Smartphones don’t last long nowadays. Operating systems evolve. Software upgrades are continuous. As months pass, the phones become bogged down in the clutter of memory requirements. The choices that smartphone users have are to buy up or forgo software and software updates.
The truth is that before you unbox your new smartphone, you know that it will be replaced by something faster with better hardware specs in a month. I estimate the lifespan of a smartphone is about 18 months, possibly 24 to 30 if you are prepared to push it into the realm of redundancy, based on your software needs.
Bearing this in mind I don’t like paying a vast amount of money for a big name brand, and instead look among the Chinese offerings. It’s a technical research mission but it yields decent results. My current smartphone was released in 2013 and has done exceptional service for just a bit more than N$100 per month when I calculate the cost over the number of months I have used it.
I have been painstakingly investigating successors for the last month. I expect the next one to deliver at slightly less than N$200 per month for about 18 months at best given that the Android Lollipop OS is only now beginning to filter onto phones, and Google is already making noises about its successor Android Marshmallow.
There is a certain amount of pleasure in investigating my next digital companion in a conscious way. On the other hand, I could go for one of the new generation of superphones, a Google phone or an LG perhaps, and expect it to do well for about N$500 per month.
The trick here is that I haven’t accepted the convenience of awareness.
In marketing think, awareness is extremely useful. Instead of actually investigating options, a consumer can buy a product or service of which he or she is aware. The decision comes in two broad phases, firstly a scan through memory of all the products of which he or she is aware, and secondly a choice based on a large component of emotion and a lesser component of reasoning.
It is extremely useful for the consumer, who does not want to have to spend time sifting through the options and making product comparisons. A decision rooted in awareness is primarily emotional, based on exposure to the brand, not necessarily to the product. The brand endorses the product and gives reassurance that the specifications will be correct, so the consumer can follow his or her emotions and but without much thought.
Awareness equates to convenience in two forms.
Firstly there is emotional convenience. The consumer does not have to form an emotional bond to the product as this is vested in the brand. From the brand manager’s point of view, awareness is an investment that needs to be made and maintained.
Secondly, there is factual convenience. The consumer does not have to develop loyalty based on facts, and will most likely settle for a reduced set of product specifications based on the emotional bond with the brand.
The indirect relationship can be summed up as a greater investment in emotional convenience saves on the level of spend required to convince consumers to buy each new product.
This speaks to larger companies with a greater line of products, however it can translate into the realm of retail in which one outlet stocks many brands. Supermarkets, for instance, need to invest in emotional convenience.
The same is true of the smaller brand. Even a limited line of products can benefit from a strong emotional attachment to the brand.
There is however a clear risk. If the product is defective, or does not live up to expectations, the emotional attachment to the brand may be damaged, so the quality of the product that benefits from emotional convenience has to be on par with the consumer’s expectation.
As for my new smartphone, after all that research, it is out of stock, so I will have to wait a while. I’m a bit irritated by the delay, so availability also needs to be added to the list of conveniences.