Sunday, 18 October 2015

Phonageddon

The last 4 weeks have been pretty much "phonageddon". Apple have had their annual iphone love in. Google have announced new mobile devices and even Microsoft have announced their own Windows 10 Mobile flagship devices with Microsoft branding.

Iphone 6s is a mature device. They now have an annual cycle of releasing devices that differ little from last years' devices but are there to leverage the fashion buyer.


Iphone has now transcended technology and become a fully fledged luxury brand like Dior and Calvin Klein. It's reception at Apple events is almost religious and, despite the ease of online pre-ordering, the sense that "you have to be there" still generates the launch day queue.

It isn't a bad device but the error of big features has become incremental. Perhaps the biggest transition has been to a mobile payment platform Apple Pay.

The US market share for iPhone is substantial but in recent years US customers have gone off the 2 year contract. These contracts kept iphone affordable and the sim-only price is steep. Apple have realised that keeping the upfront cost down is important so they now have a monthly payment plan to keep sales on track and push the annual upgrade. Iphone is now something you can rent from Apple with an annual upgrade built in.

Keeping the iphone a luxury expensive item while making it affordable for people is a trick that is now the challenge for Apple not the technology.

Google were next up with successors for the Nexus 5 and 6.


Google are in a funny place with the 5x and 6P. The 5 was successful and the 6 was an expensive Phablet. The 5 looked like a well priced off-contract device whereas the 6 was too expensive.

Google also suffer from a multitude of phone makers creating Android devices that are never upgraded to the latest features, malware and a diffuse market that dominates without any brand control by Google.

The new Google phones are a bit whacky with fingerprint readers on the back. You are left wondering if that really is the most natural place. You need fingerprint biometrics for the new features like Android Pay - competing with Apple Pay. It's also the case that biometrics are now beginning to edge into the eye of the consumer as an alternative to passwords. The key driver being financial protection as devices are used for payments. Consumers want protection without the friction of typing in password all the time.

Finally there are the well trailed Microsoft announcements for the Lumia 950 and 950XL.


These are the first "flagship" devices for almost 2 years. Microsoft have been churning out low cost under-powered devices for months to interest developing markets. Meanwhile nothing for everyone else.

The new devices are Windows 10 and support Windows Hello biometric login. In this case an iris scan than seems to work at arms length. Continuum means that you can dock your phone, pu on a keyboard, mouse and screen to make your phone a computer.


The problem for Microsoft is a US market share of just 2.5%. There are countries with considerably more share but the US market is Microsoft's home territory. With low market share it means app developers don't create apps for Windows 10 Mobile. Microsoft have created 'universal' apps to help this and Windows 10 Mobile looks to be heading towards allowing Android apps to run too.

With many people using their smartphone as their primary computing device Microsoft feel they have to follow their customers. So Microsoft software is on Apple and Android too. Windows 10 Mobile is not full of exclusive Microsoft content. With tiny market share carriers don't care so Microsoft are trying the direct sales route. Microsoft are struggling as a mobile phone maker and it's not at all clear if these new phones will build momentum to the platform.

Each of the 3 mobile platforms have their own problems. Apple has the enviable problem that it is a market leader rather than a plucky minority player with rebellious tendencies. Google seems to need to re-introduce it's products after a year where the Nexus 6 didn't wow the fans. Meanwhile Microsoft needs to develop a strategy that defines what a Windows 10 Mobile device is for.