At the 2014 Mobile World Congress held in Barcelona, a new trend emerged that will change both the mobile and content marketing landscapes.While Samsung unveiled its new ‘packed with features, top of the line’ S5 handset, other phone-makers went in a direction starkly contrasting theirs. Instead of wowing the crowd with retina displays and fingerprint recognition technology, competitors unveiled ultra-cheap smartphones.
And by cheap, we mean super-cheap. As in, less than R500 cheap.
The high-end smartphone market is dominated by Apple and Samsung. This is fact. Glancing across the office, nearly every one of my colleagues is cradling a Galaxy or an iPhone. But they are by no means a representative sample of the majority of the market, either in technological needs or disposable income. Why make and market phones that cater to such a slim percentage of the population?
That leaves low-end phone makers to probe budget-aware places like India, Latin America, and Northern Africa. Firefox, for instance, has hinted towards producing a $25 smartphone, with Nokia and an unknown Chinese manufacturer already displaying sub-$30 smart handsets. Google, too, has been toying with the idea of a sub $50 smart handset. Rumour has it their modular smartphone, codenamed Project Ara, will arrive as early as 2015.
According to Gartner, 1.8 billion mobile phones were sold globally last year (2013). A billion of those were smartphones. It’s safe to assume that most of the 800 million of the remainder were feature phones. And quite rightly so. Not everyone can afford an iPhone. Hell, not everyone can afford an S3.
However, the implication is that a $35 – $50 smartphone would entice the next billion users to upgrade to smartphones, drastically improving the quality and scope of their mobile internet experience .
You see where this is going don’t you?
With close on a billion ‘new’ smart-consumers, the consumption of online content will increase dramatically.
With previously disadvantaged markets now being able to connect, publish and consume digital media, online content will need to be crafted with these markets (and their devices) in mind. This means that the way we serve content and the platforms used, will need to evolve too. But it’s the knock-on affect these 800 million or so users will have on the entire mobile and digital media market that’s extraordinary.
Let’s start with the obvious –
More smartphones mean more exciting opportunities for application design in a multitude of arenas. Gamification is one of them. Mobile payments is another. This leads to safer and more secure mobile banking opportunities and NFC capabilities. Just think how that could potentially change the way people trade in rural markets around Africa.
And you can’t have a meaningful discussion about mobile without mentioning the cost of data.
Internet access doesn’t come cheap. Data rates in upcoming countries are vastly more expensive than areas where unlimited data plans are the norm. South Africans are still being relegated to mobile plans where we are punted unlimited SMS’s opposed to unlimited Data bundles. The traditional SMS is dying as app services take over, and service providers need to jump on the bandwagon or get left behind.
While demand and price fight to find equilibrium, the obvious temporary solution is an increase in Wifi hotspots, strategically placed in and around areas of high traffic. And by traffic I mean the human kind. Places like coffee shops, restaurants, taxi ranks and even some retailers will benefit from offering free Wifi. They have a captive audience. More people. More money. It’s a simple recipe.
We have 800 million new users forging a $100 Billion industry with a sub $50 smartphone. And that in itself is quite remarkable.
Where do the content creators, marketing minds and creatives stand in all of this? We’ll need to step up accordingly. The content we create and publish for one brand here, will more than likely fall by the wayside there. Broader markets, especially those that haven’t been fully tapped as yet, will require new research around previously unmeasured analytics.
Innovation is often associated with creating something new. The thing you never knew you wanted until the moment you saw it. But innovation can also be the act of encouraging progression rather than an item of progressive development. The $50 dollar smartphone is a big leap leap forward. Perhaps not in technology or design, but certainly in perception and thinking. These handsets may be slightly underpowered and a little behind on leading OS standards, but they’re probably going to be the keystone in the technological advancement of a massive number of underprivileged people, and that’s something even the most advanced smartphone cannot do.