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Is It Time to Rethink Feature Phones?
7/19/2013

Source: International Data Corp., 'Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker'
Source: International Data Corp., "Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker"

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junko.yoshida
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which feature phone was (or still is) your favorite?
junko.yoshida   7/19/2013 1:02:38 PM
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Here's my questions to everyone. Which feature phone was your absolute favorite? And maybe you are still use it...if so, attach that picture here in the comment box please!

Tom Murphy
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Re: which feature phone was (or still is) your favorite?
Tom Murphy   7/19/2013 1:40:27 PM
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My favorite phone of all times (3G and 4G smartphones included) was my old Nokia candy bar phone, similar to the one photographed in your blog. I just got it out of a drawer and instantly was reminded of why I loved it:  one week on a charge, good sound, and the ability to text if I needed to, which I don't very often.  As it turns out, I don't like having email on my phone -- I prefer to deal with emails when I can sit down at a laptop.   It was cheap -- free with my service contract -- and small enough that I could slip it into tiny pockets comfortably.

Frankly, I'm thinking of going BACK to a feature phone for its convenience. Smartphones don't work the way they're advertised thanks to the rotten networks, and they are VERY expensive at a time when most people are looking to save a little green.

In emerging countries, where wireless networks are just emerging, feature phones are all the rage -- it is that market where Nokia and others have found fast growth and established their brand names, setting the scene for a Round Two of fighting over market share.  Will you see Apple in those markets? Probably not.

mhrackin
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Re: which feature phone was (or still is) your favorite?
mhrackin   7/19/2013 3:34:41 PM
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Like many people, I carry 2 cell phones: a smartphone provided by my employer (iPhone 4), and a "feature phone" (LG8350) that I pay for (as a prepaid).  I've owned several feature phones before the LG (all Motorolas); the LG is my favorite because it's simple to use, has all the features I want (SMS, camera with decent quality, etc.) and a couple I've never used or wanted.  The iPhone replaced an old Blackberry (which I hated because of the tiny keyboard), but i've come to hate it as much as the Blackberry (because I often need to edit text in e-mail or SMS, and the interface design makes that difficult).  However, I do like Facetime, as I have grandchildren living far away!  It's a lot easier to use than Skype.

Regarding cameras, I haven't seen ANY featurephone (with the possible exception of the ones marketed using the "freephone" boondoggle) that doesn't have at least a 1-2Mpixel camera in years!

junko.yoshida
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Re: which feature phone was (or still is) your favorite?
junko.yoshida   7/19/2013 3:41:34 PM
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Carrying two phones does make it logical to use a feature phone. And your example here is really a good one. 

I suspect that where phone companies selling feature phones struggle is that there may be fewer turnovers. Rather than upgrading one's smartphones every six months, probably, a lot of feature phones are handed down from one person to another, or recycled from one country to another. 

mhrackin
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Re: which feature phone was (or still is) your favorite?
mhrackin   7/19/2013 3:57:33 PM
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That's for sure!  I've had my LG for about 5 years.  Maybe a year after the original contract ran out, I converted it to a prepaid no-contract plan using a 3rd-party reseller (same network), along with my wife's (an even simpler LG, NO CAMERA).  Since we used relatively few minutes even on our previous "share" contract, that cut the bill to less than 1/3 what it was.  Now that I've finally trained my wife to use the cell rather than the landline for long-distance calls, it's still a huge savings!  BTW, despite still having the original batteries, both LGs have excellent battery life, at least a week even with higher usage.  I likely won't replace either one until the batteries begin to fail; it's cheaper to get a new (featurephone) cell than a fresh battery!

We did recycle our old Motorolas by donating to one of the domestic-abuse charities that refurbs them and gives them to victims.

elizabethsimon
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Re: which feature phone was (or still is) your favorite?
elizabethsimon   7/24/2013 11:16:31 AM
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You are right about it being cheaper to get a new feature phone than a new battery. The only reason I replaced my older LG a couple years ago becuase the battery wouldn't hold a charge. I replaced it with another LG flip phone and then promptly disabled the web access so I wouldn't accidently eat up the minutes on my prepaid plan.

I also have an iPod Touch which I use for apps and the camera. When the battery on my current phone dies, I might consider a smart phone but it would have to be useable out in the country. A lot of prepaid plans I've seen appear to have no service in Montana...

 

junko.yoshida
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Re: which feature phone was (or still is) your favorite?
junko.yoshida   7/19/2013 3:50:39 PM
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Here's one of my first feature phones I used when I was living in Europe. I thought getting a color screen, and having no antenna sticking out of the handset was the coolest thing then. The phone felt snug in my hand.

EdwinP0
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Re: which feature phone was (or still is) your favorite?
EdwinP0   7/19/2013 5:59:43 PM
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LG Fusic.

Small and light.  I can cradle with my shoulder.  Stereo headset.  Plays music/podcasts.  

Physcial buttons (I can call without looking down).  Batteries were good and I can change the battery with one hand.

 



junko.yoshida
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Re: which feature phone was (or still is) your favorite?
junko.yoshida   7/19/2013 6:06:59 PM
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"I can call without looking down"


Oh, I had forgotten about that. That's so true. Love it!

sixscrews
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Re: which feature phone was (or still is) your favorite?
sixscrews   7/22/2013 3:49:49 PM
My wife, her 93 year-old-father and I have Samsung Knacks - antedeluvian flip phones that we have owned for almost three years.  Samsung marketed them to the 'senior demographic' and I'm glad they did - big buttons, large text, idiot-simple interface.  They don't work well as flashights nor do they light us up as connection-obsessives at concerts or other events where the lighting is dim and smart-phone users look like they are getting the third degree in a Noir movie.

And, like any other forward-looking company, Samsung discontinued them after about six months - so we bought four more on eBay.

My 'service' provider Verizon wants another $30/month for a smart phone.  Why should I pay $360/year for the privilege of checking my email anywhere anytime?

To answer your question about features, we like the large buttons, the large text on the screen and the lack of gimmicks - no camera (I have a Nikon D800E that does a very nice job of taking pictures, thank you), no voice mis-recognition software, no apps (like the astronomy app I have been shown countless times by people who can't pronounce Aldeberan) - just the phone, thank you.

Long may they live,

 

wb/ss

junko.yoshida
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Re: which feature phone was (or still is) your favorite?
junko.yoshida   7/22/2013 6:58:37 PM
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sixscrews, I can't agree with you more.

It is that data plan that's killing all of us consumers! And when we want a phone, we just want a phone that let us talk to someone, I agree.

More than several years ago, I had a pleasure of writing a feature story about "Dick Tracy Phone" -- Yawn, I know. 

But a whole bunch of interviews I did then produced a lot of twists and turns, and I thoroughly enjoyed writing about it.

http://www.eetimes.com/document.asp?doc_id=1266743

The story juxtaposes the birth of a wristwatch (i.e. Santos Dumont) and that of Dick Tracy phone. 

The convenience (or the allure) of Dick Tracy watch might not be, after all, its ability to do multiple features. But it lets you see what time it is, because it is on your wrist!

(well, sure enough, we seem to get excited about things like "iWatch.")

But I digress. The point I wanted to make here is that a simple, single function -- "talk" -- could come back in vogue. I am pulling for it. 

 

chanj0
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Pros of Feature Phone
chanj0   7/19/2013 1:26:12 PM
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The pros of feature phone is really lightweight and low power consumption. I remember the last feature phone that I used last for a week w/o recharging. When I'm on the road and constantly on the phone for a week, I just need to give some juice to it every 3 to 4 days. Compared to it, 2 of my smartphones last only for 2 days w/o much usage. If I keep checking email and post to my social network apps, I will need to connect its USB tail every day, if not every half a day.


In addition to power saving, feature phone is particularly useful to elderly. I believe most senior person don't care much about mobile computing. Even they do, a 5.5" screen is probably too small for them; a 10" tablet will better serve. On the other hands, the ease of use and the potentially large button on a feature phone will come really handly for most senior person. The nature of individual buttons just makes life a bit easy.

junko.yoshida
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Re: Pros of Feature Phone
junko.yoshida   7/19/2013 2:09:45 PM
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I hear you, chanj.

My late father, who was an engineer, was too old to use a mobile phone by 2007 -- due to several small strokes he had in his late years.  But his curiocity got over him and told me, "Junko, I would like to use 'keitai' (means mobile in Japanese)." This was three months before he died.

I wish I got him a keitai. But then, I keep thinking what mobile handset, in his physical state, could have been the best for him... and really, none comes to my mind... 

Susan Rambo
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Re: Pros of Feature Phone
Susan Rambo   7/19/2013 4:07:39 PM
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chanj0 In addition to power saving, feature phone is particularly useful to elderly. 

Martin Cooper worked on the Jitterbug phone specifically for seniors. Think about that market: right now it's a big market as the U.S. baby boomers age. The Jitterbug Plus is specifically designed with a long-battery life (25 days of standby time) and it's supposed to be intuitive and easy to use.

 

mhrackin
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Re: Pros of Feature Phone
mhrackin   7/19/2013 4:18:47 PM
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Well, Marty is even older than I am; we are both "pre-boomers" and thus very much aware of the needs of OUR generation!  I did work with Marty for a time in the Motorola Research Labs, on the original early work on cell phone technology.

Susan Rambo
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Re: Pros of Feature Phone
Susan Rambo   7/19/2013 4:43:26 PM
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@mhrackin: Marty is even older than I am; we are both "pre-boomers" and thus very much aware of the needs of OUR generation!

Hi mhrackin, I bet a phone like the Jitterbug might not even appeal to baby boomers or some pre-boomers anymore after they get used to a smartphone. Do you think? Some octogenarian relatives of mine are now into texting me from their smart phones--I think they're more savvy sometimes than I am, having been tortured by a Blackberry as you were. As long as someone shows them how to use the smartphone, they like the technology. It's the last time we'll have a generation of seniors who didn't know how to use cell phones. 

I did like my Nokia flip phone because it wasn't as power hungry, but it was hard to do any texting.

Thanks for your comment. You must have some interesting stories to tell. 

junko.yoshida
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Re: Pros of Feature Phone
junko.yoshida   7/19/2013 4:19:42 PM
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Susan, thanks for bringing that up. I had forgotten about Jitterbug. It's good to hvae a cell phone intergrated with a medical alert system! (well, at least that's what us kids think that our parents should have)

DMcCunney
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Define "feature phone"
DMcCunney   7/19/2013 1:37:40 PM
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A good part of the discussion will depend on how you define "feature phone".

One thing I've thought for a while now is that going forward, every phone will be a smartphone, simply because it can be.  (Or we might see a steadily advancing idea of what a smartphone is, with a higher level of basic capabilities required to qualify.)

Previously, feature phone vs smartphone distinctions were based on cost and technology.  The hardware needed to make a smartphone was expensive, and the phone itself was expensive as a consequence.

Feature phones used less expensive technology, cost less to make, and could be sold for less to customers who couldn't afford (or simply didn't want) a smartphone.

Technology has advanced and become steadily smaller, faster, and cheaper.  Today's feature phone will be yesterday's smartphone, in terms of what's inside.

What will define feature phone vs smartphone will be software based capabilities, because the hardware will no longer be the main bottleneck.  Thinking about it, I can see possible generations of feature phones that can be upgraded to smartphones with no change in the hardware: pay more to unlock capabilities and install the software needed to use them.  The hardware itself is cheap - the value is in what you can do with it.

There will certainly still be hardware distincrions, like whether the phone has a camera and the amount of installed RAM, but a low end phone will be something that would have been high end indeed a few years ago,

Nokia's results are no surprise, with the significant factor being the reduction in losses.  Part of that may be a result of simplification of their product line.  When you make as many different models of phone as Nokia did, you wing up competing with yourself, and make it harder for any particular model to attain the sales required to be profitable.

Part of Nokia's challenge will be to cut costs to be profitable in the feature phone market.  The other part will be becoming competitive in the smartphone space, and I think that will be a much tougher nut for them to crack.

junko.yoshida
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Re: Define "feature phone"
junko.yoshida   7/19/2013 2:37:14 PM
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That's a very good question. When Spreadtrum is making a killing by selling their cihps to $50 smartphones in China, obviously, differences between smartphones and feature phones are no longer about the cost.

The way it is defined today, from what I understand, is differences in OSes. How many apps can it run? 

Remember, many feature phones today already have cameras and even Internet connections (although it may not work that well.)

I apologize for thinking out loud here...but  I am acurious to find out if there is a market segment to be cultivated...where simple, elegant, "doing less" phones consuming less power can win. 

Don't call it a granny mobile (because that would kill its potential market instantly), but I am hoping something like that could pop up. 

DMcCunney
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Re: Define "feature phone"
DMcCunney   7/19/2013 2:56:26 PM
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obviously, differences between smartphones and feature phones are no longer about the cost.

Well, not so much about the cost of the underlying hardware, at least.

The way it is defined today, from what I understand, is differences in OSes. How many apps can it run?

Differences in OSes don't directly limit how many apps it can run, but do determine how many apps are available to run.  (Hardware limitations may rule out some apps.  No point to an app for manipulating and sharing photos, for example, if your phone lacks a camera, even if the hardware is powerful enough to execute the app.)

App developers want to sell apps, and will concentrate on what they perceive to be the most profitable markets.  So there are a plethora of apps for the iPhone running iOS, and a plethora for Android.  The state of app development for Windows Phone is open to some question: my understanding is that the tools and APIs for doing the development are better than they are for Android, but developers still have to be convinced there is an actual profitable market to be addressed before they jump in.

There are plenty of niche markets still - there are still a boatload of phones out there running Nokia's former Symbian OS, for instance, plus Blackberries and things like the Palm Pre and Pixi, but the number of developers still writing for those markets will be small.

junko.yoshida
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Re: Define "feature phone"
junko.yoshida   7/19/2013 7:19:48 PM
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"...but the number of developers still writing for those markets will be small."


I agree. And obviously, asking people living in the developing countries to pay for apps via debit card probably isn't realistic, either.

But where there is a problem, there is always a solution. Bago-Telefonica deal is an interesting example.

http://thenextweb.com/insider/2013/01/17/with-telefonica-now-banging-bangos-drum-carrier-billing-in-developing-markets/

DMcCunney
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Re: Define "feature phone"
DMcCunney   7/19/2013 8:25:31 PM
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Yes, Bango is fascinating.  Certainly being able to make purchases and simply have the purchase price added to your phone bill is significant.   I did think the writeup might be optimistic on things like "with credit cards potentially becoming redundant as a result."  The question is how the user pays the phone bill.  In many cases, phone costs get billed to a credit card.  My prepaid plan automatically hits one of my credit cards at specified intervals, for onstance, because the plan requires period purchases of additional minutes, even is a minutes balance is present.

But it reduces friction in the purchase process, which increases commerce.  One thing I've tried to get across elsewhere is that the market will pay for value, and you must provide value, price appropriately, and make it as easy as possible for the customer to give you money.  Bango makes it easy for the customer to give you money.

chanj0
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The future of Nokia
chanj0   7/19/2013 1:47:13 PM
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The data clearly shows the slump sales of feature phones. Why is Nokia hanging on the market, still releasing new feature phones?


"Something is better than nothing. As long as there is still something, you'd better hang on to it until it is completely gone. Hopefully, you've find a new market by then. "


I'm sure Nokia's management is having this in mind. At the same time, they are looking into various option. Lumia is one of those although it doesn't seem to get enough attention.

Every product has a cycle. New product, less competition, high profit margin. Market saturation, brutual competition, low profit margin. Samsung and HTC are all jumping into entry level smartphone which is smaller in size and low cost. I'm surprise that Nokis hasn't released any low cost smartphone in the US market.

 

junko.yoshida
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Re: The future of Nokia
junko.yoshida   7/19/2013 3:28:53 PM
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Chanj, that's a damn good point:

I'm surprise that Nokis hasn't released any low cost smartphone in the US market.

But i wonder how big that segment of the market really is in the United States. I need to check that.

 

Tom Murphy
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Re: The future of Nokia
Tom Murphy   7/19/2013 3:55:23 PM
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ChanJ: I'm not sure how you'd define "low-price," and I'm not sure of what it's full retail price was, but the Nokia900 (Windows) was just $99 with a service package when it was released compared to $199 for comparable Samsung (Droid) phones.  It got a lot of publicity for its low price, but still didn't sell very well.

I just checked AT&T, and a Nokia 920 is still $99, the same price as an older iPhone 4s.  A iPhone 5 or a Galaxy S 4 are $199-$399, depending on models. All prices are with a service plan.

Of course, there are feature phones and much older smartphones that are cheaper or free with a service plan. But I think Nokia has been priced aggressively for the market.

DMcCunney
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Re: The future of Nokia
DMcCunney   7/19/2013 8:02:03 PM
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My phone is a feature phone.  It's the smallest, cheapest, least powerful model Samsung makes, used with a prepaid phone plan.  All it does is calls and SMS, and that's all I want it to do.  Everthing else is something else's job.

The waters get muddied by the nature of the market.  The actual price of a phone won't necessarily be a factor, as most phones aren't bought at retail prices by users.  They are acquired through a carrier who subsidizes part of the phone's cost as part of a multi-year contract.

And the biggest use for all those apps involves going online, which both reduces battery life before a recharge is needed, and requires a data plan.  The data plan may be the highest fixed cost in the contract.

The cost of a data plan may tip some users toward a feature phone, if they conclude they don't really need to go online fom their phone at any random moment.

A correspondent elsewhere did the math and determined his option was to buy a current iPhone at full retail ($600), then shop for a plan.  Because the carrier wouldn't be subsidizing part of the phone's cost, the plan would cover strictly service used.  He calculated that his total cost over the expected lifetime of the phone would be lowest doing it that way.

Of course, for him, the phone was a tool, not a fashion accessory, and he expected to keep it for a while, rather then upgrade when the latest "Ooooh! Shiny!" hit the market.  And most of the market seems incapable of taking the long term view.

It might well make sense for Nokia to issue a low cost phone in the US, aimed at those who planned to simply buy the phone at retail, then get a plan from a carrier like T-Mobile who seems to be pushing precisely that unbundled approach.

junko.yoshida
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Re: The future of Nokia
junko.yoshida   7/22/2013 8:51:08 AM
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DMcCunneyI like your thinking. And I think many of us in the EE Times community are fully capable of making informed decisions -- in regards to what exactly we want to do with our mobile phone. It is a choice.

It might well make sense for Nokia to issue a low cost phone in the US, aimed at those who planned to simply buy the phone at retail, then get a plan from a carrier like T-Mobile who seems to be pushing precisely that unbundled approach.


Nokia and others could make phones aimed at the intelligent crowd who wants choice!

DMcCunney
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Re: The future of Nokia
DMcCunney   7/22/2013 10:41:31 AM
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And I think many of us in the EE Times community are fully capable of making informed decisions

Part of the distinction is whether a phone is a tool or a fashion accessory.  I think most EETimes readers consider a phone a tool, and fashionability isn't a factor in the purchase decision.


Nokia and others could make phones aimed at the intelligent crowd who wants choice!

They could.  The question would be how large that market is.  You need to sell a lot of phones to do it profitably.


But if you unbundle the phone from the carrier plan, cost of the phone becomes a factor, and a lower priced phone that has the feature set you need becomes attractive.


 

Bert22306
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Sales figures aren't use figures
Bert22306   7/19/2013 4:33:00 PM
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It would be interesting to see the comparison of feature phones vs smartphones in actual use out there, on a year to year basis. As opposed to "shipments," as shown in the graphic.

Featurephones don't need to be upgraded as often as smartphones are. For one, because the features haven't changed much in the past years. For another, because they aren't a trendy fashion accessory. So the real question is, are those who still use feature phones aching to get a smartphone, or could they simply not care less?

This matters because the term "downward spiral" for feature phones might be a misnomer. It's possible that demand could persist indefinitely, rather than falling to zero. For that matter, I would not assume that the fast turn-around of smartphones will last forever either. People do have a way of assuming that the status quo today is "the new normal," but it rarely turns out that way.

junko.yoshida
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Re: Sales figures aren't use figures
junko.yoshida   7/19/2013 7:08:06 PM
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Bert, you do have a point. But finding out the actual "use" number must be tough, when we already know so many features phones are being "recycled." 

rick merritt
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Low end smartphones take over
rick merritt   7/19/2013 8:29:39 PM
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I interviewed Jeff Hawkins, designer of the Palm Pilot and Treo about the time the iPhone came out. He said "Someday all phones will be smart phones."

The same dynamic that drove PCs from costing $3,000 in the early days to $200 today will carry smartphones into the mid and low end markets eventually, he said.

I don't think feature phones will die--nothing ever dies. But I agree with Jeff, smartphones will eventually become cheap enough for entry level and developing markets. As they do they will take over most of the market.

Of course by that time high end models will be doing--God knows what!

junko.yoshida
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Re: Low end smartphones take over
junko.yoshida   7/22/2013 9:19:06 AM
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Rick, that's a good point.

The same dynamic that drove PCs from costing $3,000 in the early days to $200 today will carry smartphones into the mid and low end markets eventually, he said.


But here's the thing. In the PC market, over time, $3,000 PC just didn't just become a cheaper PC, but they morphed into smartphones, tablets and cheaper PCs.

So, I am wondering if there is a new category of products in waiting in the mobile world -- beyond just smartphones just becoming cheaper smartphones. 

Tom Murphy
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Mobile Commerce
Tom Murphy   7/19/2013 8:30:35 PM
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Please allow me to introduce just one more facet to this very interesting debate on the merits of feature phones vs smart phones (or have we decided they're not so smart?).

E-commerce is an enormous beast that is driving adoption of smartphones in western countries and most of Asia.  In the US, consumer spending is two-thirds of the economy -- more than $10 trillion a year.  When you add in financial services transactions, the number is mind-numbing. 

There is a broad concensus in retail and banking that smartphones represent the future for both sectors. Ergo, consumers must have smartphones. (You may think you bought such a device, but the truth is you've been sold such a device.)

There is a substantial movement in emerging countries to develop banking and retail apps for feature phones. Afterall, banking for most people is simply a matter of withdrawals and deposits and payments. That would be a remarkably important advance in emerging countries, where the closest ATM might be 100 miles away. Retail isn't as important because there has long been a supply chain of essential commodities.

How many people already use smart phones for banking and retail?  Do you think you could bank on a feature phone instead?   Could you do without both now? In the future?

 

Frank Eory
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Re: Mobile Commerce
Frank Eory   7/22/2013 7:46:52 PM
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Re: your final questions, "How many people already use smart phones for banking and retail?  Do you think you could bank on a feature phone instead?   Could you do without both now? In the future?"

Of course, in the industrialized world, millions of us use smart phones for mobile banking and for online purchases. I actually used to be able to do mobile banking several years ago on my last feature phone -- an LG env2 that ran the BREW OS -- until my bank changed it's online banking system and no longer supported my BREW OS phone and it's tiny browser. But even today, my bank supports certain mobile banking features like balance inquiries via SMS to any phone that can send & receive text messages.

I have read that in developing countries, a great deal of mobile banking gets done via SMS using feature phones. Clearly the banks in those countries have greater motivation to support mobile banking via SMS, considering the much lower smartphone penetration among their customers.

As to your last question, there is no question I would not want to give up mobile banking or mobile shopping. Both are huge time savers, and I would not willingly give up those hours of free time.

Tom Murphy
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Re: Mobile Commerce
Tom Murphy   7/22/2013 7:55:12 PM
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Thanks Frank.  And you're quite right about the role of feature phones in banking in emerging countries. I personally know of people who write banking apps for feature phones.

The number of people of all ages who use smartphones for shopping is still relatively small -- even among Gen Y (it's almost unheard of for Boomers, although they own the most smartphones).   And only a few percent of those with bank accounts use mobile banking.

How long do you think it will be before the majority of people shop and bank on smartphones?  Do you think banks can close their branches then? Do you think we'll still have ATMs around in 10 years? Or will we just download some e-cash to our phones?

Frank Eory
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Re: Mobile Commerce
Frank Eory   7/23/2013 1:55:34 PM
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I think we will always have ATMs and at least some number of bank branches, although I expect that as time goes on, there will be fewer branches than today. Some banks already offer lower cost checking accounts that permit only online or ATM access -- if you want to go inside a branch and work with a live human, that type of account has a higher monthly fee. E-cash stored on phones should eventually encroach upon the prepaid debit card market, and with NFC the phone can and will begin to take the place of ordinary debit & credit cards.

I was unaware that mobile banking & shopping has such a low penetration rate among smartphone users. I suspect that mistrust of the security is still a major issue for many people. As for retail shopping, e-commerce has already had a significant impact on the way brick & mortar retailers do business (just ask Best Buy). They have a challenge in addressing the problem of consumers visiting the store to look, touch and decide, then making the purchase online where they can get it cheaper. Many stores will now match internet pricing, or offer some other value proposition to persuade consumers to make the purchase there in the store rather than online. The availability of barcode scanner apps that instantly inform the user of price & availability of an item locally and online has made the smartphone a great way to save money when shopping. I'm surprised that many more consumers don't take advantage of this.

DrQuine
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Getting hooked on SmartPhones
DrQuine   7/19/2013 8:46:07 PM
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Getting hooked on SmartPhones requires an affordable introduction (sounds like drugs?). Feature phones are a necessary first step in emerging markets in order to persuade users that they'd rather have a SmartPhone. I never imagined that I'd ever pay the extraordinary cost of a SmartPhone. However, after a few years on my standard phone seeing what my colleagues could do with their SmartPhones, I paid up and moved up.

Tom Murphy
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Re: Getting hooked on SmartPhones
Tom Murphy   7/20/2013 6:52:49 PM
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So did I, Dr. Quine, and now after a few years of spending "smartly" I think I'm ready to go back to my feature phone -- and save about $600 a year. (For iphones, add 30%)

_hm
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Cost of feature phones after five years
_hm   7/20/2013 8:57:27 PM
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For technology devices, few years after the obsolence price climb high rapidly. How long can Nokia or NEC can prolong this? They need to make plan to switch over to more recent technology.

 

alex_m1
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Rethink featue phones?
alex_m1   7/21/2013 3:18:53 PM
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With $47 smartphones[1], and great user interface for seniors[2], and the multitude of stuff a smartphones can do, it's hard to see a future for feature(less) phones.

The more interesting things to watch, is where will feature phone tech , which some of it is amazing[3], will be used in the industry.

[1]android, http://www.mobilecenter.com.au/watch-video/MTQP00U8ZU0/Charbax/$47-android-phone-and-$140-a31-tablet-by-simon-electronics.html


[2]https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=name.kunes.android.launcher.activity&hl=en

[3]The less than $2/volume MT6250, which include a 300mhz arm9, 8MB ram, DSP, 3G, BT, and all kinds of interesting peripherials and interfaces. Again, for less than $2 !.

Kinnar
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Yes, Absolutely it is required to Redefine the Phones
Kinnar   7/21/2013 3:59:35 PM
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The Phone has become an essential entity in one's life. If you are not having a working phone with you, you might feel something lacking till you get the phone working. So a phone functionally is very essential in any of the phones or Smartphones. 

Now the Smartphones when the companies try to integrate multiple features other than phone functionalities it becomes a very much burden on the processing and power capacity of the phone.

What I think is the other functionalities should be left for the tablets or other devices and phone should be kept as a phone only. The phone functionalities include GSM, CDMA, WiFi features. The phone should be made as much as lighter, smarter and long lasting in terms of battery power.

junko.yoshida
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Re: Yes, Absolutely it is required to Redefine the Phones
junko.yoshida   7/22/2013 8:40:53 AM
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I agree, kinnar. I understand that $50 smartphones can do a lot of things -- and they are cheap. And they will be the feature phones of the future (or of today, already).

But what I am talking about here is this: Whatever happened to the concept of "smaller, lighter, simpler" designs? Aren't they still appreciated by many of us? 

Kinnar
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Re: Yes, Absolutely it is required to Redefine the Phones
Kinnar   7/22/2013 10:31:31 AM
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You are absolutely right Ms. Junko Yoshida, mobile phones are an ever developing device, and I think that mobile phones should be given more emphasis on saving the power and battery charge time. Most of the low profile phones are available with this feature and that is not a result of the giant players' research, Thanks to the small developers. But what I was wanted to depict here was the communication device should have all the latest communication means like browser, im clients, mail clients. Yup but at the same time one can say that this is a user specific usage practice/habit. But at the end I mean to say the power saving is a major aspect. 

DMcCunney
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Re: Yes, Absolutely it is required to Redefine the Phones
DMcCunney   7/22/2013 10:53:45 AM
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But what I am talking about here is this: Whatever happened to the concept of "smaller, lighter, simpler" designs? Aren't they still appreciated by many of us?

They are appreciated by some of us, but the issue is form factor.

What do you plan to do with your phone?  If you just plan to make calls, it can be very small indeed.  If you want to browse the web, read email, participate in social media through an app, use it as a GPS or the like, the size the phone must be gets dramatically larger, because of the size the screen needs to be to let you do those things.

One reason I have a feature phone instead of a smartphone is that size distinction. I simply want a larger screen, displaying more at at time, than any practical phone can have. A tablet will likely have the minimum display area I'll accept, but a tablet is too big to be a phone.

selinz
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Re: Yes, Absolutely it is required to Redefine the Phones
selinz   7/22/2013 12:56:39 PM
i just can't see feature phones making any kind of comeback. my las windows 6.5 phone (5 years ago) was a small as any feature phone on the market and was pretty much all screen. the 640x480 screen could easily turn into big virtual buttons. It was pricey and neophytes were intimidated by all it can do. now the price and intimidation factor have been mitigated by market acceptance. feature phones are dying.

DMcCunney
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Re: Yes, Absolutely it is required to Redefine the Phones
DMcCunney   7/22/2013 1:05:33 PM
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I'm willing to bet your Windows Phone 6.5 phone was considered a smartphone when it was released.  The fact that you think of it as a feature phone illustrates the direction of the market.

But it's not a question for feature phones making a "comeback" - it's a matter of feature phones not going away.  There are an awful lot of feature phones out there, and an awful lot of users who simply don't need anything more than what they have. 

 

junko.yoshida
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Re: Yes, Absolutely it is required to Redefine the Phones
junko.yoshida   7/22/2013 7:04:37 PM
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Tablets, yes. But how do you feel about "phablets"?

I was really taken aback during my visit to China last year. These gigantic phones are all the rage! seriously.

 

Tom Murphy
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Re: Yes, Absolutely it is required to Redefine the Phones
Tom Murphy   7/22/2013 7:15:27 PM
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Junko:  I have a large phone -- 5" x 2.5"  but I have fairly big hands and it doesn't seem over-sized.  It has such a good camera that I no longer take my camera  when sightseeing, so overall, I'm carrying less stuff.  The big screen is better for maps and I like the bigger keyboard due to my klutzy fingers.  And the bigger screen is better for watching videos and showing pictures.  So for folks like me, it makes sense. 

I don't think I will ever carry a tablet around because my large phone is large enough and when I write, I need a good keyboard -- really a laptop.

But I wonder:  how many people could get by with a large phone and no tablet? 

DMcCunney
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Re: Yes, Absolutely it is required to Redefine the Phones
DMcCunney   7/22/2013 7:45:00 PM
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But I wonder:  how many people could get by with a large phone and no tablet?

A fair number, depending on the size of the phone and what they did.  I suspect many tablets are selling to people who did formerly use a phone for such things, but found a larger screen desirable.

One point I've tried to make elsewhere is that tablets are half-duplex devices.  A friend bought an iPad, and called it a Media Consumption Device.  He was quite right, as that was what it would be used for, and the UI was optimized for allowing you to quickly select the media you wanted to consume,

The communication was almost entirely one way, from the site with the media to the user viewing it.

If you simply want to consume content, a phone or tablet is fine.  If you want to create content, the equation alters dramatically.

I have, and still occasionally use, a folding keyboard that connects via IR to my Palm OS PDA.  I got it because I had a good word processor that ran on the PDA and could create or edit documents on it, but attempting to do any significant text entry or editing with the on screen keyboard or Grafitti handwriting recognition was actively painful.  Should I acquire a tablet, an external keyboard will be a must have accessory.

Tom Murphy
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Re: Yes, Absolutely it is required to Redefine the Phones
Tom Murphy   7/22/2013 7:50:59 PM
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That's a good way to put it, DM.   I'm a creative type and I know my phone is a powerful computer.  I often wish I could just dock it whereever I want to work and use it instead of a laptop.  As far as I know, there's only been one phone like that -- a Motorola, I think.  Does anyone know of others?

DMcCunney
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Re: Yes, Absolutely it is required to Redefine the Phones
DMcCunney   7/22/2013 8:29:05 PM
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I often wish I could just dock it whereever I want to work and use it instead of a laptop.

I'm not aware of any other than the Motorola you mentioned, but I haven't looked. What I'd be interested in, short term, was a phone and tablet combo, which would work stand-alone, but would work together when desired, like the phone pairing with the tablet and serving as a modem when I wasn't around a wifi hotspot.  (I've been told ASUS has such a thing, but it hasn't been released here yet.)

But I think what you mention will come to pass.  The technology gets steadily smaller, faster, and cheaper, and you can now put the sort of capability that used to require a desktop or laptop in a phone sized package.  My PDA has a faster processor and more RAM than my first Windows desktop, and the trend has simply hastened.

We are seeing phones with dual-core CPUs and video displays with 3D hardware acceleration.  I don't see a reason why your phone couldn't be your primary computing device, that you just plugged into a dock when you weren't traveling, and the dock would connect to a large display, keyboard and mouse, networked external storage, and your router.

It might not have the full power of a desktop/laptop, but you might not need it.  The increasing move to the cloud is bringing to pass the sort of environment Bell Labs anticipated with their Plan 9 OS, where the user's workstation connected to compute servers, data servers and the like, and the actual work was done elsewhere, and simply displayed on the user's workstation.  It didnt matter  where a particular resource actually was.  Everything mounted off the user's workstation and was seen as local.  As long as sufficient bandwidth existed, you could be in NYC, the resource you were using could be in SF, and you neither knew nor cared.


DMcCunney
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Re: Yes, Absolutely it is required to Redefine the Phones
DMcCunney   7/22/2013 7:30:55 PM
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But how do you feel about "phablets"?

I haven't had a chance to play with one to form an opinion.  I'm unsurprised there are people who like them.


But one question that arises is how you carry one.  I was in a conversation with a woman on another forum who sometimes SSHed into servers she administered from her phone while she was out.  A larger device, like a tablet, was out because she really didn't like to carry a bag, and a larger device would have required one.

That wouldn't bother me, as if I'm out for anything other than a trip to a local shop to buy something, I have either a shoulder bag or a backpack, and carrying a netbook or tablet is part of the reason for it.

My cellphone is tiny, and lives in a holster I can clip to my belt, if I don't just slip it in a pocket.  But the display is too small to meaningfully do something like SSH into a server, even if it had the ability to do it.

I don't have a problem carrying two devices - one for calls/SMS, and one for everything else, and if I'm going to carry two, the second will be large enough for me to work comfortably.

How did the folks you saw in China carry their phablets when they weren't actively using them?

 

 

junko.yoshida
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Re: Yes, Absolutely it is required to Redefine the Phones
junko.yoshida   7/23/2013 7:31:00 AM
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DMcCunney, Chinese people with phablets always carried theirs in their briefcase (if they were male), or in their purse ( female). One Chinese businessman while we were in a car together had both his phabet and laptop in his briefcase. He told me how he was originally embarrassed to talk into such a big phone, but now he is used to it, because many people have a phablet.

DMcCunney
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Re: Yes, Absolutely it is required to Redefine the Phones
DMcCunney   7/23/2013 10:12:38 AM
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Thanks, Junko.

Chinese people with phablets always carried theirs in their briefcase (if they were male), or in their purse ( female).

So effectively, Chinese phablet useers always carry a briefcase or purse, because they have a phablet.

One Chinese businessman while we were in a car together had both his phabet and laptop in his briefcase.

I wonder how many use a phablet instead of a laptop,

He told me how he was originally embarrassed to talk into such a big phone, but now he is used to it, because many people have a phablet.

Yes, if everyone else does it, it stops being embarrasing.

Did you get any impression of what brands were used?  I'm curous about the number that might have been home-grown Chinese brands.  I'm quite certain there are brands in China I've never heard of that will have fair market shares in China because of proximity to the local market and because they are Chinese brands.

junko.yoshida
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Re: Yes, Absolutely it is required to Redefine the Phones
junko.yoshida   7/23/2013 6:30:51 PM
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DMcCunney, I saw people in big cities in China carrying Samsung Galaxy everywhere. They seem to like that bigger screen. But Coolpad was also another brand I saw often. Meizu was another one -- I hear that's actualy very popular among students. 

I got the impresion that 5-inch was almost a norm already a year ago; and when I was back in Shenzhen in March this year, many local chip vendors and handset companies talked about "phablet."

Here's the URL to the slideshow I put together about a year ago on China's smartphone brands.

http://www.eetimes.com/document.asp?doc_id=1264560

 

zhgreader
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Re: Yes, Absolutely it is required to Redefine the Phones
zhgreader   7/24/2013 3:10:59 AM
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1 saves
What Junko said is true. you can hardly find nobody, especially youngers, has a smartphone in their hands.

down street, ride on the bus, train, you can see most of them are busy with thumb through screen,

most of smart phone are sumsung, apple and so on, we call them import products, despite they are produced in China.

a little part of them are made by chinese ourself. but the quatities of them are increasing now.

wilber_xbox
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Re: Yes, Absolutely it is required to Redefine the Phones
wilber_xbox   7/23/2013 10:56:08 AM
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Rather than buying a Phablets i will go and buy a decent 7" tablet which i can use to read books, play games, surf and buy a decent low end smartphone or a feature phone so that i do not need to keep it on charge always. I do not know why people buy 5" smartphones as a 3" or 4" would serve the same purpose.

alex_m1
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Re: Yes, Absolutely it is required to Redefine the Phones
alex_m1   7/22/2013 2:43:58 PM
Junko,

We can use software to transform a smartphone to a feature phone. Just paint on screen using white lines on black background a keypad and a numeric display, using minimum light, and connect only to a voice+sms network, and optimize everything. You'll get pretty long standby.

I might like this feature at my last 15% power, but not as a full blown phone.

>> Whatever happened to the concept of "smaller, lighter, simpler" designs?

Why has this changed ? Because people are interested in products that fill specific "jobs" they need, that are comfortable, and that are cheap. Smartphones are a huge win on the "jobs" part, a small loss on the comfort part, with prices becoming good. That's just a better tradeoff.

junko.yoshida
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Re: Yes, Absolutely it is required to Redefine the Phones
junko.yoshida   7/22/2013 6:43:54 PM
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Interesting point you make here:

 Smartphones are a huge win on the "jobs" part, a small loss on the comfort part, with prices becoming good.


Perhaps. But if your phone wouldn't let you talk to anyone after 12 hours of intensive web surfiung (because of no battery), I am sorry it is NOT the job done in my book. 

alex_m1
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Re: Yes, Absolutely it is required to Redefine the Phones
alex_m1   7/23/2013 3:35:40 AM
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Junko, There's some new smartphones that use eink display and last a week at the price of worse user experience and less uses. Maybe they will be what replaces the feature phone on the use cases you mentioned? Assuming you could reasonably enter text, they can be used for many kinds of apps. They would still lack video capabilities and camera capabilities, thought.

junko.yoshida
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Re: Yes, Absolutely it is required to Redefine the Phones
junko.yoshida   7/23/2013 7:34:29 AM
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That's interesting and I love the idea! I think we need to think outside of what we have already come to know as "feature phones" in order to redefine featur phones.

DMcCunney
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Re: Yes, Absolutely it is required to Redefine the Phones
DMcCunney   7/23/2013 10:20:42 AM
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The nice thing about eInk displays is really low power consumption, since they require no power to maintain a screen image once it has been rendered.  Users of dedicated eBook readers using eInk displays report weeks before requiring a recharge.

A phone wouldn't be quite that good, because of other power consuming activities, but it would be beyyer than other phones.

Current eInk displays and controllers can actually handle full motion video.  The biggest issue will be lack of color, but for usage as a phone, that's not a drawback.

Charles.Desassure
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Bigger Screen...
Charles.Desassure   7/23/2013 8:16:28 PM
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For Smartphones, the future will be a bigger screen.  Remember, people have to be able to read the information.

junko.yoshida
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Re: Bigger Screen...
junko.yoshida   7/25/2013 8:11:34 AM
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Yes, Charles.Desassure !

The screen size is one thing. But then, there is this question the whole industry is grappling with now. How big is big enough? 5-inch and smaller are now considered regular smartphones; something bigger than 7-inch are considered tablet. In between, they call it phablet. What is your big-enough screen?

zhgreader
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what on earth there is different between Feature phone and Smartphone
zhgreader   7/24/2013 3:28:29 AM
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When smartphone swift occupy communication market, when we have to change our mobil phone time to time after this strong tide trend, we often ask ourself, what is smartphone? what is feature phone?

Sonebody says there is a cpu inside, but I wonder my old one Norkia fat shape machine had also a cpu, A7 core and memory and os, which can do all that this smartphone can do.

access to wifi, internet, has multimedia, can record, take shoot and process pic like photoshop does...

what they lack is only mimo, and some sensors, can we think adding sensor will be smart one?

 

 

Denis.Giri
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cheap, tough, and longer battery life
Denis.Giri   8/12/2013 8:08:59 AM
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Cheap:

Are feature-phones cheaper? Now, with $100 smartphones, the question becomes very tough. Either you're ready to pay $100 (or more) for a smartphone without a contract, or you go for a $1 phone with a contract. In both cases, that phone can now be a smartphone...

 

Tough:

Buy a case + screen-protection ($20) and don't sit on your phone. You'll be OK

 

Longer battery life:

Smartphones can hold a call as long as a feature phone. The main difference is that you use your smartphone for more that caling people... Thus the increase in power consumption...

Right now, phones are 50g of electronics and casing + 50g of battery. Give me a 250g phone that lasts 4 times as long (full week of "smartphone usage") anytime. I'm a big guy, I can carry it easily.

 

"Simpler":

I can't talk from experience with the newest feature phones, but with the old feature phones, you either had a text/menu interface to navigate through the things you could do with it or small icons that took you 20 tries to navigate to when you wanted to click on them (weird arangements of sub-menus of icons).

Now, on your smartphone, you have big icons that you "simply" have to ram a finger into...

 

So, no... I don't see the point of feature phones anymore.

 

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