back to article Make America buy phones again! Smartphone doom 'n' gloom crosses Atlantic to cast shadow stateside

Top UK pop-pickers CCS Insight have predicted that smartphone demand will decline 3 per cent this year, the latest in a flurry of gloomy forecasts. CCS revised its earlier forecast down: it reckons 1.8 billion smartphones will shift in 2019 rather than 2 billion, as it thought earlier. Marina Koytcheva, VP of forecasting, …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Price may be part of the story...

    But I keep mine as long as it's still working acceptably!

    1. HildyJ
      Pint

      Re: Price may be part of the story...

      I agree. I'd still be on my Google Nexus except the [goddamn non-replaceable] battery started dying. I might replace my Pixel 2 when I can get true 5g (I.e. chip, antenna, AND coverage) but I don't see that happening for awhile. Most "new" features are of limited utility to me.

      Besides $1000 will pay for a whole lot of pints which I appreciate much more.

      1. Michael Maxwell

        free, as in beer

        It comes in pints?

    2. Cuddles Silver badge

      Re: Price may be part of the story...

      "But I keep mine as long as it's still working acceptably!"

      But price is an important factor in what "acceptable" actually means. People often keep cars, for example, long after they have become run-down and barely functional solely because it's expensive to replace them. Something like a kettle, on the other hand, will be happily replaced even if it's still in an easily repairable state since it's so cheap to just get a new one.

      Phones are no different really. If it only cost £1 for a new one, you could happily replace it every time you see something just a little bit shinier. At £100, you'll want to keep it for a while, but will probably replace it while it's still working and just feeling a bit slow or not quite compatible with some new hardware/software, and justify it further by noting that at least you can keep it as a spare just in case. At £1000, only total destruction is going to get most people to fork out for a new one. Price may only be part of the story, but it's the most important part that puts everything else in context.

      1. Diogenes

        Re: Price may be part of the story...

        If they hadn't switched off 2g I would still be using my old Samsung flip-phone that cost me $25 6 years ago

  2. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

    Mature Product

    Smart phones have matured as a product and market fairly rapidly. But what is forgotten in the 'analysis' is smart phones replaced cellphones for many so there was market cannibalization occurring. Plus, if the phone is working well, why replace it. The new 'features' are not that critical to users. Basically consumer tech is a mature market with only niches of growth which are often cannibalizing other products.

    1. JohnFen Silver badge

      Re: Mature Product

      "The new 'features' are not that critical to users."

      And for some, not even desirable. I know that for me, the new features that have been added to smartphones over the last few years (particularly the high-end smartphones) are features that aren't just noncritical, but are not things I would actually use at all. And to get them, features that I do use and value have been jettisoned.

      So, for people like me, the latest crop of smartphones aren't just failing to justify their price tags, they are actively less desirable than older models.

      1. Andy Non

        Re: Mature Product

        Ditto that. After my smartphone died I went back to a feature phone, cost me £45. No regrets. Long battery life and I don't miss any of the bloatware that came with the smartphone. When I want to use the internet, I've got a (Linux) PC with a proper keyboard and big monitor.

        1. Olivier2553 Silver badge

          Re: Mature Product

          I never went away from a feature phone. When people ask me how can I survive with such an ancient technology, I often open my hand and my phone explode on the floor. People go all OMG. Re-install the battery, turn-on and all is good. Would they dare to do the same with their precious overpriced toy?

          My phone do drop on the floor at least once a month, I am happy that I managed to save $12,000 per year.

        2. Alan Bourke

          Re: Mature Product

          "When I want to use the internet, I've got a (Linux) PC with a proper keyboard and big monitor."

          Unwieldy on the bus though I'd imagine.

      2. Jeffrey Nonken Silver badge
        Flame

        Re: Mature Product

        I think the technology has plateaued, so we're only seeing incremental changes for the most part. That, and the manufacturers are trying clever little tricks to distinguish themselves, with the result that JohnFen just described. Not everybody is OK using Bluetooth to replace the headphone jack. (I use both in different circumstances.) I have my reasons for liking my Pixel XL, but the fixed battery and the lack of an SDcard slot are strikes against it. And for some reason Google's latest updates have given me a notch in spite of the fact that the phone doesn't HAVE a bloody notch.

        I personally don't need my phone to be paper thin and a reasonable amount of bezel does not offend me. I'd like to be able to pull it out without cutting myself on the edge, thanks very much; and it's already difficult enough to pick it up without accidentally interacting with it, without you wrapping the display and touchscreen all the way 'round. I don't want those things. So stop taking away the things I want to give me things I don't want. kthxbye

      3. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

        Re: Mature Product

        The return of a replaceable battery is about the only 'new feature' that would intrigue me but only if the price is right for me. Otherwise, I will keep my phone for a couple more years.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Mature Product

          Cars are a mature product but Americans pay ever more for cars that are objectively worse, the average car payment is now something like $575 and > 70months

          Obviosuly phone makers need to copy Ford.

          Make a giant phone, too big to fit in your pocket with a slight tendency to roll over and kill you when you make a call, but - and here is the secret - give it an engine.

          People complain about battery life and replacement but are happy to carry petrol powered lighters around with them. Just add a very small engine + dynamo to the phone and everyone is happy.

          Make it a V8 with a turbo and they will even sell in Texas

          1. TomG

            Re: Mature Product

            As a native born Texan, agree wholeheartedly with your last statement.....but only if the phone comes in red.

            1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

              Re: Mature Product

              >but only if the phone comes in red.

              All trucks are only available in red, any other colo(u)r would be communist

          2. JohnFen Silver badge

            Re: Mature Product

            > Cars are a mature product but Americans pay ever more for cars that are objectively worse, the average car payment is now something like $575 and > 70months

            A minority of Americans do. The majority of Americans buy their cars used.

  3. djstardust Silver badge

    Hmmmm

    Galaxy S was £400 when it came out. As the article says manufacturers have got greedy and copied Apple.

    Simple as that.

  4. Peter2 Silver badge

    CCS revised its earlier forecast down: it reckons 1.8 billion smartphones will shift in 2019 rather than 2 billion

    Are we serious that around one third of the population of the planet is replacing their phone every year?

    1. User McUser
      Headmaster

      Current world population is around 7.5x109 so it's closer to one quarter than one third. Also, some people have more than one phone which skews the numbers a bit.

      But yeah, apparently they are.

    2. Andrew Commons

      Global impact?

      I had the same thought. In terms of percentage I think you would probably need to use a population figure excluding the very young and the very old so maybe a third is not unrealistic.

      So where do the 1.8 Billion replaced devices go? How much energy and pollution is involved in their disposal?

      The planet is right, it needs to get rid of us, quickly.

    3. Olivier2553 Silver badge

      Are we serious that around one third of the population of the planet is replacing their phone every year?

      I know some teenagers who would need to replace their phone every month, because it takes them that long (short?) to destroy it (and the stupid thing is not repairable).

      Extreme case I have seen is the screen broken in less than 24 hours of receiving the new phone.

    4. phuzz Silver badge

      Or to put it another way, on average people are replacing their phone every 3-4 years, which sounds like it's in the right ballpark to me.

      Some people swap every year, some people hold on to their phone for years, most are somewhere in between.

  5. chivo243 Silver badge

    Like pagers

    Some *ahem* professions need more than one? I was talking to a head of security recently his mobile rang, searched his pockets and he had at least two before finding the one ringing.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Like pagers

      Many people have both a personal phone and one provided/paid for by their employer. This way, one's personal data and activity cannot be monitored by the employer, they don't have to personally pay for work calls/texts, they don't have to worry about accidentally walking off with their employer's data when they change jobs, and they can turn off the work phone outside of business/on-call hours. This also gives you the freedom to use whatever personal devices you want while still complying with whatever corporate IT policies exist. When I had phones, the only way I would allow my employer to contact me outside the office was on a separate phone they supplied and paid for. Likewise laptops. Mixed use means serious privacy, expense, and legal problems.

      I'm not sure how many people do this, but it's probably enough to account for a significant number of devices in excess of humans.

      1. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: Like pagers

        I have an ironclad policy of never using my personal machines for work, to protect both my employer and myself. I don't know how common my stance really is, but I'd say about 25% of the people I've worked with have had similar policies.

  6. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge
    FAIL

    My choice

    I'm just on to my second "smart phone". I've just retired my 1st. gen Moto G (cost new £99), it works perfectly but is stuck on Andoid 5.1.

    I now have a Nokia 5 (cost new £99) which updated itself to the latest version of *Android. I like the dual SIM and SD card slots.

    *yesterday I setup Pi-hole on a Raspberry PI. This morning on the Pi-hole dashboard I noticed that the Nokia was constantly connecting to the internet all night. I just tried to check the Android version and the battery is flat :( AFAIK I don't have any dodgy apps, maybe have to go back to dumb phone. So much for increased sales haha!

    1. Olivier2553 Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: My choice

      Double thumbs up for dumb phone and Pi-Hole.

    2. chivo243 Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: My choice

      Love the PIHole! You have Android, there's your dodgy app...

  7. Marketing Hack Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    I'm definitely part of the problem...

    I have a real hard time justifying $500 for a phone, much less $1K.

    (Paris--because El Reg has no "cheap bastard" icon.)

    1. Jeffrey Nonken Silver badge

      Re: I'm definitely part of the problem...

      I splurged $490 for this Pixel XL 128 a year and a half ago. These days the same model going for about $200, but I have no regrets -- it's been a real trouper, and so far as been getting the latest updates. (Though it will probably end with Pie.) It's got a pretty clean interface and doesn't have a shipload of manufacturer apps (Samsung, for example, loves to dump a ton of these onto their phones) and another shipload of carrier apps, all of which can't be uninstalled.

      I could have gotten a cheaper one but wanted to max out the ROM size due to the absence of an SDcard slot.

      For me it was worth it. YMMV. But I agree that $500 feels like a pretty hard cutoff for a phone for me too.

    2. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: I'm definitely part of the problem...

      I'm with you there, my first smart phone was a G800 Huawei. I didn't die but was packed full of dust an crud from my work. I had a look around the interthings and found a 6Gb IP68 phone with a housebrick sized battery for a tad over €200, it's a Ulefone Armor2 still going strong after nearly three years. The camera is decent, it has all the apps I need now goes like a Ferrari,why would I now go and spend the best part of a grand on something that carries a 'branded' name that won't do any better?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        my first smart phone was a G800 Huawei. I didn't die ...

        Count your blessings. You can never be too careful with some phone makes.

      2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: I'm definitely part of the problem...

        >why would I now go and spend the best part of a grand on something that carries a 'branded' name that won't do any better?

        According to the specs the Ulefone can survive 1.5M of water for 1.5Hours but 1M of concrete for only 24hours - so if you need to spend more than a full day buried under 1m of concrete you might have to look elsewhere

        1. Jack of Shadows Silver badge

          Re: I'm definitely part of the problem...

          While I can thoroughly understand why someone might bury me in 1m of concrete and drop me off the stern of a boat in a lake or ocean, I probably have higher priorities than whether the phone works for more than a full day. On the other hand, the one-fingerpress SOS and GPS+GLOSSNAS might come right in handy.

          Nice engineer's phone. Bookmarked.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I'm definitely part of the problem...

      ""The psychological threshold of $1,000 seems to have prompted some consumers to re-evaluate whether they really need to replace their phone as quickly as they have done in the past," she said"

      LOL. My psychological threshhold is about $300. Fortunately, $700 smartphones drop to $300 on the used market after less than two years. The Galaxy S8+ was released just about two years ago. I bought mine last year, used, for $300. That, for me, was the most I had EVER spent on a phone, as as much as I am likely to ever spend (adjusted for inflation).

      To be sure, it replaces a phone, gps unit, camera, music player, alarm clock, remotes for tv/stereo/thermostat, cycle computer (has ANT+ antenna) and a host of other things, guitar tuner, generator monitor, etc, etc. It is definitely worth $300 to me, but not more.

    4. chivo243 Silver badge
      Windows

      Re: I'm definitely part of the problem...

      (Paris--because El Reg has no "cheap bastard" icon.) Just use the Tramp, drinking beer out of a can in a bag, that's pretty cheap!

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I think the bigger issue (at least with Android)

    Is the complete and total sh*tshow that is pre-installed crapware/adware/spyware that is foisted upon users.

    This study (PDF) shows exactly what the problem(s) are:

    https://haystack.mobi/papers/preinstalledAndroidSW_preprint.pdf

    And here is what can be done about it:

    https://www.xda-developers.com/disable-system-app-bloatware-android/

    And of course the better option:

    https://www.lineageos.org/

  9. whoseyourdaddy

    I just want a spare iPhone7+

    I don't want a glass back. I don't. I don't. I don't.

  10. Rob Davis

    Nokia pure Android, services, lens protection cover

    To address the preinstalled Android issue, get a Nokia Android. These are relatively affordable, for example the Nokia 6.1 can be bought for 170 pounds or less. It runs Android Pie (Android 9) pure stock Android and has guaranteed at least 2 years of upgrades.

    Perhaps the downward trend and maturity of the market is a foresight Apple had when they launched the Apple card financial service and streaming service this week. They see their future income growth coming from these.

    Proper camera lens protection that the Nokia N95 and N82 had are something I miss in modern smartphones even with the "sapphire" coating. We have eyelids so why don't phones anymore?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Nokia pure Android, services, lens protection cover

      You mean THIS Nokia?

      https://www.zdnet.com/article/nokia-firmware-blunder-sent-some-user-data-to-china/

  11. ecofeco Silver badge

    Overpriced phones might be the cause of slow sales?

    Whocouldaknowed?!

  12. cmaurand

    Yeah, $1,000 is too much for a phone. Smartphones are good for a lot of things, but making phone calls isn't one of them. With 5G coming, it looks like I'm going to get a battery and a new back for it and wait. It's working "ok" for now. Not great, but ok. It was never great and the latest and greatest is certainly not worth $1,000.00

    Cheers

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