Wednesday, 20 March 2019

'Peak' smartphone

Statista's predicted global smartphone users by 2020 (2017)
On LinkedIn recently I read a curated news post asking if we had hit 'peak' smartphone, and groaned inwardly. Really? 'Peak' smartphone?

Did we ever wonder whether we would run out of new telephone accounts when everyone in the first world had a landline? No: instead the marketers in telecoms companies simply got smarter and more creative about the bundle of services they delivered to the customer. When growth slowed in one area they were savvy enough to have research and development departments which were alert to new trends and technology.

According to LinkedIn, "half the world has a smartphone" and consumers are not replacing handsets often enough. While this isn't very accurate (2.71b people are predicted to have smartphone by the end of this year, Statista, 2017 out of a population of 8b), if we rolled the clock back thirty years to 1989, more than half the world's population would have had a landline. The world wasn't ending in that year because people didn't upgrade their landline phone every year. Most people kept the same phone handset for decades, never mind annually.

The LinkedIn article cited a Wall Street Journal report saying "the saturation of smartphones in rich countries, along with increasing prices for the most high-end models, and only incremental improvements, have meant plummeting sales of the devices". Apple iPhone sales have recently been reported as falling in China (New York Times, 2 January 2019), but we need to also remember that China has some very large mobile brands - Huawei, Oppo, Lenovo and Vivo (China Whisper, 2017) - and the Chinese will find those brands better suited to Chinese language and culture. They will fit a culture which is growing increasingly comfortable with its own internal creativity than on bolting on that of another nation.

It appears to me that we are overly fixated on growth - which is unsustainable in a closed loop planet - and that our 'news' media is full of drama queens. "Doom, doom, doom: the sky is falling. Peeps aren't replacing their mobiles every year!"

Perhaps this is simply a good reason to not read the 'news'.


Sam

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