4/15/2009 11:54:00 AM
Uninspiring phones, not recession
Three handsets were doing their bit to pull punters in over the Easter period: the Nokia 5800, the Samsung Tocco Ultra and the LG Arena. But it seems a dearth in exciting handsets can be traced back over the last six months. The ‘r’ word has been the default position of retailers, manufacturers and operators looking to explain the slump in sales. But beyond the recession, the rather boring and uninspiring slew of iPhone rip-offs could be a bigger cause for consumers turning their back on a new phone.
While it is true that research and development investment has been strained, handsets currently in the market have been in development for well over a year. Anecdotal reports from the Easter weekend indicated that consumers were up for grabs, but converting footfall into sales was poor. Consumers are certainly being more careful about spending money, but the impression from the shop floor is that they are not being excited.
Where are the devices that capture the imagination of consumers? The uninspiring bun-fight over eight megapixels failed to resonate with consumers in 2008, and other big launches were also modest to disappointing (N96, C905, Omnia, Prada2). There is a strong chance that we are now in a fallow period, and on the cusp of a rich harvest of lots of high-end phones belatedly emerging together. The Palm Pre, Google Magic, Samsung OmniaHD, Nokia N97, HTC Touch Diamond2 and, possibly, a new iPhone could all arrive in stores by the summer, hopefully with lessons learned from the disappointments of last year.
Operators might be gritting their teeth at the cost of subsidising a lot of those expensive handsets, but retailers will be awaiting a clearer test that identifies whether it is the recession or the current choice of handsets that is really inhibiting sales.