Case Study Task: Smart phones and the numbers

This case study will look into an area of global technology, in particular, smart phones.  There is a common theme running through communities recently about the confusing nature of smart phones and the rising numbers of them in conjunction with the problems this causes amongst consumers.

For this study I wanted to look at an issue which involves a subject which is enjoyable to me personally. I, probably like most people, have a keen interest in the latest technology, not a lot of it I can buy myself but understanding and appreciating what is becoming a fast, and at times, overly rapidly growing market, is an area I have a big interest in.

What is at the heart of this technological growth is the consumer. The consumer dictates technological growth and the need to expand and suit all has become more and more wide-spread on the high street. The smart phone market is one market which has boomed like no other, I don’t need to speak of the brands which have gotten highly active within these areas. Thanks to these brands and mobile platform ‘Android’, made by Google the rise of in the number of Android handsets in particular has risen dramatically and has lead to confusion amongst the consuming public.

Let’s look at the facts, are there then too many Android smart phones on the market already? Some would agree yes, the facts don’t lie. Everyday 850,000 Android smart phones are activated with the platform which leaves a 5:2 ratio of Android phone’s to anything else on the market today; the big names brands themselves release 2 to 3 handsets a month. The big culprits of this overload are Samsung who released over 25 handsets in 2011 alone, Motorola release a staggering 24 and HTC faired a little better by releasing just 20 handsets in the last calendar year. These facts alone are some of the reasons why less tech savvy consumers and to an extent tech savvy consumers face problems when picking out a new handset.

Of course these can’t be the only reason why releasing that many handsets is a problem today. Many tech lovers feel that this isn’t a problem and that having that much amount of choice can only be a good thing. The market stays competitive and the industry progresses at a more rapid rate thus improving growth with newer technologies. The other problems with this however are also environmental. The life span of many phones these days are short-lived because of the amount of upgrading phones are getting. A change in specification can be merely 2-3 months and a phone can lose appeal and be made redundant by the consumer in a shorter space of time that would have been acceptable. Many phones nowadays are simply placed in the bin and from an environmental standpoint this is can only bad news. Toxic chemicals such as mercury are destroying our landscape because of careless actions by consumers and manufacturers alike. The price of making the handsets on the environment is on the rise as more energy and fuel is needed to keep up with the rapid rise of technological advancements and is thus harming the world we live in. From a business standpoint too many companies struggle to keep churning out handsets to keep people buying them and if people struggle to keep up with these advancements, how can both parties keep financially sustained? Phone manufacturers who have also dipped into other areas such as tablets for example also find themselves in this same problem, multiple tablets for example, although not released in such great numbers, find themselves releasing many multiple items which then leaves consumers undecided on what to buy in such a fragmented marketplace.

So then, who would be blamed for this problem that seems as if it would be going down the wrong path?

We could start by pointing the finger at the manufacturers; the big names such as Samsung, Motorola and Sony are all part of the overall problem with the mega numbers of handsets released worldwide.  The competitive stakes I feel are now higher than they have ever been, especially within the Smartphone market, the big names are always pushing the numbers and stock takes. Some may ask whether this has always been the case and I would argue no, the competition now, with the excitement and growth of technology added with the amount of marketing reach now available to these big names suggests that manufacturers have to be even more so on the cutting edge of everything.

Is there however not a stronger force at large behind these rise influence on the manufacturers perhaps? The operating system behind these handsets Android is run by mega-brand Google and with Google backing you and there fight for dominance across all platforms we could see the motivation that would stem from them. As we know and have seen in the news Google aim to make sure that they try to get as many eyeballs on their products as possible in order to expose them to the large advertising base they have built their reputation on. What also helps them is by exposing as many people as possible to their products and services also allows consumers to become comfortable with these and make them genuine customers, active users and supporters of the Google empire with all its privacy policies in work.

Another issue is that many consumers have struggled to understand the platform they have provided with many handsets on multiple updates and versions of the platform to date. This has become one of the main niggles of Android because tech support and troubleshooting becomes less of a user-friendly experience in comparison of competitors such as Apple and Blackberry.

So with these things both in mind it would seem that both the manufacturers and Google would be in control with the large amount of handsets being released as both have perfectly good reasons why they would need to push the amount of handsets cast out into the world.

Let’s now look into how both of these parties would defend themselves because it fairness, if the reasons why so many handsets are released are valid then they may have good reason to continue the charge thus far.

In defence of the OEM’s (manufacturers) would a re-considered change of numbers help business and help profit margins? No, I don’t believe it would, by exposing as many people to as many products as possible the amount of profit that OEM’s make suggest that the continuation of such volume would help keep companies afloat in such hard economic times. Let’s not forget that Blackberry was close to going bust and other such firms have come close to the point of no return. In other defence of them is the fact that they don’t have enough number sales to be capable of selling one or two products a year such as Apple for instance, when the company starts selling in the same bracket as Apple maybe then companies can start decreasing the numbers of products released to the public. We could also suggest that with all companies selling 1 or 2 products a year, it could all become stale and boring and the industry would become predictable and collapse.

In defence of Google, who wouldn’t want large numbers of people using their products? The more people using the products the better, the confusion with handsets comes with time and expertise and as the platform is dubbed ‘open source’ there is never is a one for all update but of course these leads to problems for app developers too who don’t know what platform to make for!

Also in Google defence, Google themselves only contact Samsung once a year regarding Google’s flagship ‘pure Google’ phone, this however wouldn’t speak volumes as Google already have all the other OEM’s using their platform anyway!

So finally then, what can be done to stop the flow of handsets entering and leaving the world prematurely? Two ideas here can help:

  1. Re-model: By remodelling store layout both online and high street consumers can easily distinguish and pick their platform and manufacturer easier and with a lot more clarity and understanding thus helping consumers and OEM’s in the process.
  2. Try and make OEM’s commitment to reducing the amount of handsets that they produce yearly, HTC themselves have already stepped up and said that they see the problem and will commit to ‘quality over quantity’ which can only be a good thing, however the likelihood of change will only be slim.


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