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Evolution of the Smart Phone Market

The smart phone market is growing at a very fast pace. The number of smart phones sold world-wide is expected to grow at a pace of more than 15% a year. This is what we call a Developing market. The smart phone market portrays some interesting developments you might expect to see in other fast-growing markets.

Apple really made the market take flight with its original iPhone. Apple has migrated into the high-end, Performance Leader, part of the market with its iPhone4, selling for $199 with a two year contract. (See the Symptom & Implication, “The industry leaders are losing share” on StrategyStreet.com.) Wisely, Apple kept its old iPhone3 GS on the market as a lower-cost product, selling for $99 with a two year contract.

Competitors have been stumped trying to outflank Apple with new and better functionality. Apple simply has too many apps for most competitors. Only the Android phones, using the Google operating system, have gained share. Nokia and Research In Motion have both lost substantial share in the smart phone market. So, what are the competitors to do? (See the Symptom & Implication, “Competitors in formerly underdeveloped markets have begun meeting one another” on StrategyStreet.com.)

In this market, as in other Developing markets, the competitors strip out some of the expensive benefits of the product and introduce a new lower Price Point. In the smart phone market, the new lower Price Point still delivers one of the most important benefits of a smart phone, internet access. Because these new Price Points have fewer benefits, they cost less and allow the companies to sell to the carriers at lower prices than the Apple i4 product. (See the Symptom & Implication, “Low end products are gaining share of the market” on StrategyStreet.com.) In turn, the wireless service carriers offer lower priced package deals to their users when the packages include the new lower-priced smart phones.

Two developments are of note here. First, the evolution of the market. In this case, as in others, the market develops a new lower Price Point product that satisfies some of the basic needs of the current customer group. More importantly, the new Price Point attracts a new cohort of customers due to its lower prices. Second, prices decline in the market despite the fact that the market is growing very quickly. Prices are declining because costs are going down. Yes. But they are also declining under the press of competition in a market where margins are high enough to sustain lower prices with still-acceptable margins. Virtually all fast growing markets witness falling prices.

Posted 1/27/11

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