Not so Smart after all?
A new report has come out from the Opinion Research Corporation, a market research company based in the U.S. This study suggests that the most returned gift over the Christmas holidays was….drumroll please…the Smartphone! About 21% of all Smartphone recipients (this excludes the iPhone and any RIM device) returned their shiny new device back to the store they got it from. So, by excluding the iPhone or RIM this leaves only Symbian and Windows Mobile to take the ‘crown’ as relative failures. Does this report surprise me? Not in the least. Smartphones generally are some of the most un-user friendly electronic devices out on the market. I personally know most of my friends/colleagues (around 30 or so people) own some kind of smartphone. The majority by default own some variation of Symbian’s S60v3 OS. A few own WinMob devices. Only me and 1 other guy own an iPhone. NONE of the other people use their phone for internet browsing. 2 use their device for email retrieval (me and the other iPhone guy). No one has installed any 3rd party apps. 3 people use the camera on a regular basis. No one apart from me and the other iPhone guy listen to music on their device.
But what is the most telling is that any these people would have NO issue instantly dropping their device for something else. There is no love/loyalty to brand of phone or OS. There is an air of disdain for the devices. Most of my friends want an iPhone, if they could afford the high-entrypoint to ownership.
Going back to the report, the biggest reason for returning the smartphones was: The inability to understand the product setup process. Again, why am I not surprised? Smartphones like Symbian offer no genuinely easy entrypoint to usage. You get the phone, put your SIM card in and battery, and boot it up. Then you are instantly quizzed for info on your email accounts (is it POP or IMAP?), internet access points (is it 3G/UMTS or EDGE or GPRS or WLAN???). Basically within a few minutes, you are lost in a sea of information that is needed just to get the device up and running correctly. What this report shows is that by this point the fun or excitement has worn off, frustration has set in (hunting around drawers for your internet info). The experience is a failure. You probably will not buy the same brand of device again. A ‘loyal’ customer is lost forever. This is where the vertical integration of the iPhone comes in, and shows how it should be done. There is no long-winded setup process, because the iPhone just takes the necessary information upon first sync. The user just sits and waits for the sync to complete, and then the iPhone has everything it needs to be fully functional. This is (in the world of smartphones) quite unique at this point. And this is why generally iPhone users are extremely content with their device. Believe it or not, they actually feel bonded to it, it becomes a part of their life.
Of course, within certain Smartphone-orientated websites/blogs they feel that only dimwits use an iPhone, and power users have Symbian or WinMob. Why is that? Well, its the same ‘Boy’s Club’ mentality as with (small) aspects of the Open Source Linux community. As in, to be ‘clever’ and ‘Techie’ and impress other males, you need to spend your time tinkering with software, endlessly installing/uninstalling bloatware, and customizing the desktop/phone screen to look like a teenage coat-hanger-abortion, covered in gaudy, ugly logos and colors. The iPhone, with its simplicity and elegance is the antithesis of this small group of geeky boys. It’s too easy, too nice, and not ‘fully-pumped-specs’ enough for them. Good.
Generally, you have only a few seconds/minutes to make an impression. That very first hands-on experience with a mobile device will setup your decision to keep a device. What this report shows is that ultimately, smartphones have a hard time capturing and keeping mindset. Whereas a company like Apple knows EXACTLY how to create a first-time experience with the iPhone. Once you have plugged your iPhone into the cradle that first time, and see the activation/sync light up the screen, and then it tells you your iPhone is ready, that’s it – you are hooked.