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What makes a smartphone so popular?

October 30, 2010

These Comscore Data Mines are pretty cool. I get some good facts and figures from them several times a week.

The one in my inbox today is about the dominance of  Symbian (Nokia’s mobile phone  operating system) in the European market. I’ve spent so much time looking at Goliath vs Goliath (Android vs iPhone) in the Australian and American markets that this is the first time I’ve really absorbed what’s going on in Europe.

According to the data, Nokia still holds 54% market share of smartphones in Western Europe – although in July 2009, this figure was 69%. It made me think about why certain world markets can be so polarised in terms of what technology is popular and used.


Mobile phone technology is often a popularity contest you see. Half the people with iPhones I know have them because the early adopters were the best salespeople for the technology. I myself have a phone that runs off the Android platform, and without trying, I find myself selling its wares to others. And guess what – I know quite a few people with the same phone as me now, and I hear them talking about how much better than an iPhone it is – without really understanding why.

I watched a great TED speech just recently talking about how “people don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it”, with specific reference to Apple and their products. People buy Apple products because Apple ‘Think Differently’, and then demonstrate this in each of their products.  That said, does this mean then that Europeans don’t like to think differently? That they prefer loyalty over a good idea? Probably not. (although I have met some mad Frenchmen in my time). Clearly then, Symbian must have something going for it.

The BSN (Bright side of the news) website argues that Nokia’s dominance in Europe is due to their relationships with the phone carriers, and their cost transparency to customers, ie no hidden costs in the phone plans. Doing the right thing by your customers is always a winning strategy I guess.

The real challenge for Nokia in any world market though – will be whether Symbian can make the necessary product improvements to meet the competition. As phone carriers lose their power over the market, the products themselves – ie the phones – will need to be adept at meeting consumer needs in a quickly growing and changing world. If Nokia’s power base in Europe really was based on their phone carrier relationships, then they need to make some product changes in a hurry!

Deliriant Isti Romani (These Romans are Crazy!)



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