Where to grow smartphones

    Once upon a time, $ 1,000 per phone was a psychological frontier, the roof of the world, under which only the top gadgets were stacked. Above the roof, there was simply nowhere to improve performance - the area of ​​jewelry and accessories was already beginning there. A check of intuitive representations with reality went through Apple with the price line for iPhones of 2018 (only the iPhone XR could keep itself within the three-digit sums, but the price tag for the upgraded “tens” only stepped in there neatly with a foot, marking at the boundary of $ 999 - and fell apart comfort for all $ 1449 for XS Max 512 GB), which rang out in response to the market with a roar, noting the achievement of a glass ceiling. Justification by the number of gigabytes available burst under the load of Apple's prices hung on it: half a terabyte of memory for one and a half thousand bucks could already be explained only by the pathos of the “most expensive iPhone” - in other words, ponty. That is, a variable from the jewelry and accessories market.

    When memory grew from 16 gigabytes to 32, from 32 to 64, from 64 to 128 - Apple's pricing policy worked flawlessly because it was about the difference that mattered. But, starting with 128 GB on a smartphone, the memory becomes just enough - enough to not remember about it anymore, for example. Half a terabyte, a terabyte of memory on the iPhone - this is a hangar for a bicycle. And it’s not so scary as to manage to completely fill such volumes - and, for example, lose the phone.
    In general, a trick like "terabyte for $ 1999" began to look too risky even for Apple. Reports on disappointing sales also drew attention to the fact that for several years Apple was not increasing the number of handsets sold, but their price. There was talk that the era of iPhones is ending, and smartphones, as a product, have exhausted their growth potentials. Given that the “iPhones”, in fact, have opened up the smartphone market in their modern form - the logical transition from “Apple missed” to the future of smartphones seems justified.

    Continuation: a roadmap for turning into a full-fledged computer .

    If you look at the smartphone market from a short historical distance, you will see that it is not just very young, but really not even formed, while being in search of its price limits.

    In a well-established market, consumers are more or less aware of the price order: let's say cars are something in a five-digit range, from $ 10,000 to $ 99,999, and in six-figure amounts, luxury rather than a means of transportation is valued, but it is also within clear limits of the price range formed market niche.

    The boundaries of any established market are more or less outlined - but not by the will of its players, but by the territory of other markets. Of which there are many - but one buyer.

    The car market from above is already squeezing the real estate market - each person who is interested in buying both a car and an apartment has his own price threshold, beyond which he no longer counts cylinders, but rooms. I think that the global median of these ideas somewhere in the region of $ 100,000 will pass, but the specific position of the borders is not as important as their presence, and more importantly, the principle of their formation: position in the hierarchy of human values.

    Smartphones are still outside of this hierarchy. Mankind has clearly not yet decided on their value relative to other benefits. As with what a smartphone is, in principle.

    21st century, zero: the birth of a smartphone

    The evolution of smartphones began as a continuation of the evolution of phones. In the 90s, phones fell off the wires - and began to be called mobile. In zero mobile phones wiser - and began to be called smartphones.

    In the process, smartphones exterminated entire classes and types of individual devices as immigrants - bisons, devastating once rich ecosystems, not excluding internal cannibalism: the pieces of iPod that were not eaten by the iPhone went to the Apple Watch - in general, modern smarts are made from fragments of their victims as Jeepers- Creepers. But, while this was happening within the same price and overall category, there was nothing unusual in this consolidation.

    XXI century, tenths: the heyday of smartphones

    In the tenth smartphones ceased to be phones - at least to a greater extent than they were cameras, for example: when was the last time you paid attention to GSM or even LTE bands in the specifications of your device? And the number of megapixels, the presence of HDR, the number of cameras on all sides and the geometric shape that their combination takes will still excite the imagination of users and market expectations. Because users continue to take pictures - and they want to take them further and shoot videos. But no one is buying smartphones to make calls. The relative importance of telephone functionality has given way to the gaming, and even to the boring calendar with reminders.

    The last time I had to remember voice calls was the “feature” of FaceTime with the inclusion of a microphone when an incoming call without notifying the user. I jumped to check the settings - and immediately calmed down: FaceTime was turned off last year.

    But over the past 3 years, smarts have quietly opened their mouths to what seemed like the next step in the hierarchy: electronics up to $ 1000 and above.

    With the prices of the iPhone 6, Apple has stepped into the category accessible to devices with larger screens, more convenient keyboards, more universal operating systems, giving rise to class stratification not only between apple producers and everyone else, but also between generations of apple producers.

    In 2018, Apple reached the $ 1.5K milestone, and the subsequent hit on sales showed the limits of the niche for smartphones in the current configuration.

    According to the logic of evolution, smartphones should have discarded the root “background”, indicating the pedigree from the invention of Alexander Graham Bell - and become the same atavism as the prefix “background” in the names of modern descendants of the noble families - or replace it with the defining sign of a new stage of evolution. Which is ....

    A smartphone is no longer a phone, but nothing more. Now it’s just smart: the prefix “smart” in anticipation of a new quality - the arrival of which is inevitable. Because demand has not gone anywhere - and users still, apparently, will for a long time need this or that portable mobile personal device.

    XXI century, twenties: the next step

    Now smarts are in the same price category with the most popular classes and models of laptops, putting the consumer before a choice - he has only one wallet. No matter how paradoxical this situation may seem, no matter how different these types of devices and their market niches may seem - to the consumer this paradox turned out to be beneficial, forcing to update old habits: as it turned out, not everyone needs PCs in all their full format - for For many, all really significant functions fit in smart (and the most important thing from what did not fit, many found in game consoles) - and the money spent on all this eliminated the need to even think about upgrading a home PC.

    The situation with the offer of technologies is completely the opposite of the hopeless one: the spread of options is such that the market of “smart?” S is in a state similar to quantum uncertainty: some kind of movement is clearly going on, but until the market drives out somewhere, to predict where he will taxi, it will be impossible.

    There is one thing in common between them: a device that is still mistaken by someone for a phone with a bunch of extra features that burst into our lives and changes it - the significance ceiling of which we have not even felt for money.

    Probably, at the new stage, the breakthrough feature will no longer be communication opportunities - which, of course, will not lose their significance and continue to grow.

    It’s just that the potential of technological breakthrough is accumulating, most likely, in some other area.

    • It can be augmented reality, blurring the boundaries between reality and the information space. Perhaps the development of technology this time will allow the stars to converge more successfully than in the case of Google Glass.
    • Or, on the contrary, is virtual reality - and a gradual movement from the state of a biological being that only opened the door and stuck its nose into the information space, into the informational essence, living in this space?
    • And, perhaps, the “smarts” have already completed their task - and somewhere in a frantic stream of data, communication, for the most part, not between people or people and machines, but between machines and machines at ever deeper levels with people somewhere on the external circuit, we will meet not just with AI, but our god - in its most fundamental interpretation, as it was represented by our ancient ancestors and every child to this day: the one who fulfills desires - and each of us already has our own personal access to his ear.
    • Perhaps somewhere in the bends of the new flexible displays, an original form factor will be found. Especially if it can be combined with previously unsuccessful attempts to push smartphones out of the niche of the most convenient mobile gadgets - for example, with a wristwatch.
    • A special option for something completely unexpected.

    So, despite the fierce awakening of 2018, the border of $ 1,500 can be extremely situational. The development of AR, VR and AI will fill the growing price tag and with something more substantial than the increased screen diagonal and memory size.

    This is already the price category of top computers - for example, the luxurious Microsoft Surface line and their own MacBooks with Aimaks, which future generations of the iPhone, of course, will not eat, but they can bite.

    Even minus the factor of some future innovations that are still unknown, there is a very real potential unification of the mobile and desktop OS, and a breakthrough in keyboardless input methods and an effective alternative to monitors for entering visual information is not a matter of probability, but of time.

    21st Century, Beyond Forecast

    The question of the boundary of a niche is a question of the limit of utility. In searching and trying out new forms, trying hybrids and new features that expand the functionality of smarts, manufacturers will inevitably reach the limits of consumer patience: “But I don’t need it here; I better satisfy this need in another way ”- which embeds, thereby, a new type of device in the general hierarchy of its needs.

    Is it possible that they will go beyond the price niche of even top-end computer equipment, going to the level where the user is weighing the purchase of a conditional iPhone instead of a conditional Merc?

    This does not seem like a completely insane assumption, if you pay attention to the kind of counter-courses that are driving the development of the auto industry, the main long-term trend of which is the transition to unmanned vehicles, and the gadget industry, led by Apple and its experiments from CarPlay to a hypothetical unmanned Apple Car.

    One of the consequences of turning the driver into a passenger will be the loss of the previously strong brand spirit and personality in cars - after all, most of this, one way or another, was projected onto the driver through the driver’s experience.

    Excluding the “driver’s feelings”, the real possibilities for car manufacturers to demonstrate the “character of the brand” will be much less - and this may mean a complete reversal of the trend, when the current biodiversity of the auto industry is replaced by unification and standardization, which ultimately reduces cars to platforms for efficient and safe movement in space - like elevators that only move horizontally.

    However, this does not necessarily mean the death of automotive brands - and certainly does not mean the death of brands in general. They just have to look for another channel for broadcasting the "unique spirit of the brand", having shifted focus from the vehicle to much closer to the person.

    People who express themselves now through the choice of a car will only increase the demand for other means of expressing the style with which they want to be associated. Again, there is nothing incredible about this - almost all brands now produce clothes and accessories with varying degrees of success. And smarts (at least backgrounds, at least watch, at least glasses) or other gadgets will easily seize the image initiative.

    In the end, if the romance of conquerors of the sky of the beginning of the 20th century, who once made dead loops on their biplanes, could shrink to the point of “aviators”, then what are the worse cars?

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