I've just returned from nearly a week traveling by train around Germany, noting, among other things, the different smartphones that I saw people using. I also stopped by some phone stores to ask about iPhone availability and use in Germany, among other things.
What I found was that iPhone penetration, at least in Germany, seems to be higher than it is in the U.S. I also saw far fewer Android phones than I see around the Washington, DC, area, where I'm based.
I have to disclose that my informal survey of smartphone preference is highly unscientific. I made no effort to conduct formal surveys. Instead, I went around looking over the shoulders of everyday Germans as they used their smartphones. Germans, it appears, use such devices as much as we use them in the U.S.
What I saw seems to indicate a larger proportion of iPhone use in Germany than in the U.S. I mostly saw two smartphone brands extant-iPhones and Blackberries-in about equal numbers. I noticed some use of Android phones, and there were lots of Nokia phones, although few of the Nokia devices I saw were smartphones. I saw one Windows Phone 7 device.
At the beginning of my research, I visited both a T-Mobile store and a store that sells phones of several carriers. I chose my interviewees based on one thing-that they spoke English. Yes, I know-more results of questionable scientific validity. Still, the answers I uncovered tended to support what I was seeing; but there are some caveats.
First, most of my observations were either on board Germany's ultra-fast ICE (Inter City Express) trains that are frequented by business travelers; other observations were in train stations frequented by those same travelers. My other primary area of observation was while attending Christmas markets in several German cities, where I may have been under the influence of too much Gl??hwein and grilled sausages.
With those details in mind, here is what I think is going on. That three carriers in Germany sell iPhones, and every carrier sells BlackBerrys, seems to encourage their adoption. The ability to buy unlocked iPhones without a contract might also have an effect.
The broader availability of iPhones in Germany and other European countries (when compared with the U.S.), coupled with laws that require carriers to allow roaming on their networks by customers from other carriers, means that the carriers have less control, and that, in turn, means there's competition, if not in the purchase price, then in the cost of service.