Ten years ago the handset was a vibrant bizarre where the status quo could be upset by a plucky newcomer doing something different.
Life was unpredictable. And diverse. There were top tier manufacturers, second tier manufacturers, and a host of innovators and chancers trying basttling their way in from the margins. Any product with a bit of standout - whether based on design, or even just an unusual colour scheme - put an unknown player onto the map.
Those were the days when network buyers would take a chance. They still felt had something to gain, rather than everything to lose, from backing a new horse.
Now, instead of 20 or more players, there’s only a handful of serious manufacturers. And we no longer have half a dozen form factors. Every smartphone is basically a touchscreen slab.
So when Kazam popped up promising to be a new breed of manufacturer, there was scepticism. How could a player without scale or a track record break into a market that was sewn up tighter than the proverbial kipper. The Phones 4u partnership throws some light on how this could be. Kazam is positioning itself as a challenger brand. For a handset maker, that has traditionally been a euphemism for price cutting. But Kazam is putting a marketing twist on this, picking up on what consumers are not getting from other manufacturers - and operators - and then putting it right to great fanfare.
Apple has won lots of fans for the way its stores swap defective or damaged products with barely a quibble. It is just one way in which it tries to underwrite customer delight.
Kazam has its own spin. Everyone hates it when their shiny new phone gets a scratched or cracked screen. So it is offering to replace their screens free of charge. This is a great marketing opportunity and a chance to make a noise - wh ich is what challenger brands are all about. In times when both handsets and handset makers are sadly lacking in character, it is a wonderful way to get attention and stand out from the crowd.
Operators used to do this sort of thing, and Virgin Mobile was the past master. From a standing start as a plucky little upstart brand, it eventually became the fastest growing ‘network’ in the market.
Kazam will be doing brilliantly well if it can emulate - and sustain - such an approach. In which case founders, Michael Coombes and James Atkins, will be rich men indeed. And the market will be more colourful than it is now.