With 435 million mobile phones having been sold around the world in the second quarter of 2013 – the most recent available statistics at the time of writing – anyone can see that this is a market which offers huge potential for the companies involved.
This, of course, doesn’t take into account the fact that they will have spent massive sums of developing their products and either manufacturing them themselves or having this outsourced, as Apple does.
Both of these factors clearly point to why, when a company launches a new mobile phone, the stakes, and especially the potential gains, are so high.
Yet from the performance of the shares of the technology companies involved in smartphone design as of mid-2013, many are struggling to convince investors that they can maintain the incredible momentum which their businesses have undoubtedly enjoyed as the world has become gripped by smartphone fever.
And the markets where that fever is still spreading at a rapid rate are Asia-Pacific, Latin America and eastern Europe where, according to research firm Gartner, sales rose by 74.1, 55.7 and 31.6 per cent respectively, year on year.
Such sales growth would be considered incredible in many business sectors, and furthermore, they have been achieved in what are historically proving to be very tough economic times.
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This is why the major manufacturers of smartphones are so cagey about their new product development. Naturally, if they are trying to build new products which have features that are either much better than those of their rivals for example a larger smartphone screen, or can do things which other phones simply can’t, then they have to keep their work secret for as long as possible.
On the other hand, though, the companies know that people are keen to get their hands on a device which does something which their previous one couldn’t, or simply does what that phone does, but is so much better at it.
From the phone companies’ point of view, therefore, they would like us all to be looking to replace our handset as soon as the next model comes along. So they have to offer enough incentives in terms of improvements in the technology and user experience to persuade us that our old phone is ‘so last year’, and the new one is really the bee’s knees.
Yet, from a practical point of view, technology only occasionally makes a really massive step forward, and the rest of the time, it is inching ahead slowly, and refining what has already been done.
Such is the case with mobile phones, yet for the manufacturers, it is a very short distance between being at the head of the field, and becoming an also-ran.
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Stand out technology
The ultimate goal for the manufacturers is to produce phones which contain technology which makes us sit up and take notice and we all want to use, yet be able to do this in large enough volumes and sufficiently cheaply to be able to satisfy the people who have invested their money, and in many cases, their whole futures, in betting that they will be successful in this.
And that’s why every new model is given such a huge fanfare. It isn’t just the futures of the people who design and make the phones which are at stake, but ultimately, it could well be the future of everyone who has an interest in saving money so that they can enjoy a comfortable life as they get older.
In other words, the continued success of the smartphone market – and that for technology in general – is good for our economies, our pensions, and the world in general. And in short, that’s why the companies which develop and sell them clamor so loudly for our attention with every new release.
[Image credit: SamsungTomorrow, Flickr]