There’s a lot of stories in the press about luxury phones at the moment, probably because of a revelation by Chris Harris, marketing director of Nokia’s Vertu phones, that the company cannot keep up with demand for the 5K-100K handsets. Of course, that’s most likely because they’re hand-built in a British workshop rather than any excessive consumer demand.
These phones sell based on “the charm of diamonds and the sophistication of gold”, although personally I’d find a solid gold handset a little heavy.
The most interesting aspect in all of this is that the average upgrade cycle for a mobile phone is only a couple of years — buying a status symbol is one thing, but spending up to $1.2 million on a phone that’s going to be obsolete within a few years is just… so these handsets don’t have the latest technological features, or even the second latest, but they’ll still work for a while. “The market for selling mobiles is getting very mature, and we are reaching a plateau of innovation that makes the technology inside relevant for longer periods of time…”These phones offer all the technical things that people really use, not the latest mobile phone functions,” Olivier said. “The most important function for many users might be a hot line we will put in to get you a concierge service.”
Let’s move on to designer phones of a more technological nature — the latest doing the rounds is the Onyx, which doesn’t have any buttons. “The Onyx device understands signs and gestures, thanks to the sensitive touch pad covering most of its surface. It opens and closes applications when swiped by one or two fingers. The phone recognizes shapes and body parts. Lift Onyx to your cheek and it will pick up a call.” These kinds of innovations will appeal to some people, and the variety of phones on the market is going to increase…and when I hear that sort of thing the first thing that pops into my head is “oh, those poor developers”. Porting an application to phones with different button layouts is one thing, but porting it to a phone with no buttons is another matter entirely. Whether or not that puts a limit on the new phones depends on whether or not the industry can convince the majority of the public that phones can be used for more than voice calls.
“Future cell phones may be closely linked to users’ lifestyles and interests, such as gaming, politics, and college sports”, which is already happening in a few instances but isn’t overly successful (N-Gage, ESPN), but it may be where the market is heading.