The last decade has seen a complete disruption of the mobile market. Bearing in mind that in 2002 Nokia and Motorola shared over 50% of the mobile market it has been a meteoric fall from grace for these two behemoths.
So, how did the mobile phone market get disrupted?
Many observers like to tell us that the Apple iPhone turned the entire mobile phone industry on its head by introducing the first device that can be truly described as a smartphone. Personally I find this view fallacious. Prior to the Apple iPhone various manufacturers had produced mobiles which had had many of the characteristics one associates with the modern smartphone. Indeed the Treo 600 from Palm as early as 2002 had a colour screen, email access, app store, keyboard, browser, speakerphone, expandable memory; in fact pretty much all that the iPhone 3 had. Other manufacturers at the same time were producing what could easily be described as smartphones such as the Nokia N95, The Samsung Omnia to name but a couple. What Apple did differently from the other manufacturers was ( well apart from packaging all these functions in a very pleasant looking form with a smooth operating system ) was to market the iPhone as if it truly was something groundbreaking ( think different )- as Apple says. This diverted all the attention to Apple from the Nokia bearing hordes who now wanted a slice of the Apple miracle.
What happened after the launch of the iPhone
So, the iPhone took the world by storm, and millions of former ‘basic phone’ users quickly leapt to the new, smarter, way of life. Hordes of Nokia and Motorola users jumped ship and these brands, which had enjoyed massive customer loyalty until then were slow to react. Rather than coming up with something new, and rather than following Apple’s lead in design and function, they stuck to basics. They incorporated features such as touch screens, GPS, email and other more advanced settings but they bundled all this in with ‘past it’ operating systems sych as Symbian and the clunky early versions of windows mobile.
The first companies really to offer early resistance to the march of Apple in the consumer marketplace were HTC and Samsung who jumped on Google’s Android platform and created notable mobile phones which certainly stood up to the iPhones of the day. HTC – though creating very good phones did not manage to capitalise on its market share whereas Samsung managed to establish the Galaxy range as a very much sought after brand of smartphone.
Nokia persevered with their format of phone for a couple of years and their market share dropped along with the rise of the smartphone. Nokia did also ( in what was described as the marriage of the world’s two most unsexy brands ) flirt with a partnership with Windows/ Microfsoft © for a few years, but although ( we suspect ) the Windows mobile plaform is every bit as good as that of Android and IOS, it never really has managed market penetration. Its kind of like a new pub in the high street next to a busy pub – however nice the new pub is, anyone walking down the street will be more inclined to wander into the busy one. Of course in time the new pub has a chance, but with mobile smartphone operating systems numbering fewer than 5 and the users numbering in the billions the odds are stacked against a newcomer.
You can see from the graph above that Android is dominating the smartphone OS market. This is partly because of the popularity of the top brands such as Samsung, Sony, HTC, Xiaomi, Huwaei and, very much due to the fact that there is a proliferation of manufacturers worldwide who are happy to take the ‘free’ operating system and bundle it with their more affordable product. In the western world – as evidenced by the below graph, the higher end ( more expensive ) iphones are the most popular manufacturer.
So, what next for smartphone markets
It does appear that, as far a smartphones go, Apple and Samsung have forged well ahead of their competitors in the Western World ( though the distinction of ‘western world’ is slowly disappearing ) and look to dominate for the near future. However there are brands, less well known now appearing from other countries ( particularly China ) such as Huwaei and Xiaomi which should start getting a foothold in the UK should they find suitable distribution networks.
And maybe, just maybe, there will be something completely new. A new brand, a new operating system or an entirely new take on what the mobile smartphone is. And the market will be well and truyly disrupted again.