It seems that the era of explosive smartphone growth has come to an end. This fact will not surprise most of the people who watch the industry closely, and after all, it was inevitable at some point. There are now more smart devices in service than there are people living on the planet. In the face of that, it was only a matter of time before we started seeing a slowdown in the rate of expansion and adoption.
Since the first appearance of the smartphone, the industry has enjoyed double digit growth in sales, year after year. In 2016, projections are that sales will continue to expand, but at a more modest 7%, and while market saturation explains a portion of the decline, it doesn’t paint the entire picture, which is more complex than you might first think.
In the earliest days of the smartphone, new advancements were often revolutionary as wholly new and unseen features were added on a regular basis. These days, most of the advances and improvements are evolutionary and incremental in nature, rather than revolutionary. If a new feature doesn’t speak to the needs of a particular user, then he or she is likely to hold onto his old phone for longer, and wait for a more attractive incremental update before purchasing a new one. In a similar vein, many carriers are offering longer and more complex deals as part of their service contracts, which is another important factor for the increasing longevity of smartphones.
Finally, economic factors may now be having an influence. In previous years, cellphone sales saw relatively little impact, even during tough economic times, but this no longer appears to be the case. When economic activity declines, many people make the strategic decision to hang onto their existing phones for a little longer, and are reluctant to rush out and buy the very latest that the technology has to offer.
This is not to say that the smartphone market is in any sort of trouble. Indeed, it is as healthy and vibrant as ever, with a number of new and exciting advances on the horizon. It is, however, a maturing market, and with that maturity comes inevitable change.