We have launched Live Talkback at Confex yesterday, and I had the opportunity to meet many people who organise and run hundreds of meetings and events across europe every year. Live Talkback lets them get their audiences involved and engaged in their event - and our solution is both better, and approximately one tenth of the price of our competitors - so we had a very successful first day.
At the event I got to see the reality of the mobile industry with the real public - asking people to pull out their mobile phone and use a mobile service at a show. This is a target audience who is frequently away from their desk at an event, or a meeting, so mobile connectivity is vital to them - while some people had forgotten to bring their business cards to the event nobody had forgotten to bring their mobile phone.
So what were the phones we saw?
Exhibitors overwhelmingly had iPhones - they valued the rich experience, and it was fun to watch our competitors using Live Talkback on their own iPhones, and going "wow, cool" - another converted customer.
There were a significant number of Blackberries in the audience - often held in front of people checking their email while they walk down the aisles of the show (or maybe voting on the show polls with Live Talkback's Blackberry application)
At least half of the audience though were carrying phones that were around 3 years old, and very battered looking. When we explained how to use Live Talkback - go to m.livetalkback.com in your mobile phone browser - a common reaction was "My phone doesn't have the internet" The suggestion of "why don't you try?" - resulted in a success every time, often with a "wow, I didn't know my phone could do that" So it turns out that consumers in the UK market do have phones with browsers, and are data enabled - yet are not aware of the fact they could use this.
So in spite of nearly 10 years of marketing mobile internet services (Vodafone Live launched in 2001 for example) - the awareness of the internet on phones other than the iPhone has not reached about half of the UK phone buying public.
As bad is this section of the phone buying public seems to have no desire to get a newer phone - they are happy with their 3 year old model, yet few of them are wearing 3 year old suits, or have 3 year old designer handbags. It does not seem that we can blame the economy for this, the problem lies in the fact that the mobile industry is not providing them with sufficient perceived value.
What is the missing phone?
These people are smart consumers, but they are unlike the technology savvy folk who drive the mobile phone industry. They value simplicity, quality, elegance. What does the industry offer them? 3 year old technology repackaged in a new shell, with a cluttered set of features with the minimum investment in software as that is expensive, and all they want is a low cost phone, right?
Where is the "elegant phone" - the phone that is beautiful, and robust, with a simple set of core features done extremely well - yes it is 3 year old technology, but the watch on my wrist has technology that is about 100 years old, and it's still executed superbly, and continues to run reliably after being in continual use for 16 years.
Nokia and Samsung come closest here, but both suffer from the assumption that just re-using the software from older devices. As the mobile phone market further splits into the smartphone "haves" and the featurephone "don't want's" will anyone successfully address this market?