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'Smartphone innovation still a distant dream'

Filed on November 19, 2019
THE BUZZ: Incremental innovations by smartphone brands drive media interest but do not seem to be winning consumers over.

A majority of the UAE residents want a range of smartphone innovations but many don't think they will see them in the near future, a new YouGov research has revealed.

When presented with a list of advances in communication technology, the data shows that UAE residents are most interested in seeing the launch of unbreakable screens (69 per cent). This is closely followed by the development of better sand- or water-resistant features (67 per cent), motion charging phones (66 per cent) and solar powered devices (65 per cent).

However, even though a majority want to see these innovations, fewer expect them to happen in the near future. Just over two in five (43 per cent) feel unbreakable screens will be a possibility in the next two years, with similar proportions feeling the same about the introduction of water- and sand-resistant devices (42 per cent), motion charging phones (44 per cent) and solar powered devices (45 per cent).

Scott Booth, head of data products and services, Mena, said, "Despite numerous iterative innovations in smartphone technology over the past few years, consumers are still hoping to have a device they do not have to worry so much about breaking or plugging in at any opportunity."

Analysis of YouGov's brand perception data around new handset launches from Samsung, Huawei, and Apple in 2019 suggests although the incremental innovations introduced by smartphone brands in each new device create some level of media interest, they don't move the dial in other areas.

Samsung launched an upgraded version of its flagship phone, the Galaxy S10, in March, with advancements in its display and camera, and world's first in-display ultrasonic fingerprint scanner.

Looking at the one-month period following the launch, the brand recorded an uplift of 5.0 in the Buzz. However, purchase consideration - which measures whether someone would consider purchasing - remained almost the same (0.5) around this time period.

The picture is similar for emerging brands such as Huawei. Its P30 series launched on April 1 with a calling card of super zoom lenses. Around the launch time, Huawei's Buzz score increased by 2.6 between April 1 and May 1, 2019.

Consideration saw an uplift of 3.1 within this time frame. Huawei's apparent strategy to undercut competition on price while offering a similar specification seems to be working with consumers. Priced around Dh1,700, Huawei P30 is more affordable than Samsung S10. Although consideration has gone up to some extent, it is likely driven by competitive pricing rather than a true breakthrough innovation.

The story is more worrying for Apple. It launched iPhone 11 Series with double and triple rear cameras on September 11 and the phones went on sale in the UAE from September 20. The launch boosted iPhone's Buzz score with a 5.9 increase between September 11 and October 11, 2019. However, its purchase consideration declined by 1.8 points over the same period.

It is apparent that any time in the year these smartphone giants have launched new devices, residents in the UAE show notable interest. However, it appears this round of innovations are insufficient to drive new handset purchase. Given the apparent commoditisation of smartphones, whoever wins the race to the next innovation may be poised to win big. 


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