T-Mobile
The Sidekick, sold by T-Mobile. If Paris Hilton was seen with one, you know it screams youth and instant messaging.
Image: Tima Chansanchai
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msnbc.com
updated 1/30/2008 9:37:38 AM ET 2008-01-30T14:37:38

I was raised to avoid getting attached to material things. Buddhists have this thing about attachment. Everything is ephemeral and all that.

But I am irrevocably linked to my smartphone — and my car, my HDTV, my TiVo, my “X-Files” DVD series (you get the idea; I don’t think I’ve been a very good Buddhist).

I’ve started to notice that others are similarly joined at the hip to their smartphones.

Whether it’s a BlackBerry, Treo, Sidekick or an iPhone (or one of many other varieties of smartphone), a device might give off some clues about the personalities that gravitate to it.

None of this is set in stone, but it does seem like certain phones fit certain professions and types. By drawing some very broad — and very unscientific — conclusions, the personality match-ups break down like so:

BlackBerry
The wide, but lean, shape turns off some. But the full keyboard and e-mail capability of the traditional BlackBerry caught fire years ago with financial professionals, event planners, government and law enforcement, salespeople and journalists, and has never let go of its hold.

In the last 18 months, Research In Motion, which makes BlackBerry, has expanded to a consumer range, thanks to models of its sleek Pearl, with its QWERTY keyboard and plethora of software applications, said Mark Guibert, RIM’s vice president of corporate marketing.

Now, he said, the BlackBerry is better able to merge the personal chores of life with the professional, so that the soccer mom at home is as apt to have one as the doctor next door.

“There’s a lot more you can do with your BlackBerry,” Guibert said. “It used to be function or fashion, but we’re at this interesting stage where we can deliver both.”

Adding software applications like Facebook and real estate databases, and cameras and multimedia players, have made the BlackBerry much more appealing to a wider spectrum of people, Guibert said.

But, there is a reason people who have the devices call them CrackBerries.

“They are still the best solution for staying constantly connected to corporate e-mail systems,” said Avi Greengart, New Jersey-based research director of mobile devices for Current Analysis.

“Sure, the go-go-go, white-collar executive who gets BlackBerry withdrawal when the thing doesn't buzz for a few minutes is just a stereotype. But there's some truth to the stereotype.

“BlackBerry users tend to quickly become addicts, and a range of named afflictions have followed, from ‘BlackBerry thumb’ (a repetitive stress problem) to ‘phantom BlackBerry syndrome,’ ” when a user isn't carrying the device, but feels the hip buzz anyway.

Treo
Slightly bulkier than the BlackBerry, this multi-tasking device is a favorite among publicists and artsy self-starters. But it’s harder to peg by type because of its versatility. Sometimes, for those choosing between the Treo and BlackBerry, it’s more about whether users prefer the keyboard layout of the BlackBerry or the compact power of the Treo. The creative set seems to favor the Treo over the corporate image that BlackBerry projects.

Educators, financiers, government and healthcare workers, lawyers and realtors also vie for the device, which gets a plus from Palm’s solid background as a PDA.

The transition was easy for many professionals who were already used to Palms. The Treo added the phone and other features, and — bam! The result was familiarity and function — with a little fashion thrown in.

“There's no single Treo user, but Treo users tend to be more organization-minded than, say, iPhone or Sidekick buyers,” said Greengart.

“Many Treo owners upgraded from Palm's excellent PDAs, which could be expanded with any number of software applications, but always started with a solid collection of personal information management applications.”

Palm spokeswoman DolleenCasey added, “Generally, Treo buyers tend to be mobile professionals around ages 35-54, across a variety of industries, from manufacturing and healthcare to banking and law.”

Palm’s newer smartphone, Centro, is “targeted at a younger audience with the smaller size, multimedia and messaging options,” she said.

Sidekick
Do you remember that this was the phone that Paris Hilton was seen texting with at fashion shows? That might give you a clue about what makes them stand out from the smartphone crowd. They project hip, glam and constant connection (usually via IM or texting).

Sidekicks, sold exclusively by T-Mobile, “are built around instant messaging, and which demographics are completely addicted to IM? Teens and young adults,” Greengart said.

“T-Mobile's marketing has stressed celebrities and youth, and you're extremely unlikely to find a white-shoe lawyer carrying one, unless his client is Jay-Z.”

Jackson Jeyanayagam, a publicist for Waggener Edstrom whose clients include T-Mobile, said the traits of a typical Sidekick user are: “considered an influencer within their peer group, multi-cultural background and/or friends, early-adopter with music and gadgets, always on the go, has a large (social) network that they always need to be connected; multitaskers, tech-savvy and always in the know with what’s hot.”

The professions of people who tend to use Sidekicks, generally, he said, include “publicists, talent managers, event/party planners and promoters, writers, business moguls, musical artists (who use the Sidekick to write lyrics), DJs, actors, professional athletes, young entrepreneurs, college students.”

iPhone
The iPhone’s owner wants the latest and supposed greatest. With the phone’s unbelievably thin size — 0.46 of an inch thick — and touch screen, everything screams future fantastic. Everyone who’s anyone has it — including high-profile users across the spectrum of professions and lifestyles.

The iPod’s dominance as a music player made the transition easy for iPhone users, who were already comfortable with that system of music organization.

The iPhone, available only through AT&T, is for “Apple aficionados and iconoclasts looking for a completely different way of interacting with a  ‘smart’ device,” said Greengart.

“The iPhone is definitely tilted toward entertainment, and it is sought out by consumers seeking the best integration of music and other iTunes content,” he said.

Some full disclosure: I have a BlackBerry. I am, indeed, addicted to the QWERTY keyboard, and I do love how the BlackBerry keeps me connected. When I want to IM, I can. When I want to check my Gmail, I do.

But, I’m not fully satisfied.

As much as I love the BlackBerry, I hate how I can’t delete texts in a block, I don’t like the Web interface and I’m not crazy about the phone quality.

I’m on the hunt for another smartphone. It’s got to match me, fit me to a T. At this point, I couldn’t settle for anything less, and neither should you. It’s your life in your hands – contact info, calendar, texts, e-mails. So choose wisely, and choose well.

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