If this comes as a surprise to anyone – it shouldn’t. The smartphone market has seen a drop in sales for the past several quarters, and its overall year-to-year trend has not been optimistic. As an industry that some marketing analysts see being in the maturity stage of the product life cycle, the dominant smartphone companies are having to deal with some new realities.
The Big Four – Apple, Samsung, Google, and Microsoft – are the companies that get the most attention in the smartphone market. However, as of now Microsoft is really a minor player since they came in late in the game and are still playing catchup. Apple continues to lead the pack, but its failure to innovate sans Steve Jobs is telling, and despite Apple’s claim that is remains an innovative company it hasn’t shown much of anything that is new.
What Samsung and Google have in common in the competition is the Android operating system. This is a plus and a minus for both companies as consumers have historically preferred the iconic simplicity of iOS, and consumer preferences are not likely to change in a mature product life cycle stage. But younger people are open to change, and Google’s Pixel has some nice features that can push it to the head of the class.
First, Pixel has Google Night Sight, a feature that is more likely to appeal to the late night night club goers than Grandpa Magoo who is likely to be in bed by 9 p.m. The lowlight performance of the camera has earned it very positive reviews, so it’s not a feature that is included just to sell smartphones.
Next is the debatable but worthy of mention fact that Google’s AI surpasses Apple’s Siri. Again, this is more important to younger people who are more likely to depend on their smartphone for everything from ordering pizza to using GPS when they get lost. And again, this is a place Apple needs to improve or one of its major iPhone selling points of the past will be left in the Matrix.
The phrase “pain point” has become more common when talking about smartphones, and with Google they have been able to discover that in the smartphone competition – price. Apple’s iPhone prices have continued to move upward, and even devoted fans of the iPhone are asking what is it that they are getting for their money. Google had started the price of their Pixel 3 XL at just under $900 but have since made discounts available, leaving casual iPhone users wondering why they should pay several hundred dollars more for the same basic features.
It may come as a surprise to Apple but many people use very few of the total available features of a smartphone. A select number of apps, the phone (maybe), and a heavy dose of texting are the main uses of many smartphones. Younger people are far more likely to max out the use of their smartphones. So until Apple gives consumers a significant reason to pay out hundreds of dollars more just to have the Apple status, a thing that has likely seen its best days, Google will continue to erode Apple’s share of the market.
When it comes to Samsung, Google has about a six month advantage in the development of the next Android evolution in Pie. This is a slim time frame advantage, but with a smartphone market that is starting to see a lack of interest by consumers to upgrade their phone every year or 18 months it can be significant.
For the iPhone to be replaced by what comes out to be a slightly better, slightly more innovative, and definitely lower cost Pixel is no longer a fantasy. Pixel is the only smartphone that has shown growth in sales recently, and after looking at the possible reasons it appears price is the driving force. Apple and Samsung have a unique relationship when it comes to the manufacture of Apple’s iPhone, though the decline of iPhone sales may not impact Samsung as much as it first appears. But what seems to be clear is that Google has positioned itself against both Apple and Samsung, and is starting to turn the tide in what can be seen as a household essential in the 21st century.