Like the PC’s domination over Macs in decades past, low-cost devices for the masses will win the global smartphone war. It won’t even be close.
Most of the world population has to buy their device first, without the luxury of carrier subsidies. This means devices with a lower hardware and software BOM cost will have the advantage over ones that absolutely depend on carrier subsidies for their very survival. I’m not talking smartphones that are cheaper because they lack the features and functionality of higher-end device. If you step back and look across most of today’s smartphone platforms like the iPhone, Android, Blackberry, Windows Phone, Symbian, and Bada, you’ll notice that they all have similar functionality. They all make calls and have email, an HTML5 web browser, SMS, MMS, touch, keyboards, APIs to build apps, 2G/3G/4G data networks, digital still/video cameras, web services, calendars, app stores, contacts, push notifications, music, maps, yada yada. Will there be variations in quality? Sure, but that’s the case with all products people buy.
It’s easy to forget that most of the world is still using feature phones because they meet minimum communications requirements and because they are inexpensive to buy. These billions of folks are moving to smartphones, but don’t make the mistake in believing that they are capable of purchasing the most envied phone in the affluent country you live in. For wealthy nations that currently live in a smartphone reality distortion field, this might be hard to understand. Remember, the populations of the combined affluent countries make up just 1/7th of the total world population. Even most folks in that group of ~1 billion people couldn’t afford the $850 unsubsidized cost of a certain smartphone that comes to mind.
Oh and by the way, the tablet market will shake-out the same way as it matures.
It’s the way of things in technology. Remember, once the IBM BIOS was reverse-engineered, we had the Attack of the Clones in the 1980s that democratized the personal computer market. Prices plunged, and Bill Gates’ vision of a computer on every desk was largely realized. The same thing is already beginning to play out for smartphones around the world in developing and not-so-developing countries. Players in the mobile and wireless space who are moving to where the kicked football will be in this emerging reality, rather than where it is today, are the ones who will benefit in the long run.
It won’t even be close.
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