As the world becomes ever more connected, a day doesn’t seem to pass where new Innovations are being announced; this is on top of events like CES (Consumer Electronics Show) every January, MWC (Mobile World Congress) every February and the plethora of bespoke individual announcements during the year from manufactures and software providers like Apple, Google, Microsoft and Samsung.
In my view we are now heading towards an interesting precipice where actually going “back to basics” may reap massive rewards. Over the last decade we have seen numerous advances in consumer technology which has increased choice and driven down costs, however let’s focus on Tablets as an example.
We all became interested in tablets when Apple launched the original iPad (9.7inch) back in 2010; we then saw the 7 and 10 inch Samsung Galaxy Tabs arrive and we now have the iPad Mini, Nexus 7 and Microsoft Surface (There have been numerous less notable other products during this period). There is a pending Samsung Galaxy Note 8 and various large form factor smart phones appearing (or to coin the new phrase phablets). You can now get the tablet of your choice from 5 inches upwards running most popular operating systems at a variety of costs.
During the last few years it has been relatively easy for successful manufacturers to innovate as in addition to making their products more desirable they just needed to launch the same device in another form factor every year to stimulate sales as seen above. We are however approaching a saturation point where all size combinations are covered; so what next? Naturally updated versions of IOS, Android, Windows, Firefox and Ubuntu will be a selling point for some, however when we look at the second purchase consumers (i.e. there is a large population of early adopters who purchased the original iPad which is now slowly becoming obsolete as it is unable to upgrade to iOS 6 and popular apps cannot be updated) what will they do next? A reflection point will exist for all of these consumers as suddenly they will have a choice of operating system, form factor and price. When Tablets first arrived they were purchased on their desirability, however now there is choice users, will start to focus on the usability, functionality and cost. This will then drive a contraction in the market as manufactures once again are forced to innovate their product lines rather than just the form.
One company which is starting to go “back to basics” is Nokia. Clearly the market has not been kind to them over recent years with falling revenues and who knows how popular Windows 8 will be, however I think they may have a plan. Over the last few years Innovation within the Mobile and Personal Computer Space has led to complexity of choice for the consumer. Ten year ago the choice was easy, Mobile for Calls, Camera for pictures and Computer for the Internet. Over recent years this all merged with the Smartphone, Phablet, Laptop, Ultrabook, and Tablet all able to access the internet, take photos and make audio and video calls. However I think a few things were been lost in translation. When I am at home I do want a fully functional device that can do everything, so a PC or full fat Tablet makes the grade. When commuting I do like to catch up on emails and surf the Internet so small factor Tablets and Smartphones fit the bill (Most people already have a work Smartphone so if they have a personal phone do not need two), however when I go to the pub or out with the family I want a phone with good camera with limited Internet options, maybe to do a search or look at a map or upload my photos but small enough to put it in my pocket and still sit down. Not having to charge it every few hours would also be a bonus. Where did all the quality small mobiles disappear to that Nokia used to make in the 90s?
The good news is they may be on their way back; Nokia recently announced the Nokia 105 and 301 and as an additional phone have some interesting features:
Nokia 105 – 2G Basic Phone with 35 Days Standby
Nokia 301 – 3G Phone with 3.2 MP Camera including 100 Degree Panorama, Sequential Shooting, Internet and 936 Hours Standby.
In a crowded marketplace Nokia may have found a way to get back its crown. I certainly would try one, and with billions of people worldwide yet to obtain a Smartphone the revenues from a cheap, reliable and functional device could be immense.
Innovation is important however you should never forget the Customer requirements, the overriding feature of a phone is to make calls.