The unveilings are coming in at record pace this week with IFA 2014 in Berlin being the global stage for these announcements.
In the top-tier device category, we've seen Samsung's latest Galaxy S5 and Galaxy Note 4 (Forbes review) unveilings as well as very long list of other leading OEMs: Lenovo (ComputerWorld review), Microsoft (MobileWorld review), HTC (PCWorld review), Sony (MobileWorld review), ZTE (MobileWorld review), among numerous others.
Does smarter mean bigger?
What's clear from the length of this list and the plethora of devices, primarily high-end smartphones with high prices but also various smartwatches and phablets, is that the consumer electronics (CE) smart device space is only getting more crowded. While industry and financial analysts keep saying that the high-end CE market is saturated, obviously these OEMs don't find that to be a deterrent. So, what is being offered? Bigger and thinner screens – the size of the smartphone, once prized for a compact form and portability for rather significant functional capability, keeps growing.
Why are the smartphones getting bigger? Likely the competition for the tablet space is where these devices are focused. Now the term "phablet" (phone-tablet) is heating up and the devices which may not really offer such a significant functional or component leap, are certainly looking for shape and size to curry favor with consumers (and give reason for a hefty price tag still associated with this level of device category).
The stakes are getting higher
Meanwhile, on the strategic front, it is very clear that Samsung and Apple had better watch their backs closely, no longer is there the luxury of the giants battling it out on their own – the market share wars have been openly declared at IFA, without question. Xiaomi and Huawei are directly citing what they feel to be their differentiators and are aggressively marketing themselves not only in the emerging and developing world, but are now declaring their entries into Europe and North America to pull market share.
Competition is healthy, plain and simple. We've long heard the cries from the industry that smartphones seem to have stagnated some when it comes to innovative momentum. We've all noticed that all smartphones have come to look very similar compared to the early feature phone days – will this new phase bring an innovative experience? Are the components being pushed forward going to provide enough change and draw to re-energize a stalling high-end market? We'll see how this month plays out and then in October we'll be taking a deep dive into the leading devices we'll have seen unveiled and look at the components closely and see what they tell us about the global strategies that impact the semiconductor and electronics supply chain.