When I first started selling mobiles phones in 1990, there was no doubt about the number one brand. Motorola. If you wanted to sell mobiles but didn’t stock Motorola, then you weren’t serious. Motorola had a proud heritage in mobiles with the first ever mobile call made from a Motorola phone back in 1973 and the terms ‘brick phone’ and ‘bag phone’ referred specifically to two Motorola models. But the problem with being the incumbent leader is that market leadership can turn on a dime at the smallest hint of complacency. Motorola was a proud American company but a company in the relatively tiny country of Finland, a country that is one sixtieth the size of the US, came along and stole the market away from Motorola. By the late 1990s and early 2000s, Nokia owned the worldwide mobile market. To this day, Nokia have seven of the top ten best selling phone models ever.

Then Apple changed the face of mobiles. The iPhone launch, on 29 June 2007, forever changed what consumers expected from their mobiles. Nokia were left behind and we had a new king. If history has taught us anything, it is that a king is not forever.

A combination of innovation and complacency drive the mobile phone market. This week we saw an unprecedented event. Samsung held a regional sales training and launch event for their newest phones on the market. The Samsung Galaxy S10; S10+ and S10e were all on show in Dubbo this week along with a discussion on the next greatest innovation we will see in the mobile market, the Galaxy Fold.

Samsung are after the king’s crown – and to do that they know they need to out-innovate and out-market the current king. Not easy when the current king is known to be a leader in both areas. Samsung have managed to crack a major innovation in their latest S10. Fingerprint reading through the face of the screen. In the past, phone manufacturers have placed a dedicated fingerprint reader at the base, side or back of a phone. With the new ultrasonic fingerprint reader, Samsung users have the ability to place their finger on the face of the phone to unlock the device. No dedicated reader. This is a major technological advancement.

Of more importance though is the Galaxy Fold. In folded mode, it shows a still reasonable 4.6-inch display. But unfold your phone like a book and you are presented with a 7.3-inch display – similar to a small tablet. Despite assurances from Samsung that they have tested the hinge over 100,000 folds, consumers will still want to see how it performs in the real world. For the marketing value though, these two innovations alone put Samsung in a new light.

Are we seeing the changing of the guard? Is the king being dethroned as we speak? Only time will tell but one thing is certain. Incumbency and complacency deliver poorer results for consumers than competition and innovation.

Mathew Dickerson

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