Every 10 years, a cataclysm kills most mobile brands - and we are on the verge of the next

Original author: Tero Kuittinen
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Around 1994, most mobile brands with claims of global dominance disappeared or returned to their home markets. The same thing happened in 2003. And now we are close to the next Death of the Gods, the period of destruction and chaos that only a few manufacturers will survive.

In 1993-1995, the Big Collapse was caused by the transition from analog to digital networks (GSM, TDMA, CDMA). Most vendors were taken aback when GSM began to spread faster than expected. Companies with extensive analog device development programs (IBM, Benefon, Blaupunkt, OKI, etc.) simply could not cope with the rapid changes.

The IBM Simon smartphone was simply outstanding for 1992 with its touchscreen and fax support. Benefon Beta was equipped with a large screen and could work up to 4 days without recharging. However, both manufacturers, with their excellent devices, were swept away from the international market in the mid-90s when the market began to consolidate around Motorola, Ericsson and Nokia - the companies that were the first to switch to digital systems.

Soon, 80% of the fast-growing global mobile phone market was controlled by this Big Three. Then, in the late 90s, new companies entered the digital mobile boom. Siemens, Alcatel, Sagem, Philips, Mitsubishi, NEC and others began an aggressive expansion policy in the global market, which lasted until the early 2000s, when the epic crisis brought them all out of the game.

After a hard shake of the phone market between 2001 and 2003, many believed that the market would never again grow faster than 6% per year. Of course, by the end of 2004, the industry again gained momentum with 30% annual growth in the wake of the introduction of 3G and huge demand from customers for color-screen telephones. And again a group of young applicants appeared on the market - Apple, HTC, LG, Huawei, ZTE and other companies began to implement plans to capture world domination.

And here we are again on the verge of destruction.

The mobile phone industry is pulsating like an amoeba, the number of vendors is decreasing and increasing with about a 10-year cycle. The number of manufacturers grew in the 80s, then in the 90s, then in the 00s. After each explosion, a crisis inevitably followed, which washed away most of the competitors. Around 1994, the trigger was the rapid collapse of the analog phone market, around 2003 the consequences of the financial crisis of 2001. In 2014, this could be a combination of a market slowdown and a deep crisis in Europe.

At the end of 2001, smartphone sales grew by 50% per year. This was the moment when companies, from HTC to Huawei, developed grandiose growth plans, which, in the end, turned out to be very optimistic. By the end of 2012, the smartphone market growth rate fell to a still decent 36%. But if the growth rate falls to 20% by the end of 2013, the time for reckoning will come for the smartphone market.

Weak demand in Europe has already been a factor in slowing shipments for Apple, HTC and LG. Over the past two months, key European markets have shown remarkable weakness: -4% in Germany and -10% in Spain. And since Apple and Samsung flourish there, the places for the rest are Nokia, BlackBerry, HTC, LG, Huawei, ZTE, Sony, etc. - no longer remains.

Most of these companies will be forced to follow in the footsteps of IBM, Siemens, Alcatel, NEC and Mitsubishi - return to home markets or close. One or two will miraculously survive and challenge the almighty duppoly of Sampple. But within three years, we can return to 1998 and see that the three leading brands hold 80% of the global phone market.

And it will all start again.

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