Five key factors driving the growth of mobile devices


By Judy Mottl

August 26, 2008

Increased productivity, faster and more efficient communications and data on demand are just three factors that propel smartphones into the game and spur the development of mobile infrastructure in the enterprise. But don’t forget the fashion statements and price wars when you count the real growth drivers of these mobile devices.

According to Gartner Research, global smartphone sales are expected to reach 1.28 billion units this year, up 11% from the 1.15 billion devices sold in 2007.

Gartner has identified the top five specific trends driving device evolution and growth:

1. Consolidation and new competition

New players, like Apple and its iPhone, are looking to differentiate themselves in what has become a crowded playing field. Meanwhile, some big name vendors, such as Motorola, are under pressure as market shares shrink and design innovation becomes increasingly difficult, according to Gartner. The lower cost of benchmark cellphone designs and modules, along with the attractiveness of such a large market, will attract more conventional consumer electronics companies to join the market, according to the report.

“Right now, handset makers are under great pressure to lower their prices because carriers don’t want to increase subsidies, which is already costing them dearly,” said Carolina Milanesi, research director for device technology. mobile.

The main trend could potentially lead to further price wars, Milanesi said, as carriers increase telephone subsidies while lengthening contract deadlines and increasing service costs to make handsets more attractive.

2. Suppliers extend device ecosystems

The pressure to lower the price of devices will prompt some established players to find new sources of revenue from content and services. This trend, according to Gartner, is exemplified by Apple’s efforts with its iTunes store.

The changing market will result in changes in the relationships between vendors, operators and content providers, according to Gartner. Applications sought after by businesses, such as location and navigation features, will increasingly be available directly from device vendors that build features into products.

3. Device makers focus on ease of use

The increase in device functionality and the need for differentiation will lead to simpler user interfaces and device experiences, according to the research company.

This means that device vendors will improve their UI skills and consider how users can move horizontally between apps, rather than just vertically in software modules.

4. The smartphone as a way of life

Style is a compelling motivation, as users see the devices not only as a fashion statement, but also as a lifestyle statement. In response, vendors will need established platforms to make small changes to housings and colors without impacting costs. Handset makers will begin to partner with non-mobile brands – think electronics, fashion, or sports providers – to increase the appeal of the lifestyle.

“Of course doing more with your phone attracts a segment of the market,” Milanesi said. “But there is a segment that just wants simplicity and lower costs. Even when looking for performance, people are rarely willing to compromise on style, ”the analyst said.

5. The platforms become “rechargeable in the field”

Gartner said as technologies become part of increasingly expensive devices, vendors are going to need to increase ongoing support, upgrades, and improvements to drives. As users will retain high-end devices longer, platforms will need more lifecycle management in the form of upgrades and enhancements.

Some vendors implement what Gartner calls “field refreshes” which can be done to support new digital rights management requirements, download bug fixes or new apps, wallpapers, or skins to maintain up-to-date devices.

“We are seeing smartphones growing as a proportion of the overall market thanks to lower prices and increased attention from mobile operators,” Milanesi said. “Consumers love smartphones because an open platform means larger development communities and better usability. “

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