At a time when analysts are talking about the global economic crisis and the ‘r’ word, the mobile market must continue to innovate in order to maintain margins and guard against the macro-economic pressures. There are a number of key trends in the market that I believe will be particularly interesting for the coming months and years and they all centre around one major theme – consumer choice.
Let’s face it, there is really no such thing as ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to the mobile market, and consumer expectations shift all the time, according to fashions, new technologies and even the strength of a particular marketing push.
However, according to Canalys, 2007 saw a global increase of smartphone device shipments – up 53% on 2006. Based on our own experiences in 2008, we expect this year’s Canalys report to reflect increased global demand for smartphones.
The launch of the first Android-based device gave a glimpse of what could be a new personalisation trend. Admittedly, personalisation has been around for a while. In the early days, personalisation was more cosmetic, with interchangeable coloured cases, sparkly phone charms, wallpapers and ringtones dominating the market.
Open source mobile operating systems will allow a far greater degree of flexible customisation by letting developers create a wide selection of applications for customers to choose from, and enabling users to determine their own individual mobile experiences.
Mobile gaming is also driving innovation in handset design. A whole new generation is discovering the addictive nature of Tetris and those who receive their T-Mobile G1 in November will also be able to download Pac-Man from the Google Marketplace.
Consumers are also turning towards mobile internet for their communication and entertainment needs. As many devices can now render webpages in their full HTML glory, consumers who were previously put off by the mobile-specific sites of old, can now check their email, find information and access their favourite sites as they would at home on a PC. One day we will look back and laugh at how we were tied to PCs for web browsing, rather like we do now with the black and white TV of 30 or 40 years ago.
?End of iPods
In a recent interview with the Daily Telegraph, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, predicted the demise of the iPod. And with a growing number of handsets capable of storing and playing back the same amount of music or video content, without the same proprietary formatting restrictions, this prediction doesn’t seem as outlandish as one might think.
The UK is certainly one of the main markets driving smarter mobile communications. Although there will always be a market for simple voice and text handsets, the UK prosumer market is growing.
Ofcom’s most recent communications market report (August 2008) highlighted 122.6 active mobile connections per 100 people in the UK and 20.9 3G mobile connections per 100 people. This means we are definitely doing something right and are continuing to deliver the mobile experience that users demand.
Where once we may have categorised these users as ‘geeky early adopters’, a growing number of style-conscious, tech-savvy consumers who may typically walk around with a phone, iPod, PSP or Nintendo DS in their bags, are realising the benefit of a high powered smartphone.
Now that Christmas is just weeks away, it’s really exciting to see the variety of handsets coming onto the market. Only time will tell which will win but despite the gloomy economic outlook, the mobile phone’s position as lifestyle choice, status symbol and centre of the multimedia entertainment and communications experience, suggests we can approach Christmas and 2009 with optimism.
Florian Seiche is vice president at HTC Europe