This weeks Economist has a review of the transformation of the mobile industry following Mobile World Congress. It points out the unlike other industries at present Mobile is in good health in terms of sales.
In telling us that we are at in inflection point with the transition of handsets into smartphones. Whilst this sector has grown over the last few years to be a key element I do not see that many consumers are looking for a single device. Talking to my daughters about what "upgrade" they want it is not about an iPhone or Blackberry for these teenagers but rather an exceptional camera that will also playback MP3s. Many have two handsets and whilst the Smartphone is the device that they are happy to show in public the "other" handset is the one that does most of the phone calls.
As the economy starts to slow further we will see Network Operators look more at the dead money spent on Subscriber Acquisition/Retention Costs. Why would a Network give out a £250+ handset if it is used as a second device and so the usage is lower than expected?
As money starts to be counted by the Consumer will we see Contracts downsized the current bundles are perceived as over priced rather than good value. This being the case we are seeing more PAYG sims becoming dormant whilst contract numbers stay strong thanks to the introduction of SIM only. The risk is that the Networks will become more intelligent and will take the opportunity to "lose" subscribers that are not profitable.
A presentation last year from NSN showed that on a number of European Networks over 60% of the subscribers were loss making. Will this downturn mean that the Operators with the best processes take the opportunity to decide that they do not seek to be mass market but rather premium supplier? If they decide that this is the best source of action then they could look at the PC market and say that the approach of Apple & Sony is far better than Dell & HP.
Photo is the Nokia E75 taken by me at MWC09.