It has been the fastest, most dynamic industry on earth for a decade – but the smartphone business has a bumpy ride on the road?
In this week’s Tech Tent podcast, I reported from the mobile world congress in Barcelona, despite the hype about 5 g and augmented reality, but pending a nagging question: mobile innovation slow?
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Mobile world congress is an event where you can see what all the mobile giants except Apple are trying to do.
But this year, only two products have caught the attention: samsung’s unveiling of the Galaxy S9, which we all “deal with” by augmented reality and nokia events.
Nokia, once a major player in the mobile phone industry, is making a comeback under the brand’s new owner, HMD Global. HMD sold 70 million phones last year, including millions of retro 3110, but HMD repeated the trick of matching old tastes with the new line of smartphones.
According to chief executive Florian Seiche, the new nokia 8110 “bananaphone” will be a gentle introduction to applications such as GuGe smart assistants for people who have not yet entered the smartphone era.
At least it looks different – you can’t say the art of samsung’s Galaxy S9. Ben Wood of CCS Insight told Tech Tent that it was an “iteration device” and that the Korean giant’s pure marketing capability would still be good.
But Mr Wood, who has been at the MWC for 20 years, is disappointed by what he calls “the sea of intellectual wisdom”.
He is worried that some of the smaller players in the industry: “if you don’t have a brand, and you have a ‘me too’ Android phones, the rest all look the same, and you don’t have money behind it, you will struggle. ”
The designers of the nokia 8110, Andrea fink-anlauff, have a different view of mobile innovation. She was surprised and delighted to hear HMD Global bring it back: “it convinced me that the user experience is really the key to making things last and working for people.”
The lack of new features may be one reason smartphone shipments slipped last year. It seems that consumers are becoming more cautious about upgrading, because the latest models are not a big step forward for the products they already own.
But one company has little reason to worry about the turbulence in the industry. China’s huawei is, in some ways, third in the global smartphone market. The only cloud in the sky is the ambitious resistance of American politicians, who prefer mobile operators to dissuade them from providing the company’s phones.