Attention: Samsung, HTC, and Motorola. Please slow down.

Something that started to bother me back when I owned Mobilitysite was the rate of phone releases. The big 3 (Samsung, HTC, and Motorola) have been churning out devices so fast over the past couple of years. Just before I took a year off, it had gotten to the point where I could do an unboxing and first look of the newest phone to hit the market and by the time I got it uploaded to YouTube a new phone was released. Back when I was reviewing Pocket PCs, between HP and Dell, there were no more than 10 devices launching in a calander year. Now, it seems as if there are 10 a month per manufacturer.

I understand that every consumer is different. Some want a big screen, some a smaller screen. Some want a slide out qwerty keyboard, some are fine with on screen keyboards. Some want pink, some want black. I get this. I am also a fan of upgraded hardware, and I do understand the appeal of having a newer version of a phone drop with bigger and badder specs. Even with all those factors, I still feel as if there are too many phones being released each year.

Why do I care?

Well, there are a couple of reasons that this bothers me personally.

  1. Carrier Subsidization – With the major US carriers offering subsidization on all these smartphones to make them more affordable for the consumer, the average person probably can’t change phones as often as they would like. Sure, you can upgrade every week if you want to pay large off contract prices. I am sure some out there can afford to upgrade several times a year, but I am going to guess that most can’t, myself included. With hot new phones being launched so often, people like me that suffer “Gadgetitis” are itching for a new phone a couple months after getting one. If the OEMs would slow down, it would be easier to settle in on one device for a while. The only other solution is for the carriers to shorten their contract term and/or make ETFs cheaper, but I don’t see that happening, do you?
  2. Keeping up – I used to cover Pocket PCs in a way that I considered pretty thorough. When I could spend a few weeks learning the ins and outs of a new device, I could answer questions and share knowledge about the devices better. With the pace of devices being launched, that’s tough to accomplish. The software is quite similar for all the devices running the same OS, but each manufacturer puts their own touches on the phones. Perhaps I should focus more on the OS than the phones? Maybe. Earlier in the smartphone game, I could tell you specs, shortcuts and more about each smartphone on the market. Now, I have to look up all but the more popular offerings online for specs and other info as I get asked questions.
  3. Updates – Simply put, less offerings = less mess when OS upgrades roll out. If HTC only had 5 current Android phones out there right now, the task of updating them to ICS would be much easier.

Speaking of HTC, they are scaling back in 2012 according to BGR.

BGR has learned from a trusted source that HTC is preparing to switch up the company’s strategy a bit in 2012. In order to focus getting quality products to market, we have heard that HTC’s release schedule is going to be shockingly quiet for most of the first quarter next year. HTC will also release fewer phones overall in 2012 compared to 2011, we’re told.

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This is great news!

Quality > Quantity? Right. The good thing is that HTC normally brings quality even when delivering quantity.

There are a lot of things other companies can learn from Apple too. Why don’t you see lines for HTC or Samsung phones? Because the consumer doesn’t have to wait a year for a single new model. Maybe if OEMs would release fewer models and hype them like Apple, you would start seeing more lines (not that I want lines, though I think you see what I’m getting at). Release a “Flagship” device on each carrier for each OS. Maybe twice a year, maybe a little more.

I was looking for a photo I took a few years ago for this story and came across one of my photos on Windows Phone Thoughts, formerly Pocket PC Thoughts. It’s not the photo that was funny, it’s the 1st comment to the story discussing my review of the HTC Fuze back in 2008.

At the rate HTC’s churning new models out:

1) HTC buyers would be pissed off their new phone is obsolete next week
2) Sony is pissed off their phone took over 6mth to start to sell 

Of course all my opinions and about five bucks will get you a coffee at Starbucks. The perfect world I am dreaming up in my head doesn’t necessarily align with economics of the carriers or OEMs.

 

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Comments

  1. Adam Truelove says

    Personally, it doesn’t bother me.  Let the consumers have what they want.  I will buy nothing but Nexus from now on, even if that means buying one 6 months after it came out.  There is only one iPhone per year, and there is only one Nexus per year.  All other phones don’t count.  My year old Nexus will be running the new version of Android less than a month after it is released while all other phones are still waiting on last year’s version.

  2. GTaylor says

    Real world? Try this. Talk to people across various demographics with in the entire buying public. Find out what devices and features they are actually using. Find some method to separate the play features from the useful features. Pay particular attention to the phones and features that have shown several years staying power across various devices and services. That is as close to the real world as you are likely to get in this field.

    Now for your dream world. Put the results of your research into a moderately priced phone, in a few basic form factors, with a simple service agreement. After a couple of years of close customer support by both carrier and service you will have a large group of well trained users and you can make discrete additions to both device and service. You will also eliminate churn and annoying marketing campaigns.

    None of the above is complicated, impractical, or radical. I take that back. The idea that business is the art of finding a profitable way to meet other people’s needs while relying on others to meet your needs in a profitable manner is about as radical as it gets in this field.

    For homework:
    Compare the Real World with the Dream World and explain the difference to someone who is responsible for the difference.

  3. Phil at Nokia says

    Great post!

    Bu c’mon, how can you mention “the big 3″ without mentioning Nokia, biggest of them all. :-)

    Nah nah, I kid.  I believe Nokia’s number of devices each year have gone down by maybe 40%(?) or so.  It’s always a great discussion: Should you have a specific phone for every specific type of user?  Or be one-size-fits-all like Apple.  Me?  I want a pink phone.  Any phone, as long as it’s pink. :-P

    • Chris Leckness says

      I hope to see Nokia as a MAJOR US smartphone player soon. With the WP7 Deal and the aggressive pricing, I can see it happening. You have to admit, even though the N series is awesome, the US presence is lacking. Nokia’s namesake is deep in the US because of their excellent feature phones so getting them to buy smartphones shouldn’t be tough.

  4. Anonymous says

    I think mobile phones, and mobile phone manufacturers, and still transitioning from technology-driven to marketing-driven.
    Technology driven means bringing any new tech/device/capability asap. Think hard disks RAM…
    Marketing driven means paying more attention to market cycles, advertising… Think cars, clothes…
    Looking at how Apple went from market-leading to lagging, both in arket share and features, I’m thinking it’s still a bit early to go marketing-drivent as they’re doing. 

  5. Peter Thompson says

    I think that while there are possibly too many smart phones from some manufacturers, some like apple release too few, e.g. didn’t that problem with left hand users take quite a while to fix?

    I think part of the problem with a lot of phones today is its not how good it is, but how good it looks. Someone who works in a phone shop wouldn’t listen to me when I told them the samsung galaxy s2 actually had a more powerful processor than the iphone 4s – Apple is just a fashion accessory in my opinion that people buy just because they can and to show people they can. Why else would they choose one over a phone with the same features and cheaper?

    I also wonder if the amount of phones being released is partly due to the public. People complain about batteries, I even saw a blog complaining that his smart phones battery life was bad compared to the phone he had 10 years ago that could last a few days. The problem is that the public want phones that do everything and more and maybe don’t give the manufacturers the chance to actually improve their batteries and other technologies. They know they have to fill their phones to the brim with features or the customers will pick the next phone instead.

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