You only have to do a quick Google search to see how many people are looking for a Rugged Smartphone these days and what people are looking for is definitely impacting the rugged market today in more ways than one. In fact when you look at a whole bunch of terms people are searching for in terms of the hardware they want for their mobile business needs, you’ll see a very different landscape of terms being used now than were being used even 12 months ago. So what happened?
The Rugged market has become cluttered with choice, and as with any other market in the same situation, choice ultimately means a drive to the bottom of the market on price, usually followed by a buying frenzy with a few players left over to pick up the pieces! If we draw parallels to the PC market , say 10 years ago you’ll exactly the same happened. The bigger players, lacking innovation and running scared, bought the mid-range players, whilst the bottom of the market, fuelled by emerging markets, pulled it ever down on price. Lovely blue oceans, turned red!
As the product became more ubiquitous to us as humans, we stopped looking for the most innovative features, even cool brands, as we just wanted a laptop that did what we needed it to do satisfactorily. If we look at that market now, all the Big IT company names from the 90’s are struggling. The cheaper Chinese ones are doing well (for now) but are having to diversify to survive and its the same in the smartphone market. Apple still have a loyal, rich brand capable of extracting value out of consumers like no-one else can, but its weakening and its share price backs that up. Samsung have made huge strides into the smartphone and tablet markets but self confess to not making any money from it with average smartphone prices down by 25% from last year. Huawei and Lenovo meanwhile are mopping up the lower end, selling cheap smartphones that do everything they need to do for 1/3rd of the price of the id-range brands like HTC, LG, Nokia and Asus, who will probably become ripe for the picking!
So what we’ve got to look forward to in the Rugged smartphone market? Well we’re already seeing the bigger 2 (Motorola and Honeywell) buying up the mid range brands. Psion, Intermec, LXE, Metrologic, HHP) all gone now and will no hard within the next 6 months. Meanwhile the lower end of the market thrives with cheaper rugged smartphones and price at the forefront of their minds. Pidion, Winmate, Mitac,….. The list goes on with the larger companies bringing out ever cheaper models to compete and fend off dropping share prices.
With tumbling prices the service drops, it’s a fact especially in a “channel” scenario and despite what people may tell you. The moral of the story is that the focus was on the hardware a few years ago, but now it’s about keeping your business running. If a cheap rugged smartphone does that then well done, but the key to keeping hardware running these days is to find someone who cares about it and that list is getting smaller every day!
The Rugged and Mobile blog.