Smartphone trends are really interesting to watch. We get a lot of feedback from our readers. We get a ton of comments on our videos. There’s an idea that people spend their money based on merit, a rational analysis of pros and cons. If you ask a general consumer why they bought the phone they did, they can usually justify the purchase, but were those the actual reasons that convinced them to spend their money?
For Western tech fans, the first big fight of the year will land between LG and Samsung. Galaxy S7 vs LG G5 will be a ridiculously common article and video title, and we’ll likely contribute to the popularity of those keywords once we get our hands on some of these devices.
There’s a momentum in the market right now. Flagship sales are cooling off, but we can reasonably point to Samsung continuing to lead the Android ecosystem. Huawei is likely to follow in overall sales. Then the waters get murkier for predicting which manufacturers will score big and which companies will fall flat. We’ve spent a lot of time looking at how a company like HTC might be able to claw its way out of a downward spiral, but the story of LG hasn’t been quite so dramatic. Depending on which analyst firms you follow, LG has been steadily and slowly growing here in the United States, occupying somewhere around 9% of the sales pie graph. That’s solid, reassuring performance, but it doesn’t drive headlines. It doesn’t reflect the company’s position in other markets, like in South Korea where LG holds around 30% of the phone market.
LG keeps scoring awards and design victories. The V10 was a very well reviewed phone with a celebrated camera app. The G5 took top honors at MWC this year, over the Galaxy S7. Yet to read comments and posts, a majority of the focus is on Samsung’s offerings. Samsung makes terrific products, but is this a reaction to actual phones in the market, or is this an unconscious response to throw in with the “winning team”. Are consumers worried about their phone being the most popular? Is there value in exclusivity?
There’s a trend in tech reviewing to rush out a commentary on whether a phone is “worth it”. Every consumer has personal criteria for what work they need to complete during a day. Instead of looking at each phone to determine which audience that phone is for, we instead treat reviews like gladiatorial combat. Thumbs up or thumbs down?
The idea of switching teams, moving from iOS to Android, can rightfully fill people with anxiety, but even the idea of switching manufacturers within the Android ecosystem is now considered a risk. We don’t like to take risks with our phones. Even the family and friends in your social circles who would never consider themselves “techie”, their phones are mission critical communications gear. It seems that after someone has an acceptable experience with one manufacturer, that’s likely the company they’ll stick with for future purchases. It’s comfortable. It’s familiar. It might not be the perfect device for that individual, but it’s probably “good enough”.
What motivates someone to switch sides? The trouble with “worth it” reviewing is it creates a fantasy threshold which can be raised at will. “Once a manufacturer makes a phone that’s worth it, I’ll buy it. Until then I’ll stick with what I know.”
Statistically speaking, only one person out of every ten who read this in North America will likely buy a G5 over competing options from Samsung and Apple (to be fair, that number is likely higher among the people who read this blog). LG’s struggle isn’t as dramatic as HTC’s, but it’s not dissimilar. How does a company convert customers into fans? How does LG convert fans into ambassadors? Every new phone release is an opportunity for a company to reinvest in its customers and its marketing.
To answer the gimmicky title of this post, ultimately the most important aspect of the phone market for the near future is competition. That’s maybe the most important horse in this race, as encouraging competition improves products for everyone. In expanding coverage on phones like the Galaxy S7, we received a number of comments from people looking for similar videos on the LG G5. In expanding our coverage on smartphone photography, LG fans have been very vocal about the inclusion of phones like the G4 and V10.
We’ve got a ton of coverage planned for this year’s crop of phones, but the whole while we’re creating these reviews, it’s interesting to think about the videos and articles we produce. Do people use this content to inform their purchasing decisions, or do they use our reviews to justify their purchases?
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to go take pretty pictures of flowers with my V10…