Executives and technology enthusiasts have been carrying these gadgets around for several years. Devices like the iPhone, launched in 2007, have helped push the smartphone into the hands of the average consumer. But 2009 marked the year when smartphones really took off.
Several events helped the smartphone gain traction in the consumer market. Apple launched the iPhone 3GS, the fastest iPhone to date. Google's Android operating system showed up in several phones across multiple cell phone carriers, including the much-hyped Motorola Droid on Verizon. And the Palm Pre, a hit at the Consumer Electronics Show in January 2009, entered the market just a few months later. Suddenly, customers on every major carrier in the United States have access to at least one cool new smartphone.
There's no going back now. The promise of a portable computer that can run applications as well as make phone calls has caught on with the general public.
The smartphone shares a lot in common with the next item on our list: the netbook.