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Do you really need that new smartphone?

Do you really need that new smartphone?

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The smartphone is one of the most successful pieces of consumer tech and has been for quite some time. Despite the original intention for the mobile phone being a very simple one, the device has evolved into its current form and is a necessity for the average adult. So much so that in a recent survey of 170,000 adult internet users across 32 markets, a staggering 80% owned and used smartphones on a regular basis.

Where the primary role of the smartphone used to be making phone calls it has since moved on to other things including browsing the internet, partaking in social media chat, gaming as well as many other uses. In fact it is estimated that making phone calls from a smartphone is actually the fifth most popular use.

Mobile phone providers really appreciate this demand for the smartphone and in order to monopolise the situation as much as possible they are constantly bringing out new devices always trying to cram in new features or update existing ones, seemingly to make the smartphone just that little bit smarter. This tactic really does work and despite smartphones having remained relatively similar over the last couple of years, every time Apple or Samsung or one of the other top phone manufacturers bring out a new model, everyone flocks to buy it. This model is of course enforced by the latest and greatest marketing strategies as well as the resellers who wrap each new model up in an attractive, low cost (but long) contract deal.

The question still remains though – as a consumer, why do we always need the latest smartphone? Surely the previous model was just as good as the latest one to hit the shops?

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Latest Features

The obvious answer would be the new features – when the latest smartphone models are released there are normally improvements such as a better quality camera, longer talk time, larger memory as well as new features that simply weren’t available on the previous model. These features could include a fingerprint reader, voice activation or the ability to link with a wearable device such as a smart watch.

The reality though is that if you put the latest few smartphones side by side and compared features, they are actually going to be quite similar with only minor improvements between each model.

Importance of the Smartphone

There is another reason why the smartphone is so popular and having the latest one is a necessity for many. The reason is more subtle but just as important and it revolves around the fact that the smartphone is such a necessity in our modern lives – if you own a smartphone you will be well aware of how important that phone is to you and how little you are ever apart from it. If you don’t own a smartphone you are probably amazed when you see people in public ignoring each other, preferring to be buried deep in concentration whilst staring at their mobile phone.

The reality is that our smartphones are the gateway into our digital lives – we can perform every action on them from shopping, communicating with our friends, turning on our heating ready for when we arrive home and literally hundreds of other actions.

It is this extreme functionality of the smartphone that makes the device very important to us, and as a result of this, despite the high price (in one form or another) of having the latest smartphone and the minimal improvements over the previous model, the small beneficial increase is very important to us because it is magnified by the usefulness of the smartphone as a whole.

Similar to our clothes or our car the smartphone really is so fundamental to our daily lives that having the best device on the market, allowing us to gain the most from it really is very important.

Fashion Statement

Setting aside functionality for a moment, there is also another reason why we hold our smartphones so dearly and why we are always eager to have the latest and greatest model. Some might be reluctant to admit to this fact but smartphones have become partly a fashion statement. Like the clothes that we wear the smartphone is such an intrinsic part of our daily lives that it really does form part of a statement about who we are.

Whether it is to show off the fact that you have the newest smartphone model or to instil your preference between Apple or Samsung to your friends there is an undeniable element of fashion entangled in the smartphone and it spans all ages.

Once again the smartphone manufacturers are well aware of this fact. So much so that they will play on this element heavily in their marketing campaigns, especially within TV advertising where these believes are mirrored to the consumer. The manufacturers are always keen to enforce the rivalry between brands as well because it drives the belief that loyal customers have in their preferred provider.

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The future of the smartphone

If you look at how the smartphone has evolved over the last 10 years it’s easy to see the trends that have been prevalent. The smartphone has evolved over the years into a very advanced piece of technology; it has shrunk into a convenient size and then grown again in size along with functionality.

Despite the current rivalry between smartphone brands and the strong entanglement with fashion, as the smartphone fully evolves and becomes the extremely functional device that it is meant to be, it is possible that the smartphone as we know it will become standardised. It may become so functional that it bypasses all of its superficial attributes of today and simply becomes a commodity of need – the same design and features across the board, the cost being driven down as the demand plateaus out and the smartphone just becoming a device that everyone owns but all take for granted and a consumable that can be replaced like a spare tyre on a car.

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David is a practicing systems administrator by day at, but by night he lets loose all his tech expertise on our site.

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