Monday, 20 July 2015 15:19

The end of the $1000 smartphone should be nigh


With smartphones ranging from under $20 to over $1000 one has to ask where the market is heading. The answer is rapidly SOUTH!

iTWire colleague Alex Zaharov-Reutt wrote last week on the ability to launch your own smartphone brand for as little as US$20 each and it got me thinking – how long before consumers stop buying expensive smartphones and look for value instead?

This is not a rant against Apple or Samsung who seem to charge similar amounts – around $1K - for similarly specified flagship smartphones that cost around US$200 to make. Competitor LG knows this and while it has set a SRP of A$929 for its new and excellent flagship G4 you will find the Australian model H815 for under $700 online – and those resellers are making a profit too.

This is a serious question to all companies. The cost of technology has dropped 30% over the past five years according to Bloomberg Intelligence. The cost of Apple and Samsung’s flagships have not.

According to the Monthly Smartphone and Tablet PC FPD Pricing Report, 5" LTPS TFT LCD FHD (1920×1080) smartphone panels with IPS/FFS LCD technology experienced a price decline of 30% year on year. Smartphone average selling prices will continue to drop substantially.

According to market tracker IDC shipment growth slowed 19% in 2014 and will be in single digits by 2017 due to little growth in mature markets like North America and Europe that have reached saturation, and a possible contraction in Japan. IDC went on to say that flagship specified phones will drop to around $260 by 2018. IDG stated that premium smartphones have enjoyed watershed years that cannot go on indefinitely

Start-ups like Xiaomi, OnePlus and Oppo have bypassed traditional sales channels such as telcos and major retailers and are offering their flagship phones now for US$399 or less. For example Oppo’s new R7 – due for release in Australia in late July - offers flagship specifications like 5” 1080p AMOLED screen, octa-core processor, 3GB RAM, 16GB storage, microSD slot, and fast charging.

Meizu, a rising brand in China, introduced its new “No Blue Note” flagship specified smartphone equipped with a 5.5" FHD display which sells for just US$161. This model and pricing has been cited by many in the industry as a warning for upcoming price competition in 2015-16.

Xiaomi have become the world’s third largest smartphone distributor in less than five years. Its flagship Mi4 sells for around $300.

OnePlus took just two years to be a best seller in 35 countries.

This is largely due to two things. Google’s Android or CyanogenMod (the free Android), and companies like Qualcomm and MediaTek creating off the shelf reference designs – no expensive R&D required!

The lower cost trend has hurt Samsung – its saving grace is that it makes most of its own components. Apple does not make its components and will doggedly stick to premium prices for as long as it can. Both have tried to supplement revenue by creating eco-systems that keep the majority of revenue in their hands.

Were it not for Microsoft’s burgeoning Windows 10 ecosystem and its universal apps we may well have seen the end of Windows Phone/Mobile.


I wrote about the US market being saturated and losing interest in smartphones and today about saturated markets where expensive devices will simply not be replaced as frequently or with lower cost, and better value ones. More than 75% of every man, woman and child in Australia has a smartphone – there is little growth left here.

I am sorry to proselytize (attempt to convert people to a different point of view) but the world is still in the grip of a financial malaise and a $7.50 toaster from Kmart will still make perfectly good toast. In fact Kmart (part of the very successful Wesfarmers group) has gradually replaced most items with lower cost home brands and is making more money than sister Target which still sells toaster brands like Sunbeam, Russell Hobbs and Delonghi.

Last year I loaned my brother – a real brand snob – an Oppo Find 7 (flagship quality, QHD screen, Sony Exmore 13MP camera - top of the line at half the cost) and he loves it - puts his previous iPhone to shame.

At the end of the day, Apple’s brand stands for premium and has never been based on mass adoption. For the first time it is losing sales in China to the newer brands. Sure there are plenty of Apple aficionados with deep pockets who continue to queue loyally and buy the new iPhones.

But there has certainly never been so many quality devices available for more modest budgets, which is important as mobile is fast becoming be the primary platform for internet access.


26-27 February 2020 | Hilton Brisbane

Connecting the region’s leading data analytics professionals to drive and inspire your future strategy

Leading the data analytics division has never been easy, but now the challenge is on to remain ahead of the competition and reap the massive rewards as a strategic executive.

Do you want to leverage data governance as an enabler?Are you working at driving AI/ML implementation?

Want to stay abreast of data privacy and AI ethics requirements? Are you working hard to push predictive analytics to the limits?

With so much to keep on top of in such a rapidly changing technology space, collaboration is key to success. You don't need to struggle alone, network and share your struggles as well as your tips for success at CDAO Brisbane.

Discover how your peers have tackled the very same issues you face daily. Network with over 140 of your peers and hear from the leading professionals in your industry. Leverage this community of data and analytics enthusiasts to advance your strategy to the next level.

Download the Agenda to find out more


Ray Shaw

joomla stats

Ray Shaw  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!



Recent Comments