The mobile phone remains a ‘phone’ in name alone – these days, calling is just one small part of these mini computers’ range of capabilities. However, the product category in which it sits has remained relatively secure, as has the retail environment in which it is sold. Now, as smartphones rise to a position of complete market penetration in the UK, the industry is forced to look even harder at ways in which it can offer something new.
The two domains that industry players most commonly look towards are inextricably linked to categories that have existed for a long time. For operators or service providers it’s often broadband and fixed line. In the case of manufacturers it’s smartwatches and wearable technology. While these categories are new to the companies selling them, convincing the public that they are worth having is a very different task. Watches and phone lines have been around for far longer than mobile phones, and convincing the consumer that the most advanced products in these categories can be as revolutionary as their smartphone is proving to be a tough sell.
Vodafone was the latest company to expand its offering, revealing details about its broadband service. The operator is an interesting case study when it comes to the development of non-mobile businesses. You only have to look at its global portfolio to see that it’s something in which the company has experience. Some commentators have derided the speed at which Vodafone has moved in the UK with the development of its quad play offering. But it’s hard to argue against the fact that Vodafone’s actions are reflective of the demand in the market place. There’s been a number of bundled service offerings in the market for a while now and the take-up has not been overly convincing.
In the wearables space no one is yet to really make the breakthrough, and despite the fanfare that Apple Watch has generated, it appears that the smartwatch is still a while away from mainstream adoption.
Companies have to search for the products of the future, and while it sometimes seems easier to redefine categories rather than inventing them, persuading the customer why they need to buy into it can be a real challenge.