A Take on Current Smartphone Industry

Okay, this article serves as some kind of an editorial–my own comments and take towards a specific topic. The first article I officially consider as such. While I don't have an academic skills to prove this, I have my own reasons, and promise to be as objective as I can. To make it more credible, I'll also try to include some supporting data.

A brief history of cell phone prices throughout the decade taken from timetoast.com
Too small? Click the image above to zoom in.
Anyway, the year is now 2016. Cell phones are no longer expensive. Cell phones are no longer for the rich and for show off. Well, at least most of them aren't now. Additionally, cell phones are no longer a tertiary necessity. Cell phones are now primary necessity and now I dare you to comment if you're not using a cell phone. On second thought, don't. You're going to spam my mailbox if you do so. Just consider yourself a very capable survivalist, for not having even a single cell phone.

Today I'm going to talk about how you, as a customer, can choose the perfect smartphone based on your criteria. During the course of the article, I may mention some specific handsets. To avoid misunderstanding, please bear in mind that I'm not endorsing any brand. I don't even get paid for recommending them. Ready? Head past the break to read more.

Disclaimer: I'm specifically using Indonesia as the base market here, so the price you see is in Indonesia Rupiah (IDR or Rp). You could use Google to convert the currency to your own. The price in your country might be higher or lower than here.

Smartphones May Become 'Too Smart' and 'Too Powerful'

Heart rate sensor in Samsung Galaxy Note 5
Honestly, when Samsung released the Samsung Galaxy S5 which includes heart rate sensor, I thought, "What's the use? Not many people are going to use it anyway..." The fingerprint sensor is fine to improve security, but maybe it's not the case for heart rate sensor. Other gimmicks include Samsung's Air View, Air Gesture, Air etc. first appeared in Galaxy S4. Most people I know using the S4 admitted they never used those gestures. Some of them don't even know how to use them.

But no, I'm not blaming Samsung for those gimmicks. In a certain perspective, you can say that it's actually a proof of concept. The latest phone from Microsoft, the Lumia 950 and 950XL, includes even a fancier sensor: retina scanner. While not all of those additions are practical for everyday use, it's an undeniable proof that our smartphones may have become 'too smart'. Heck, even your PCs don't have that many sensors...

Secondly, it's also baffling and amazing to know how our mobile devices have theoretically become more powerful than our PCs. In 2010, iPhone4 and the original Samsung Galaxy S made a breakthrough in mobile device with its 1GHz CPU. Even though it's single core, our mobile tech has grown exponentially over the years. In the next year, the Galaxy S2 includes a dual-core processor. This trend continues with the release of quad-core, octa-core, even deca-core chips. Clock speed also gets higher and higher, ranging from modest 1GHz to whopping 2.3GHz. Even though the architecture is different, our modern mobile chips may outrace x86 and x64 chips soon.

Our Pricing May Return to The '90s

LG G4, LG's Latest Flagship
With great features come great price. We call these expensive, top-of-the-line gadgets "flagships". They come with the greatest features, most sensors, and most beautiful design they could ever think of, regardless how customers view it. Some of these flagships include Samsung's S and Note series, LG's G series, Sony's Z series, and Xiaomi's Mi series.

Samsung Galaxy Note5 Pre-Order Ad in Indonesia
You may have met some of them in your countries, and you may notice that they're more expensive than your laptop. Yes, correct. Though at times their prices seem ridiculously high, please bear in mind that they are equipped with the latest and the greatest features available with some unconventional innovations. Additionally, they also boost your fashion level. Take the brown leather LG G4 for example, and the shiny gold Note5. And what about iPhones? Here in Indonesia, iPhones mean distinction from others, in terms of appearance.

A little bit more and I could buy a MacBook Air, or a high-end Windows laptop
With inflation and the high price of innovation and new components, flagship prices may reflect the fact that the price of our smartphones may return to the '90s, even though it's not going to be that bad (except for those fancy gold-plated diamond-brimming custom cell phones). Fortunately, you're not forced to buy these flagships. The market is currently flooded with all sorts of smartphones, and most of them offer amazing value for money, for much less. We'll talk about it in the next section.

Mid-rangers Start to Become Attractive, Too

Just like other products in commerce, smartphones are divided into three categories: low-end (or high-volume, depending on your view), mid-end, and high-end. Flagships obviously belong to the high-end category. Mid-end and low-end categories have less to offer but at a much lower price. However, as time flies, these offerings start to become more and more attractive. Some brands even dare to offer flagship-grade specs in mid-range prices.

Getting old and obsolete? Maybe. But it's still one
Hell of a device.
One example is the Xiaomi Redmi Note 2. Even though there's already its successor, it's still a very attractive package. In just approximately Rp1.700.000,00, you have yourself a very capable handset with 2.3GHz octa-core processor, 2GB RAM, and large 5.5 inch FHD screen. It's gorgeous, I tell you, although isn't perfect. I'll be doing a review about it soon. Add a little bit and you'll get Redmi Note 3, which comes with a fingerprint sensor and all-metal body. Don't like Xiaomi? Fine, what about ZTE A711? It's virtually similar to the Redmi Note 3 but with lower price. Lenovo also has some fine offering with its Vibe P1 and K4 Note, even though the former is quite expensive and the latter hasn't come here yet.

You may notice that large, respectable brands such as Samsung, LG, and Sony don't make the list. Well, it's not that they don't have one, I just personally think their current mid-range offerings aren't as attractive as those handsets I just mentioned. Will they change? They will–the power of market compels them. It's just a matter of when. Their current attractive mid-range offerings are their former flagships such as the LG G3 and G2.

So, As Customers, How Should You Approach This?

Now it all comes to you, as customers, as the main driving force of these companies, phone manufacturers, to choose. People tend to be trapped in being "brand-minded" or "fanboyism". For example, here in Indonesia, people tend to stick with Samsung and go to Apple for the first and foremost in fashion gadget, even though Samsung and Apple aren't the only smartphone brand here.

It's time for us to open our eyes and minds. Chinese brands have evolved. They're no longer second-class products that break much easily than globally-recognized brands. Little-known brands don't always mean they don't release good products. Keep in mind that I'm not promoting brands that originated from China. I'm just saying that we should be smart customers rather than puppet customers. For those who have money and can afford virtually anything, go ahead, buy the latest and the greatest. Flagships are the current best and greatest phones money can buy. However, if you're on a limited budget, it's time to open your eyes. Expand your horizon by browsing for phone reviews. Mid-range brands are no longer mediocre phones offering low specs. Right now they're more attractive than ever.

You have your choices. Which will you choose?
So, to sum up, my take on the smartphone industry is that the market is getting full and mature. Mid-rangers start to flood the market with offerings that are much more attractive than during the rise of the whole smartphone revolution. While this could be difficult for smartphone manufacturers, who are forced to innovate more than ever, this could be very advantageous for us. Components are getting cheaper but more powerful. It is now up to us to open our mind and change our perspective: from being a "brand-minded" customer to an "open-minded" customer. It's not easy, I know, but at least give it a try. If you do it right, you won't regret it. Finally, my advice for the day is: "Get the most bang for your buck". How? I'm afraid you're the one who can answer that.

Alright, guys. I guess that's all for now. For the first editorial, I might sound too judging, but honestly that's what I have in my mind right now. I honestly, deeply apologize should I offend you with anything I wrote, whether implicitly or explicitly. Finally, as usual, thanks for reading and I'm looking forward to your next visit. Have a nice and productive day, everyone!


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