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Are people tiring of new phones?

Published on Monday, August 17, 2015

Are people tiring of new phones?

Elements of the article featured on Mobile Marketing Magazine, click here to read the full piece.

Despite the annual hype around the launch of new mobile devices, has anything really new happened in mobile in the past two years? In March 2013, the HTC One seemed like a revolutionary product with its all metal casing and high density display. At the same time the Galaxy S4 from Samsung was fighting to compete for the title of top Android phone.

Perhaps it was therefore inevitable that the launch of the Galaxy S5 and HTC One (M8) were met with a tepid response. Despite the larger screen size of the M8, the specifications were largely similar to the One. This was also mirrored by the S5. In many markets something else also happened: the wider availability of SIM only tariffs. Suddenly consumers could go from paying £45 a month for the latest handset to £15 a month for a similar deal but keeping their own handset. Combined with the perceived slower development of devices, would this finally crack the 18-24 month upgrade pattern in the mobile market?

To test the hypothesis 51Degrees took a look at the first three month of browsing data for the Samsung Galaxy S4, S5 and S6 as well as the HTC One, HTC One (M8) and HTC One (M9). The objective was to see the volume of web browsing that each device took up as a proportion of browsing on all Samsung or HTC devices.

HTC has had a number of well reported issues in recent years. Whilst the HTC One won pretty much every award for phone of the year in 2013, the company continued to suffer financially. After a slow start, the original HTC One sales grew quickly after launch and this is reflected in the volume of browsing coming from the device. In the second month after release 3.65% of all HTC browsing was from the HTC One and this had risen to 6.75% by month three. The HTC One (M8) did even better in its first three months, outperforming the HTC One in each month and, after three months, commanding 8.25% of all HTC smartphone browsing. The HTC One (M9) is a different story altogether with a lower proportion of browsing in each of its first three sales months. Indeed the HTC One (M9) commanded less than a third of the proportion of browsing that the HTC One (M8) did in its third release month.

So how about Samsung? The darling of the Android market had launched something genuinely innovative in 2015 with the Samsung Galaxy S6 edge, a device that has a screen without a visible end (the mobile equivalent of the infinity pool). How would take up of this device and its less “edge-y” sister fare compared to previous Samsung launches?

Once again the latest device has been outperformed by its older siblings in every one of the first three months after launch. After one month the Samsung Galaxy S5 performed best in terms of the proportion of browsing, with 0.74%, growing to 3.18% in month two. By the third month after launch the S4 led the way with some 6% of all browsing on Samsung smartphones. The S6 enjoyed the smallest share of all the new launches in each of the first three months after launch. By month three it accounted for only 1.5% of browsing from Samsung devices.

So can we conclude that the public’s love affair with new devices is over? Not definitively. There are many other reasons why the devices might have struggled – such as availability of products in the early months, promotional activities etc. However it is interesting to note the frankly spectacularly poor performance of both Android’s 2015 flagship devices, compared to previous years. Perhaps we need to wait for the next big revolution in design or user interface to capture the interest of the public.

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