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We often take a look at smartphone penetration in economic and technological terms — i.e., what will smartphone capability do for the growth of the mobile Web audience and for mobile local search?

The New York Times today examines smartphones from a psychological perspective. This has a lot to do with the need to be constantly connected. This connectivity, along with cost, makes smartphones more advantageous than laptops. For a few different reasons, this has resonated in the current macro environment, supported by smartphone sales outpacing the overall handset market.

But recent smartphone converts are often people who count pennies, including many from the growing ranks of job seekers. Helene Rude of Briarcliff Manor, N.Y., was laid off from her job as a business development manager at I.B.M. this year, when her unit, among others, was the target of cuts. When she left, Ms. Rude had to turn in her company notebook computer with its constant wireless connection.

So she got an iPhone instead, allowing her to be online no matter where she was, without having to lug a computer around. “I absolutely got it for the job search,” she said. “I don’t know if it’s really an expectation, but if another job candidate returns an e-mail message eight hours later, and you get back immediately with a message that says ‘Sent from my iPhone,’ I think it has to be a check box in your favor.”

Interesting take. Netbook adoption will also improve connectivity, though I’ve heard arguments that netbooks are ineffective hybrids between laptops and smartphones. In other words, they cut back on the features of the former without truly accomplishing the portability of the latter.

Laptops are meanwhile becoming more and more “mobile” with connectivity afforded by wireless dongles and tethering. The latter will be one of the many selling points of the new iPhone 3Gs, though AT&T won’t support the tethering until a date Apple has defined as “later.”

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