IFA 2014: Flagship Smartphones Aplenty but is Anyone Buying?

Manufacturers were rushing to showcase their flagship smartphones at the IFA trade show in Berlin, ahead of Apple Inc’s event on 9 September. Samsung Corp showed the fourth generation of its mammoth Note family and Sony Corp introduced the Xperia Z3 (third generation) of its waterproof smartphone range. Almost all flagship smartphones are supporting the following

  1. 64-bit architecture
  2. LTE-Advanced
  3. Quad HD screens

Innovations galore

While Apple’s iPhone 5S was supporting 64-bit architecture almost a year ago, Google only recently released a preview edition of Android L, the latest iteration of the Android OS (operating system), which supports 64-bit. Android supporters were made to wait for more than a year before manufacturers launched 64-bit smartphones. The 64-bit processing promises faster video encoding and decoding, data encryption and decryption, and compression and decompression.

Smartphone users are always complaining about slow internet access speed and mobile network operators (telcos) are charging their subscribers increasingly higher rates for higher speeds. LTE-Advanced offers speeds of up to 300Mbps, but, in reality, most telcos have not invested in LTE-Advanced infrastructure.

Larger screens with higher resolutions are probably one of the easiest upsell features, as consumers can easily see the difference in screen resolution. Hence, manufacturers are squeezing as many pixels into limited screen sizes as the current display technology allows, moving from Full HD to Quad HD screens.

Market has evolved

Sales of smartphones are forecast to exceed one billion units in 2014, accounting for almost two thirds of global mobile phone sales in this year. However, the high-end smartphone market is saturated and smartphone growth is primarily driven by consumers who are upgrading from feature phones to smartphones. Nokia (with the backing of its new owner, Microsoft) also announced its “Lumia 830: The affordable flagship” phone and stated in its strategic outline that the company intends to target “more affordable smartphone segments”.

Flagship smartphones are critical to manufacturers as these models command a higher price and, consequently, generate higher margins. These flagship models serve as “hero” products in the manufacturers’ marketing campaigns and are a showcase of the manufacturers’ technological capabilities. In reality, the real battle is in entry level smartphones and companies like Lenovo and Xiaomi are therefore fast gaining market share at the expense of established market leaders like Samsung and Apple.