 15.5 Billion On The iPhone (Fall 2011)
Sprint, the current third largest wireless carrier (by a mile) suffered without the iPhone. Apple needed Verizon and they ultimately made a deal earlier in the year. Sprint needed Apple, and to get them they made a huge bet: the commitment to purchase 15.5 billion dollars worth of iPhones.
The CarrierIQ Fiasco (November 2011)
CarrierIQ burst into the public consciousness in early November when a security researcher discovered that the software was silently recording everything down to individual keystrokes on certain mobile phones. Cease & Desist orders and accusations were tossed around, and revelation after revelation was made. AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Apple, HTC and Samsung all admitted to using the software.
Foursquare Wins The Check-In Battle. Now What? (December 2011)
A couple of years ago the big story of South By Southwest was the battle between Gowalla and Foursquare to see who would win the mobile ‘check-in’ battle. Other players included Brightkite, Loopt, Google and eventually Facebook. Foursquare outlasted all threats, and won the battle when Facebook bought Gowalla in a talent acquisition in December. Facebook, which was once seen as a serious threat to Foursquare, announced that they would simply shut down the service.
The Rise Of Square And A Mobile Payment Future (2011)
Square, the startup founded by Twitter's Jack Dorsey, exploded in 2011 with a credit card scanner that you plug into an iPhone, Android or iPad. As of December they were processing over $11 million dollars a day for a claimed 1 million merchants. The long-term goal (as revealed by their Card Case App) is to replace the credit card swipe altogether. Google Wallet and AT&T/Verizon/T-Mobile-backed ISIS hope to do the same, using NFC (Near Field Communication) technology, which is being built into an increasing number of phones. Apple may have their own entrant when the iPhone 5 arrives, assuming it packs an NFC chip.
Blackberry Fails and Fails and Fails Again – Playbook, Blackberry Outage, Arrests (2011)
RIM helped to pioneer the smartphone with their Blackberry. Another victim of the iPhone, RIM has failed to respond. RIM’s 2011 was marked by a disastrous series of events, culminating in humiliation. First there was the PlayBook, their DOA tablet, which couldn't even handle email. Second, Blackberry users saw global email and internet access outages for days at a time. Finally, in December, two RIM executives (since fired) got so drunk on an Air Canada flight that they had to be handcuffed with plastic restraints. The drunk executives attempted to escape the restraints placed upon them by chewing through the plastic handcuffs. A fitting end to a nightmare of a year for RIM.