How manufacturers try to stand out in the smartphone market

How manufacturers try to stand out in the smartphone market

In 2016, for the first time ever, smartphone sales dropped to 6%, meaning only 20.2 million devices were sold globally. This is despite a  phone market that was, on the whole, up by 5%. In brief, this means a shortfall of around $3.6 million. This is most visible within the market for mid-range devices, those which cost between $200 and $400, as the competition between the brands has become fierce. In order to stand out from the competition manufacturers have come up with a range of ideas to attract users, though only with a limited degree of success. Here are their techniques. 

Flagships at a mid-range price

Regularly called ‘mediums’, these new smartphones first appeared in 2015 and, even today, are difficult to define as they are caught between being a mid-range and a top-range device. They offer attractive technical specifications (powerful processor, excellent camera, Full-HD screen…) for a relatively small price (between $300 and $400).

The first company to use this category was OnePlus with its OnePlus One model. It met with immediate success, but since then the young Chinese manufacturer has had difficulties keeping up to the standard they set. Years have passed since then, and OnePlus hasn't changed their technique: offer a flagship for the price of a good, mid-range device. Many other manufacturers, having seen how successful the OnePlus strategy was, followed in the company's footsteps. This was particularly the case for Honor with its Honor 7 and Honor 8 devices. 

oneplus one screen w1218h580
The OnePlus One was one of the pioneers in this area. / © NextPit

Original features and / or stylish design

Faced with more and more competition and lower prices, some brands have tried to play the ‘originality’ card by offering a never before seen characteristic or feature that is clearly a step outside of their comfort zone.

At MWC 2017, just as an example, Alcatel introduced a smartphone that has a case with several LEDs that light the cover up whenever it receives a notification. While this feature will be completely useless for many people, this isn't necessarily the case for younger users. This is a phone that would allow them to stand out at a lower price. For the brand, it's a clever way of attracting attention to itself and get ahead of the competition. This is a risky method and there can be commercial setbacks. LG and their modular smartphone, the LG G5, is an obvious example.

androidpit alcatel a5 led back
It’s hard to go unnoticed with lights like that. / © NextPit

Another method used by some manufacturers: the design! For a number of years, the mid-range smartphone sector had been inundated with smartphones that left a lot to be desired in terms of design and build. Many manufacturers have changed tactics and now offer devices that are more aesthetically pleasing. A striking example of this is the latest Galaxy A5 (2017) by Samsung. For less than $400, you can get your hands on a smartphone that is similar to the Galaxy S7.

Effective (or not) product placement

Another technique that has helped brands to stand out is product placement or using celebrities to promote their products. With the release of the Honor 8, Honor entered into a partnership with the French singer, Louane. More recently, Alcatel was featured in the latest music clip by Matt Pokora, which featured the A5 LED. The brand gained more visibility and, of course, the artist got a nice check - everybody wins. Whether or not this is more effective than a conventional advertising campaign remains to be seen.

A strong presence in stores and with operators

It's important not to forget: the vast majority of smartphone sales are done in physical shops or via phone contracts directly with the operators. It’s essential for manufacturers to have a strong presence with the operators and high-tech stores. Competition is fierce, and generally the manufacturers will work damn hard to get a good spot on the shelves. Finally, the professional market is another way for manufacturers to make sales by supplying companies with their smartphones.

Can you think of any other techniques manufacturers use to entice us? How effective do you think these are in attracting customers? Let us know in the comments below. 


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  • Albin Foro Mar 21, 2017 Link to comment

    How do consumers pick their phones? Most just pick the major brands offered by their telcos. My guess is other OEMs are trying like heck to get on the offer-lists of major telcos, where consumers will feel most comfortable buying a device - knowing there will not be compatibility headaches with the separate tech supports at the telco and the OEM blaming each other and no help to you.

    My telco offers the ZTE phone I eventually bought elsewhere (unlocked and lower price) mainly because I know for sure the model had been tested for issues. I've noticed that the most usual question about unlocked and little known brands on Amazon is "Will this phone work with Telco1, Telco2, etc." Sophisticated readers here might have more confidence and be choosing on other bases, but the road to big sales is to sell in the mass market of big telco consumers.

  • Andrew Burgin Mar 21, 2017 Link to comment

    The future galaxy S8 models without the Samsung logo on the Front just shows that sometimes the Bezels at the Top or Bottom of phones are just for the logo of the companies name,just can't wait to see Sony reaction to the S8 or LG G6 without bezels on the Front,as there's have always been the biggest bezels at the Top or Bottom of there phones and take up so much usage of there phones screens

    • Moisés Mar 22, 2017 Link to comment

      Sony has said to keep 16:9 because all content made by Sony Pictures and Play Station is 16:9.
      The camera sensor used on Xperia and Pixel are bigger than others. Hard to fit behind screen, that is why it is above it.
      Front speaker needs more space too.

      I am sure XZ Premium is going to be way better to hold in landscape than G6 or S8.

  • ljhaye Mar 21, 2017 Link to comment

    Another way to standout is having the ability to control a dynamic global distribution chain, the only Android manufacture with this currently is Samsung. Hence another reason for their ongoing success with Android.

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