The Other Story Of The Smartphone

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When you think of smartphones, what do you think of?

Most people interested in media, marketing and technology think of smartphones as the device that is putting the PC world to rest. Yes, personal computers are still pervasive, but the growth of smartphones has been exponential and astounding all in one breath. Because the technology has become so advanced, so quickly, we often look at what these smartphones are replacing in terms of the next generation of consumer’s wants and needs, but there’s something else happening as well.

Take a look at this in another other way.

On Monday, March 4th, 2013, Cellular News published the news item titled, Smartphones Expected to Outship Feature Phones for First Time in 2013. From the article: "More smartphones are forecast to be shipped globally than feature phones in 2013, the first such occurrence in the mobile phone market on an annual basis. According to IDC, vendors will ship 918.6 million smartphones this year, or 50.1% of the total mobile phone shipments worldwide… By the end of 2017, IDC forecasts 1.5 billion smartphones will be shipped worldwide, which equates to just over two-thirds of the total mobile phone forecast for the year due to these primary factors."

How the landscape shifted so quickly.

According to the article from Cellular News, the shift to smartphones at such a rapid pace is happening for many reasons:

  • Price. The price of smartphones had dropped globally.
  • Networks. The growth of 4G and higher speed cellular networks continues to evolve and expand.
  • Small computers. These devices are more than phones and text messaging platforms. They are powerful computers that allow consumers the ability to do most of their day to day digital activities from the palm of their hands.
  • Economics. Smartphones used to be manufactured in relation to pure demand that was driven by the US market. Now, as countries outside of North America experience growing and healthier economies, there is a growing demand for more smartphones as well. Look to China, Brazil and other regions for this growth.
  • Governments. As the economies in certain regions continue to evolve, Governments are also looking to improve their respective land’s connectivity and, clearly, this is all driving to smartphone growth.
  • Sophistication. While the United States has a higher level of user and product sophistication, the development of the technology will continue to get more and more sophisticated. As these smartphones have cooler and more compelling features, this will drive interest and consumer adoption.
  • Any age. Technology is finally removing the technology from the technology. These devices are intuitive, don’t require an instruction manual or a doctorate’s degree to set it up. Toddlers and the elderly are able to use and understand these devices with ease.

So long to the feature phone?

For many years, mobile pundits have lauded the feature phone and developing text messaging platforms that can be used in markets that don’t have the sophistication in terms of devices, networks and raw dollars to purchase these devices. As the price of smartphones continues to drop and the penetration continues to rise, it could well be not only the post-PC world that we have entered into, but the post-feature phone world as well. As those interested in mobile, smartphones and more, we often don’t look at these changes in terms of how it affects the feature phone. This is a dramatic shift. It’s not a sudden shift. We will not be seeing the end of the feature phone for some time due to infrastructure, cost and more (specifically in developing nations), the change is afoot. Smartphones aren’t just replacing PCs or putting an end to the feature phone. Smartphones are also showing us – in raw power – what exponential growth looks like. It can be scary to some. It will make others skeptical about how quickly this growth will happen. It will prove to be a massive opportunity for many smart entrepreneurs and established players. Regardless, the story of smartphones, their growth and the evolution into wearable technology is happening before our eyes, and it’s a multifaceted  story that runs much deeper than how smartphones are outselling PCs.

The above posting is my twice-monthly column for The Huffington Post called, Media Hacker. I cross-post it here with all the links and tags for your reading pleasure, but you can check out the original version online here:

One comment

  1. A completely different perspective indeed – evolution has suddenly turned into a revolution. One of relatively less discussed factor in the success of smartphones is extensive involvement of end-users and independent development communities like programmers in determining the dominant features of these phones. Contrast this with previous feature phone development methodological where top executives decided on features and user interface of phones. It is clear win of agile over waterfall and collaborative over directive product development!

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