The Current State of the Mobile Phone Industry

Technology is something that is a part of everyone’s lives. From the smartphone in our pockets to the laptop I’m writing this blog on, it’s everywhere. Worryingly though, the majority of consumers are overwhelmed by the vast choice they have and the different numbers companies use to obfuscate device specifics.

Just recently, one of my friends and my girlfriend have both been in the market for a new phone, and bearing in mind both my interest and my area of study (Computing), I offered to help. So I plunged headfirst into the phone market and started researching.

My first thought was I missed the days when monstrosities like the Nokia NGage were a thing.

1920px-nokia-ngage-ll
By Evan-Amos – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=33692791

Bloody hideous, a flawed concept from the start and the beginning of the end for Nokia, but so very different from everything else.Different form factors such as flip and sliding phones ruled, and it was easy to just point and pick a phone on which you thought would be the most comfortable. No such luck anymore in a world where smartphones are externally very similar.

So how then, does the average consumer differentiate between the myriad of similar looking devices? The next step is to look at the specifications of the internal hardware of the phone and we need to look at the software it is running, in short we need to get really picky. This in itself is complicated by product names and minute differences in microprocessor architecture, for example, without looking, do you know which is better out of the MediaTek helio P10 or the Exynos 8?

The whole system is designed to be a mess. The entire complicated system allows retailers to pretty much say whatever they want to customers, who have to then trust that they’ve got their best interests at heart and when commission is involved that is by no means certain. It’s no wonder then that consumers flock to the iPhone platform. It’s a name that they know, and many trust. I shall save my opinions on Apple for a separate blog as they are numerous and not flattering.

So, what’s the solution? Well a potential solution in the works is coming out of Google.

project_ara_scattered_parts
Source

Project Ara sees consumers buying a frame, and then features that matter to them. Care about a camera? You can buy a good camera module, or if you don’t, you don’t have to have a camera at all. The theme is choice. They have several fancy product videos which show the system off well. There are however, some issues:

  • It’s not available yet
  • Google need to have good support from third party manufacturers to get a good range of modules, else the ecosystem will fail
  • There is real potential for this system to be very pricey

Despite these issues, Project Ara has real potential to shake up the phone industry massively.

So without waiting for new systems or trawling the internet for years, what advice can I give? Honestly nothing beats going into a shop and holding the phones. Find ones that feel nice in the hand as this is incredibly important in a device people will be holding onto for years. Once a few have been found to be agreeable, heading online and looking up reviews is a way to ensure there are no glaring issues present. Review sites such as techradar are perfect for ensuring devices aren’t a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Or just buy an iPhone and be done with it as the sale of their Billionth device summarises current market trends perfectly.

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