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The end of complexity in wireless handsets?

Are we developing new technologies faster than consumers can use them? That's the question asked by a team of Wharton researchers in an article called "The Upgraded Digital Divide."
A reflection of intense innovation and competition worldwide, the authors note that complexity among consumer technology products has never been greater. While this might mean product improvement, it can also have an influence on how we buy and use these products. Do bells and whistles help sales? Apparently yes, but there is a paradox: When people are considering buying next-generation products, they find the bells and whistles attractive and decide to make the purchase, but when they acquire the product, they find the complexity of the new features overwhelming and end up using only the products' basic features. You've seen that for Excel, for your video recorder, your digital camera and even your car.
Indeed, buying a product, especially in the high-tech area, has sometime become so complex that people resort to two tactics to reduce the risk of choice and cost of information gathering: they rely on trusted third parties - analysts, friends and relatives - and well-known brands.
Complexity, and the primacy of sophistication and features, might actually come to an end. Indeed, it might correspond to an early phase of a market, where specialists and "early adopters", by definition feature-hungry, lead the way. When the market matures, early adopters give way to more mainstream customers who value simplicity, reliability and cost over excitement and raw power. They just want a job to get done. This happened in the car industry where today you can drive your car without knowing a thing about explosion engines.

Is the same thing happening in the wireless industry? All talks are about the so-called "smartphones", a combination of a phone and a PDA with all possible features. A terrible name indeed as these phones are really duimb. They only represent 15% of the total market, however. Much more significant is the market for people who still find mobile phones too complex, or simply want a phone that makes phone calls easily. It's a trend that wireless operator Vodafone has picked recently with its Vodafone Simply, a handset that only includes basic functions but whose interface has been designed to be as intuitive as possible. Vodafone seems to have been rather successful with the VS.

The wireless marketing is maturing, and it could well be, indeed, that simplicity becomes one of the key selling points in the near future.

Posted by Philippe Silberzahn on October 10, 2005 at 07:00 AM | Permalink


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