Not owning a smartphone today is the social equivalent to not having email a few years ago – at least in the US.

That’s the conclusion of a report in the New York Times, which says that having an iPhone, Pre or BlackBerry is pretty much mandatory these days unless you want to ostracise yourself from "society".

It says the devices are no longer a status symbol or techie toy but have become mandatory equipment for belonging to society.

David E. Meyer, a professor of psychology at the University of Michigan, told the paper: "The social norm is that you should respond (to an email) within a couple of hours, if not immediately.

"If you don’t, it is assumed you are out to lunch mentally, out of it socially, or don’t like the person who sent the e-mail."

The report comes, conveniently, as research shows that 41 per cent of consumers will make a smartphones their next mobile device.

As a result, smartphone volumes will grow to 38 per cent of all handsets by 2013, representing the largest growth opportunity within mobile devices.

This makes the smartphone category the most important competitive battleground in wireless today, according to the Yankee Group study.

It also shows that trends within the smartphone ecosystem are profoundly impacting the power dynamics between original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and operators.

Traditionally, operators have had the upper hand when working with device manufacturers to bring a new device to market, but the power dynamics are shifting.

With more competitive entrants, tighter budgets and increased consumer expectations, OEMs and operators need to work together, on equal ground, to thrive.

Chris Collins, Yankee Group senior analyst, said the release of the Palm Pre spotlights the changes in the OEM-operator dynamic.

"Sprint and Palm are two companies desperate for a blockbuster hit," he said. "And as such, they are either the perfect – or worst possible – partners for one another.

"The fate of both companies relies on the success of their alliance around the Pre."

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