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Once upon a time, a mobile phone was a portable device used to make and receive calls, using radio frequency waves to provide a seamless range of use even as the user travelled between different areas. The first ever mobile phone, launched in 1973, was a prototype with the first cellular network not actually launching until 1979. Following this, it wasn’t until 1983 that the first commercially available mobile phone was launched, sparking a boom in subscriptions in the following 30 years which hit over seven billion individual subscriptions by the year 2014. With enough subscriptions to cater to every human on earth, this could be where the story ended – however, the rise in smartphones rendered that impossible, with consistent new releases meaning that the mobile phone industry is not only growing but is also developing in line with consumer demands and various trends as retailers use vouchers and package deals in order to make mobile phones available for the widest selection of buyers.
In today’s market, with every mobile phone there also lies some form of commitment or subscription contract, and it is these deals which make even the most expensive and high end models available to the mass market.
The development of the industry
The mobile phone market is largely split into a couple of different areas: namely the feature phones which are limited in their capability and mainly support phone calls and text messaging, and the smartphones which are hugely popular today and support all manner of different activities, appearing more like small computer devices than phones.
One of the main things that users and consumers will be aware of is the steep cost of mobile phones. One only has to look at the amount paid by buyers of the new iPhone in order to see how much these handheld smartphone devices are worth. The first iPhone was debuted in the market in 2007 and has since released a new model every year or so, using the huge prominence of the brand name in the industry in order to consistently drive demand for every new product. However, what makes these models affordable for the mass market is not the price tag – it’s the use of contracts, whereby mobile phone manufacturers team up with network contractors in order to create different package levels which allow users to slowly pay off the ownership of their phone through monthly payments which limit and put a cap on how much internet data they can use, how many messages they can send, and how many minutes of phone calls they can make. These contracts are what make such high end mobile phone devices accessible, though for some consumers they prefer to opt for the no-contract Pay as You Go mobile phones.
And the industry is not limited to the sale and contracting of mobile phones alone. Mobile accessories play a huge part in the industry as a whole, taking industry developments and using them to drive sales of accessories which are created to elevate the user experience. An example of this is the development of smartphones with bigger glass screens – leading to the creation of and subsequent sale of screen covers designed as a protective barrier to reduce the risk of users cracking their screens. Similarly, phone cases saw a swift rise in sales as mobile phones became thinner and more fragile in their handling, and mobile phone add-ons and features became increasingly popular with manufacturers and software developers creating demand for apps which support everyday life and various activities.
Today, mobile phones are as much a part of everyday life as money and items of clothing. We are expected to carry mobile phones with us, so much so that many services and industries rely on the presence of mobile phones in order to provide elevated and enhanced user experiences. Social media has become a huge part of daily life and is largely driven by the fact that we all carry our social platforms around with us through our mobile phones – giving us instance access to information, locations, and our contacts and networks – and it is still development, with new apps and platforms appearing every year, targeting new demographics and new consumers.
Top retailers in the mobile phone industry
When you look at the mobile phone industry, there are a number of major industry players which stand out: both in the phone manufacturing sector, and in the network provision sector.
Some of the leading mobile phone manufacturing retailers include:
These tend to sit in a couple of different categories, with smartphones using either an iOS operating system or an Android operating system depending on the brand and model.
These brands can also be broken down by affordability and the way that they are used, with Apple iPhones being notoriously expensive despite the market in reselling old devices and the fact that older models are available at vastly reduced price depending on which network and which retailer you opt for. The majority of these brands however are not like Apple and release new models across every price point in order to meet and drive demand – with Samsung being on example of a brand which produces different phones for different user demographics. What separates the models is a culmination of usable features, software capabilities and apps.
In terms of actually purchasing the phones, the top retailers are those which provide the best deals for consumers – in terms of both the cost price of the phones and the different contracts they offer depending on the user requirements and budget. Some examples include:
- Carphone Warehouse
- Tesco Mobile
- Virgin Mobile
While the top two names in this list offer a variety of different networks within their wide selection of products, the latter four names operate their own high street stores and ecommerce provisions, and focus on their own deals – with consumers generally selecting the network based on reliability and starting cost. These brands and networks tend to use a variety of methods in order to keep customer retention high and ensure that consumers keep coming back to them, offering sporadic upgrades to mobile phone devices, extra features and new benefits to long term customers.
Trends in the mobile phone industry
One of the trends driving new retail sectors in the spotlight under the mobile phone industry umbrella, is the rise in companies and creators who are designing and selling mobile accessories. From the cases and screen protectors mentioned earlier, to software updates, background images and adjustable camera downloads and filters, the way that independent creators and retailers are rising to the demand for stylish phone accessories is such that there are now entire marketplace site pages dedicated to add-ons and features for mobile phones, as well as sections and shelves in technology stores which stock these accessories. And of course, as phone manufacturers and companies continue to roll out new phones with varying size measurements and specifications, so the demand for complimentary accessories will only continue to rise as consumers continue to look for different ways of individualising their own device.
Another trend which has made waves in the mobile phone industry over the last decade is the way that shops, restaurants, service providers and hospitality industry professionals use mobile phone technology to create even more of a rounded and all-inclusive experience for users and customers. In fact, if you think about all the ways in which you use your mobile phone when interacting with a business, the variety of methods seems almost countless. For one thing, organisations must list themselves and their premises on map applications which allow those using a mobile to find them. These locations can be supplemented with additional information and can be supported with website links and contact details for those users who need for information. These websites then need to be mobile optimised so that they appear seamless on a mobile device screen - something which is so important that it now dominates an entire area of the mobile phone sector on its own, with digital marketing professionals specialising in mobile phone optimisation. Then there is the location itself: every time you visit a new website or open the maps application on a mobile device, it will likely ask you if the app or site can know and use your exact location to improve your experience. Not only does this make navigation and directions simpler and more effective, but it allows a retailer to see you are in their store and to present you with targeted and tailored offers in line with that branches range and collection.
This links perfectly with the in store experience itself, with different retailers and companies finding new and improved ways of interacting with customers both through the store itself and through their own mobile devices - besides providing offers. One of the ways that high end and designer retailers are doing this is through interactive shop windows, using popular high street locations like Regent’s Street in London to set up and create engaging social media campaigns where users can input themselves into media campaigns by taking a photo with a select store window display. Hashtags and campaign headlines make these concepts and marketing ideas stand out even more, all relying on mobile phones as the portal to cameras, social platforms, and the internet.
And it is this which identifies and showcases another trend in the mobile phone industry - the increase in users who rely on their phone as a camera and documenting tool of their memories and celebrations. Camera phones have undergone monumental development in the last 20 years, with Samsung creating the first camera phone back in 2000 – capable of taking 20 photos which could be viewed and extracted by connecting the phone with a computer. In essence, though this was the first camera phone, the phone and the camera were housed in one device but as two separate entities: there was no screen on which you could view your phones instantly. Fast forward three years, and the camera phone had been developed for the USA market, and had already sold 80 million devices. Safe to say, the camera phone was a trend that hit a large gap in the market, and is still something that is being developed and improved even today, with the most modern smartphones featuring portrait filming, video and photo editing apps and capabilities, and a variety of different lens’ applications to increase exposure and elevate the photo quality.
And then we have the rise in mobile phone apps and the way that the mobile phone industry is responsible for the growth of a variety of other industries and areas of focus: with each app and its manufacturing company benefitting from the development of mobile phones in supporting various apps and activities. Location-based technology has given apps a huge stepping stone in the way that they can interact with users, for example food delivery apps and taxi apps which use the user location in order to provide a seamless stream of information about available food outlets or taxi cabs, and to deliver what is required as quickly as possible. This also applies to the marketing campaigns of many apps and retailers, with location-based technology giving apps information about where a user is and thus giving the app or the retailer a chance to highlight specific deals which the user might be close in proximity to. An example of this could be used by a café or restaurant: if a user has downloaded your app and walks past your eatery, you could use the app and location technology to send them a notification about a special deal you are promoting in an effort to entice them through the door using their mobile phone.
The fact is, mobile phones and the industry as a whole has created huge waves in the way that consumers live and go about their daily lives, and in the way that they interact with companies and brands. Mobile phones have come along way since their conception, with a huge variety of models now available to make phones accessible to the mass market.
For vouchers and deals on the latest phones and phone accessories, head to our Mobile Phones page.