Everyone knows that the mobile handset market has become commoditised. Looking in a mobile phone shop makes you realise that design is no longer a differentiator in the market. Simply put, every phone looks the same.
The last Samsung and iPhone launches were both met with indifference, because the handset manufacturers are struggling to differentiate themselves. Replacement cycles are getting longer as people stick with what they have rather than upgrading to the latest gadget or gizmo. Even traditional differentiators (such as the number of megapixels on the camera) are now confusing, with software having as big an impact on image quality as hardware.
Here are some things that manufacturers could do to differentiate in the market
- Sort the battery out
The biggest frustration for smartphone users is battery life. A manufacturer that can deliver a guarantee that a smartphone will see consumers through the day would have a significant market differentiator. Stop stuffing the device full of things consumers do not necessarily want and focus on the issue of battery life and super-fast recharge. And, while you are at it, why not add a decent solar panel for top ups on the go.
- Make it secure
It is crazy that users rely on new software updates to keep a device secure. Silent Circle got out of the handset manufacturing game a little while ago and is now focussed on software that secures both Android and iOS devices. I struggle to understand why the handset manufacturers cannot do the same and create a handset that is 100% secure. This would also make a great USP for an operator, particularly one with a big business footprint.
- Change the materials
Rather than continually focussing on having as big a screen size as possible, why not experiment with different materials. Mobile phone cases come in a host of different materials – wood, leather, plastic, carbon fibre – so why not incorporate these into the phones? If a phone is (in part) a fashion statement, why can I not customise it? Swatch revamped the watch market with funky, low cost watch designs. Why are none of the handset manufacturers doing the same? Fancy a wooden device? How about a ceramic one?
- Make it last – deliberately
If people are hanging on to handsets for longer why not take advantage of this and offer a life long upgrade path? Customers could be offered a refresh of a device once a year with a better camera module or replacement battery. I have seen a few concepts for modular phones over the years but why not offer a device for life with an annual refresh (at a cost) to update the device.
If the smartphone market is not going to be a race to the lowest price, manufacturers need to differentiate. Until companies start thinking in a different way about the handset market, consumers will simply use price as the only differentiating factor.