Tag Archives: smartphones

A smartphone is a poor, and the poor’s, choice for broadband

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If a smartphone was the killer Internet access solution that AT&T claims it is – usually when trying to divert attention from substandard or even non-existent wireline service in rural and inner city communities – then you’d expect to see something like an even spread of usage cases across demographic groups.

The Pew Foundation’s latest research shows that is clearly not the case.

Overall, 12% of U.S. adults own a smartphone, but do not otherwise use the Internet at home. A deeper dive into those numbers indicates, though, it’s not a matter of style or choice. Only 5% of high earners rely solely on a smartphone, while 21% of those in the lowest income bracket – less than $30,000 a year – do.

The gap is even bigger when education is factored in. Again, 5% of highly educated adults are smartphone-only, versus 27% of those without a high school diploma.

There is also stratification by age and race. Blacks (15%) are more likely than whites (9%) to be smartphone reliant, and latinos even more so (23%). Pew didn’t provide cross tabs, but I’ll speculate that if the numbers were broken out by income and education levels, those would be the significant factors.

The age spread is less, but still significant. Adults under 30 years old come in at 17%, while 7% of those 65 and up are in the smartphone-only category. Again, income and education levels are likely more determinative, but the basic gating question – does a person use the Internet or not? – is probably the main explanation for the gap. There’s a big age divide between those two age groups when it comes to Internet adoption – at home or on a smartphone – 99% versus 64%.

There’s no gender difference in smartphone-only rates – men and women are both at the overall average of 12%. There’s also no significant difference between urban and suburban (both 12%) and rural (14%) areas, although differences in availability were not factored into Pew’s numbers.

Some U.S. adults probably do rely solely on smartphones as a matter of choice, but the income and education gaps indicate that necessity – a simple lack of economic choice – is the real driver.

New phone designed, named and launched by ZTE’s fan base

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It takes a crowd to stand out in a crowd.

ZTE is crowdsourcing its brand strategy, along with product design and test marketing. Based in China, the company has been in business for nearly twenty years, and selling in the U.S. in a meaningful way for ten years.

On the consumer side, it’s a smartphone maker. But it’s also a major telecoms infrastructure player, including mobile infrastructure. Company executives didn’t say much about that aspect of the business today during a media presentation at CES, except to drop some hints about developing 5G infrastructure in tandem with consumer products, and to say that their plan is to develop technology that will allow 5G service to be deployed on 4G networks. Whether that means a forklift upgrade of current technology or just adding nominally 5G features to existing LTE service is a question still to be answered.

As a consumer brand, ZTE’s products are solid enough, but don’t stand out. The company doesn’t have world domination on its road map like Samsung, or the premium brand ambitions (or at least not the budget) of Huawei. It showed the obligatory virtual reality-capable smart phone, but depends on Google’s Daydream VR platform for hardware and content.

To break out of the Apple/Samsung chase pack, ZTE is counting on an online consumer fan base for brand differentiation. One of the new smart phones it introduced this afternoon – the Hawkeye – was designed and named in an online contest. Instead of trotting out an engineering vice president, they had the four guys who won the design contest stand up and take a bow. It’s still a work in progress and all they had onsite was a mock up, so they’re launching the phone on Kickstarter with a discounted $200 price and a promised delivery date sometime in the third quarter of this year.

This crowd sourcing strategy centers on an online forum that ZTE says has 12,000 members, some of whom are hot enough about the company to fly out to Las Vegas for the presentation. That earned them recognition from company execs too. It’s common enough for tech companies to cultivate online communities, but not to turn product management over to those fans. ZTE might have found a way to truly differentiate itself as a consumer brand.

Huawei claims third in smartphones, aims at Apple

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Huawei knuckles down on smartphones.

From barely a blip on the radar – 3 million units – five years ago, Huawei broke out of the pack in 2015 with 108 million smartphones sold and a 10% share of the global market. That keeps it in third place worldwide, behind Apple and market leader Samsung, which has a 28% share. Speaking at the company’s press conference at CES this morning, consumer business group CEO Richard Yu said they’re aiming to pass Apple – currently with a 12% global smartphone share – and move up a notch into the number two spot within two years. Overall, Huawei’s consumer division did more than $20 billion in business last year.

From relative anonymity three years ago, Huawei has built brand awareness to the 76% level and ranks 88th on the list of the world’s most valuable brands, according to Yu.

It’s not doing it with low end, mass production products alone. The head of Huawei’s handset business, Kevin Ho, demoed a $750 smartphone and a $450 tablet at the event.

Battery life is Huawei’s primary product differentiator, it seems. It’s leveraging its chipmaking capability to focus on extending big screen smartphone use time to two days, making it possible to spend a long, intensive day on power hungry 4G networks without recharging. Ho said that Huawei’s Kirin 950 ARM-based, 16 nanometer system-on-a-chip is optimised for power efficiency.

Huawei still lags in the U.S. market, but from a global perspective that’s becoming less and less important. It’s partnering with Google on Nexus devices, and focusing the launch of the latest version of its flagship phone – the Mate 8 – on an eclectic list of a couple dozen countries where it’s gained more traction.