Just returned my T-Mobile Vibrant after testing it for a week. Beautiful display. Great voice quality and speakerphone. Lots of Android apps–more than I would ever use. Reasonable price with a two year contract.
So why did I return it? As a mobile blogger who’s written about and used mobile phones for a decade, why were my smartphone customer expectations not met?
Smartphone Customer Expectations Rising
In the case of the Samsung Vibrant, three factors caused me to return it Poor 3G reception inside my townhouse, fast battery drain and the inability to adjust movement sensitivity, causing applications to suddenly launch on their own. A fluke? After spending an hour last night reading T-Mobile Vibrant forum customers talking about similar experiences, I think not.
This article, though, is not about the Vibrant. I’m more concerned about rising customer expectations about “smartphones.” The media, encouraged by the mobile industry, haven’t educated consumers about the limitations of always-on devices. Online publishers have convinced their readers that smartphones can do anything and everything. With some exceptions, the media have done a poor job informing consumers about the smartphone limitations. As a result, many consumers have unrealistic expectations.
Before mobile phones became “smart,” most cell phone owners were satisfied with clear voice calls, fast texting and games. Phone users didn’t expect blazing 3G/4G web surfing, 1 Ghz processors, streaming video, social networking, GPS mapping, 8 megapixel digital cameras, capacitive high resolution screens, theater quality sound or mobile apps. Few of these sophisticated features were available circa 2007 until Apple released the iPhone.
The Smartphone Age
Times have changed. Consumers, whether buying their first smartphones or upgrading to better ones, demand more features and better performance. This trend is especially notable among “mobile intensives,” coined by Joy Liuzzo at InsightExpress. Intensives are smartphone owners who use all or most of their device’s features. Whether iPhone, Android, Samsung or BlackBerry devotees, mobile intensives through social media are convincing their friends to upgrade.
In response to the burgeoning demand for smartphones, major players in the ecosystem–handset manufacturers, carriers, application developers and the media–feverishly develop, release, market and review new models. Marketers, like mobile intensives, are directly communicating with potential customers through Twitter, Facebook and other social networking sites, encouraging dialogue and engagement.
Moreover, mobile marketers and advertisers, now convinced mobile is here to stay, are testing advertising strategies that drive high customer response within apps and and on mobile websites.
The competition is intense and bloody. Consumers desire the best smartphones at the lowest possible prices. Manufacturers fight for higher handset market share. Carriers and operators compete for higher consumer ARPU (average revenue per user) and low churn. App developers need increased market presence and profits. Marketers and advertisers are adding mobile to their marketing budgets. And the media, sitting on the sidelines in this mobile football game, fill countless web pages with reviews and commentary.
Customer expectations using smartphones will only improve if the mobile industry releases hardware and software products that perform flawlessly and offer excellent value and choice. That, in turn, will help all players in the mobile ecosystem to share the wealth in the global communications revolution.