Date:8 December 2016
There is no denying the fact that smartphones have become one of the most pervasive trends in recent times. You only have to look around you at a bus stop, restaurant or shopping centre to see the majority of people using their phones to connect, learn and do more. Because of the growth in this market, manufacturers are constantly trying to out-do one another with the latest devices. But what is actually driving smartphone development?
By Huawei Country Manager, Charlene Munilall
One thing is very clear – consumer behaviour and needs change rapidly and therefore smartphone manufacturers need to keep up or, if at all possible, anticipate to stay ahead. Gone are the days when you can push product into a market and expect consumers to be happy with what you provide. These days it’s the consumer that tells manufacturers what they want and how they want it. Even more importantly consumers are also saying how much they are willing to pay.
Consumers are expecting their smartphones to do more, faster and better than ever before. This means bigger and better hardware specifications and software that can, at the very least, keep up. Behind this there are some key factors which are pushing developments.
The biggest factor driving any type of hardware and software development for smartphones is connectivity. Simply put – data. The more the smartphone user wants to do, learn and consume the more data is required. Both the hardware and the software of the smartphone needs to enable this. As countries push the boundaries of connectivity and roll out more and more solutions this need will only grow.
As telecommunication companies introduce new levels of connectivity into the market, such as 4.5G for example, we as consumers want to download and upload content as quickly as possible. Our smartphones need to make sure this is possible.
As users we are consuming different types of content. Videos are on the rise – this means we want bigger screens with better resolution and sound in order to watch our favourite videos on our smartphones. This pushes developments in hardware. We have moved from small phones that can fit into our back pockets to wanting devices with large screens and extremely high specifications to make sure our viewing is unhindered.
This type of content also speaks back to the use of data. The more content we consume the more likely we are to be using data in order to do so.
Connectivity is dependent on the telecommunications company. You make your choices here based on price, availability and coverage. When you are deciding to purchase a new smartphone, features play a role. These days it’s not just about being able to send and receive calls or messages. In fact, voice is becoming less and less important to consumers.
So what do consumers base their choices on? This is where hardware features and apps come in. Consumers increasingly look at the specifications of the cameras. How many cameras does the device have? How many mega pixels does it shoot at? Are you able to edit in the programme? How quick is it to shoot and share?
Aside from the camera consumers are looking at the amount of memory the device comes with. Although the majority of smartphone manufactures bring out devices with similar memory it is still a deciding factor.
For the more tech-savvy users both the Central Processing Unit (CPU) and the Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) are also key features considered. While the CPU is the part of a device in which all operations are controlled and executed, the GPU is responsible for the display function – key to consuming content in high resolution.
Another key aspect is of course the operating system and how upgradeable it is. There are few people who don’t mind switching from one OS to another – the majority find a favourite and stick to it. This can open or hamper your choices when it comes to smartphones and which companies make them. If you are a company trying to get consumers to move you have to be at the top of your game before they will even consider it.
How it looks
There is no question that design plays an important role in smartphone development. What consumer wants something that is visually unappealing? You want to be able to put it on the dinner table and for your friends to ooh and aah. While tastes differ there are only a few manufactures which are really getting this part right. It’s also about being able to adapt quickly, to take what the consumer likes and reinvent it. Take what works and simply make it better.
Of course we are all interested in how much the features, apps and beauty are going to cost. For some brands and labels consumers seem to be willing to pay whatever it takes. There is however, a growing market that wants all of the above but at a more reasonable price. This is especially true in emerging markets. As it’s these areas that are leading the charge when it comes to both demand and consumption, manufacturers are now listening.
This has led to the rise of the “cheap” smartphone. This is a device that has a whole bunch of the specifications of the high end smartphones but for a much more affordable price. We have the rate of development to thank for this. Because companies are developing at such a fast rate, trying to outdo one another as quickly as possible, producing the technology is becoming cheaper.
This is a trend that is only going to grow – as the market grows and demand increases manufacturers will have to adapt and bring in “cheaper” ranges in order to stay competitive.
No end in sight
Some researchers are predicting market saturation in the next five to 10 years. This is not what we are seeing. This market continues to grow with no end in sight. Part of human nature is to constantly want to improve, evolve and grow. This is what pushes the boundaries of technology development in the first place. As emerging markets grow and open more corridors of trade there will be even more exposure and needs for technology evolution. The smartphone is a major area in this regard. With more demand will come more supply and consumption – it’s up to the manufacturers to keep up.
Image credit: Jack Moreh