There’s no question that smartphones are a technological marvel. They serve as calculators, computers, video cameras, televisions, watches, alarm clocks, GPS systems, personal planners and even encyclopedias. Since even the most basic smartphone is now capable of such a vast number of functions, consumers are questioning the wisdom of spending top dollar for the latest versions of name-brand smartphones.
Top dollar in the smartphone world has become the equivalent of a year’s salary in some parts of the real world. The cost of the latest apple iPhone, with extra storage, is close to $1000. Multiple surveys have revealed that the one improvement that consumers would most like to see in an upgrade is improved battery life. Ironically, that’s the one improvement that hasn’t been delivered. The rated battery life of the iPhone 6S is exactly the same as that of the previous version.
One of the reasons that battery life is such an issue is that smartphone manufacturers don’t just make money selling smartphones. They also make money from making deals with app developers. Those deals are why smartphones are pre-loaded with many applications that consumers will never use, and in many cases, don’t want. Those pre-loaded apps are often referred to as bloatware, and they are a real drain on battery life.
The number of applications available for everything from gaming to shopping to star-gazing is astonishing. The Apple iPhone 6 Plus has the storage capacity for approximately 4,080 apps. That’s probably more apps than a human being would have time to utilize even if they were to spend every waking moment of their lives trying.
Data collected with permission from 5000 U.S. Android and iOS smartphone users from various demographic groups revealed some interesting facts. Perhaps the most interesting was that despite the fact that app stores carry over a million apps, the average consumer only uses 26.7 apps per month. Gaming apps were the most popular, followed by music, video and movies. Another study revealed that 85 percent of the time people spend on their smartphones is spent using just five non-native apps.
This data provides some pretty persuasive evidence that spending top dollar for the latest upgrade of a brand name smartphone may not be the smartest purchase. The number of cost increases of these phones have now exceeded the number of new features by a wide margin. Although Apple and Samsung have done a great job in developing brand loyalty, just as in the automobile industry, many of their most loyal customers are now choosing to buy last year’s model at year-end prices.
Those for whom affordability is more important than brand loyalty are impressed by some of the reviews received by lesser-known smartphone manufacturers like Xiaomi and Huawei. Some of their phones, while comparable, cost less than half the price of their more famous competitors. Along with a lower cost, more good news is that most app developers don’t restrict their applications to a specific generation or smartphone type.
In a comparison between the Xiaomi MI4 and the Samsung Galaxy S5, the two phones received identical ratings in the design, display, software, and performance categories. While the camera and battery life were rated slightly higher for the Samsung model, the Xiaomi rated higher in the value for money category. Similarly, user ratings of the Huawei P8 were 8.5, a mere .5% difference from the 9.0 of the Samsung Galaxy S6.
Perhaps in the not-too-distant future, a new smartphone feature will be introduced that will justify the higher cost. For example, Apple recently filed a patent for what could one day become solar-powered battery charging technology. Since longer battery life is the innovation most requested by consumers, that technology might be the next to revolutionize the smartphone industry.
Just as with every revolutionary new innovation, everyone will want to be the first in line to purchase it. Not having to worry about plugging into a charger would represent the same level of freedom as going from a landline to wireless technology. The higher cost of a smartphone with a solar-powered battery would be offset by lower energy costs. In a culture that sometimes values instant gratification too much, sometimes the smartest thing consumers can do is wait.