What thin phones & no audio jacks taught us about Consumers?

Recently, I have been using an LG v20 and though it was launched 8 months ago, nobody knows about it. It was one of the unpopular phones. It didn’t receive much attention, & why would it? It wasn’t the thinnest phone with beautiful colors, it made no controversial decisions like removing audio jacks, and it had V20 stamped on the back, not Apple. In fact, LG V20 was launched a day before the iPhone 7. LG marketing team must definitely be fired.

And by now, you are convinced that I am an Android fan boy invariably hating on Apple. And I can’t blame you for that. You were aware of this popular thing, procured information that comfortably proves this thing and made your decision. Well, this is how most people buy phones as well. And the thing is often the iPhone or the S8.

It’s always a comfortable, quicker purchase if a popular phone happens to be a well-recieved phone.

One of my friends bought a OnePlus 5 few days after launch and everybody wanted to check it out. And almost everyone commented how awesomely thin the phone feels. That gave my friend a big smile, his latest phone got all the ‘likes’, and 10 minutes later he dropped it. Why? Because the phone was too thin to securely grip. Inevitably, he bought a phone case and took it off whenever he wanted to show off his latest toy. Smiles & Security!

Smiles & Security – This is characteristic to jewelry. But smartphones are no jewelry, it is an incredibly powerful tool designed to change the way we live, while gold is still gold. Don’t get me wrong. Designing your smartphone like a jewelry isn’t blasphemy. In fact, designing electronics like jewelry majorly helped Apple make technology from intimidating to friendly for consumers. It is what made these devices “trending”, winning the attention that these devices need to be adapted to the human lifestyle.

#Trending – In the age of Social Media, what’s trending is what’s being bought. You don’t need me to tell you that. The goal of a good marketing campaign is to popularize a piece of information and make the consumers believe that the information is complete and enough to make the purchase. This belief is stronger when propagated by consumers, instead of the “evil companies” and in today’s social media, consumers have a louder voice than ever before. That’s what makes this trends VIRAL.

Now when you don’t conform to these trends, you miss out on your place in this pop phenomena. You’re like the weird dude not dancing to Chainsmokers. That can be unsettling when online media plays such a crucial role in our social lives. For example, I get a lot of hate for not preferring something about the awesome new iPhone.

When they removed the Audio Jack, I expressed my dislike. When it comes to Audio, I wanted to see Apple fit a really high-quality DAC/Amp inside the phone to power the awesome headphones created by legendary companies like Sennheiser or Audio Technica. The technology is there. LG v20 has it. But Apple didn’t opt it. And well they had a damn good argument. They wanted to popularize Wireless headphones.

But observe a trend here: Wireless Tech, Thin phones. This is the ‘cutting edge’ technology that can be advertised on billboards. The kind of things that makes you believe that Apple is selling you the latest & greatest mobile tech. When people check out my LG v20, they try to get a feel of the tech inside it. They ‘feel’ the phone, take pictures and see how it all looks on the ‘big beautiful’ display and forms a notion of the tech inside it.

Companies know these. That’s why the buzz words are: rich high definition Display, best Camera Quality, professionally-crafted Phone Case & great Slo-Mo Videos. But while our videos look better & better, they still sound shit. This is what I had against Apple. They could’ve popularized buzz words like “Real Sound”. But well, Apple made no such noble promises. And it’s fine as long as we buy the phone that serves our purposes.

Except, we don’t. The modern smartphone was born & always been consumed in this Viral culture. And what goes viral? The “latest” tech. Except that there’s no such thing as the most advanced smartphone, nor that there needs to be one. In fact, Smartphones are the most personal computing devices ever built. Your choice of smartphone should simply satisfy your specific needs. Put simply, Apple telling everybody needs an iPhone is them telling one size fits all.

Now, Apple is not entirely wrong. The iPhone does appeal to a wide audience. But that’s where the problem lies. In this viral culture, every company wants to make a phone that satisfies the common needs of the widest audience. To go trending, to sell.

Companies can design their phones, include & omit features to adhere to a specific demographic. But then these phones won’t find itself in the “Trends.” And that’s a problem for a company like Samsung. While SPen is useful to only a certain demographic, Samsung wants to advertise that the new Note 8 will help everybody. Dear Samsung, I know the Note packs all the latest & greatest tech, but has it occurred to you that I don’t need it. It’s been 10 years since the original iPhone, and my buying decisions are no longer controlled by owning the latest smartphone but owning the smartphone I need. I know what I do with a Mobile computer.

But Samsung, Apple, or LG, they all want to make the same statement – “we have the latest & greatest flagship device.” They want to appeal to a wider audience. In doing that, they make compromises that were otherwise prized by a niche demographic. For example, people who want the High Fidelity Audio or Manual Controls for Video often have specific routines which demand things like removable batteries, extendable storages, etc which are being discarded in the name of Appealing Design.

It’s fine if you only have common needs from a smartphone. Thankfully, today you can meet these needs very reliably at a very economical price from companies like the OnePlus. The year is 2017. And companies must have a line up of, say, a Business Smartphone, a Designer’s Smartphone, a Filmmaker’s Smartphone and not just running after the “latest & greatest” Flagship Smartphone. Make your choice you rich consumers!


Author: Abhishek Agarwal

"My most clear memories are those of the moments which seemed to cause a cognitive development in me."

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