Updated: Aug 12, 2019
I’ve remembered the moment when Samsung revealed the price of their Galaxy Fold, and how people are astonished by it. Before the release of any foldable phones, the most expensive smartphone that one can buy, excluding those extremely high-end ones, is the iPhone Xs Max made by Apple (start from $1,099). Foldable smartphones, however, took this already high enough price to a whole new level!
Royole FlexPai: $1,318 / $1,469
Samsung Galaxy Fold: $1,980
Huawei Mate X: $2,600
Of course, making a novel and challenging idea, such as a foldable screen, into reality is costly, and therefore such prices are somewhat anticipated. However, since these smartphones are introduced as mature products ready to be used by the general public, we must ask the following question: do they live up to their incredibly high prices? Unfortunately, at least for now, I believe the answer is no. These devices feel more like some tentative prototypes made for proving the concept, with plenty of issues remain to be solved (FYI., here are the articles pointing out the potential problems with Royole FlexPai and Samsung Galaxy Fold). In other words, you pay a lot of money for a product (more than you would expect to be sufficient for buying a smartphone), but end up having mediocre quality in return.
The same problem also happens on iPhones made by Apple, a company that was once proud of their ability to “think different”. Over the years, we’ve witnessed the price of iPhones skyrocketed. Nevertheless, the quality and durability of the devices fail to keep up with the upward trend! Take iPhone Xs Max as an example, you won’t expect a product over US$ 1,000 to suffer from charging problem, poor Wi-Fi reception or a weird green line on the OLED display, but somehow Apple managed to make all the above occurs on some of their devices!
So, what exactly is going wrong here? Why there seems to be a trend for us to pay more for poorer quality? Well, we believe the key lies in the pace of innovation.
When innovation induces harm...
The technology companies today are in an innovation-based competition, in which realizing a new technique or feature quicker than other players is the holy grail for those in the game. As a result, most of the tech giants release new model on a yearly basis to show off their ability to innovate, and consequently making the field of technology one of the most changing industries among all.
Such competition has both a good and a bad side. On the positive side, it can accelerate the speed of innovation, and thus hastening the raise of the technical development of our society. On the negative side, however, without strong insistence of making good products, such a rapid innovation rate can prompt a company to sacrifice proper quality control in exchange for being the first in the market, and correspondingly lowering the quality of the products released.
The decrease of products’ quality and the rapid release of new models then bring about two marketing challenges for the firms: (1) how do you convince people to stay loyal to your brand even though the devices cause rather negative user experiences? And (2), how do you persuade the consumers to purchase the newest model considering that their old one may still be working?
To the first question, the main strategies adopted by many are two (P.S., one of the most significant examples to be benefited by these strategies is Apple Inc.):
Building an ecosystem to connect devices made by a certain manufacturer.
Making effort on the design of devices’ appearance.
And as we can see, under the protection of the ecosystem and attractive design, some companies have lost the motivation to optimize their products, which further quickens the decline in the quality of electronic devices and customers’ satisfaction.
The answer to the second question causes even bigger problems. In order to make people give up their old devices quicker, one of the most straightforward tactics, also one of the most evil ones, is to decrease the durability (sometimes it could even be done on purpose) when designing their products. You can see some hints that Apple is secretly doing so by watching the videos on Louis Rossmann’s YouTube channel, and the following clip is just one of the instances: https://youtu.be/oaBW9qlYcwc. In other words, the quality of the electronic devices today may not only decrease because one don’t care about it. In the worst case scenario, it can be undermined purposely for the benefit of the manufacturer!
The mediocre products will require a company to resort to some bad marketing strategies to maintain the sales. Except for lying and empty promises that everyone is familiar with, there is one move that the mainstream seems to be doing: figuring out some innovative, but may neither pragmatic nor useful, features and futuristic design to put on their products as eye-catchers, and then market these products as fashionable objects that you need to purchase the newest model to join the cool table. One of the negative consequences of such strategy is the increase of the budget for the R&D department, and I believe this is the main reason for the rise of the electronic devices’ price today.
All in all, we can summarize the points said into a vicious circle that lowers products’ quality but at the same time raises their prices:
And if anyone wish to break free from the circle, a new competing strategy will be a necessary and imperative thing that they will have to work on.
So, what should we do?
If we look closely, we’ll find out that one of the key factors preventing manufacturers to produce high quality products is that many believe in the following logic:
“If we make a product that is too good, the consumers will keep it longer, and this is not good for a company’s financial growth since people will not make another purchase. Therefore, it’s better for us to sacrifice quality and turn to something that is more exciting to the general public.”
This contention may be workable in short-term and can lead to a temporary rise in the numbers of sales, but it’s actually inflicting negative effect on the company itself!
In that case, what should we do to not only stay innovative but also keep a high standard in respect of quality? Here, we propose a potential solution that involves a revolutionary thinking about electronic devices, and it goes along with the current trend in technology field, which involves the rapid development of cloud computing, internet of things (IoT) and 5G.
Our idea is that the future electronic devices will not carry any processor or memory in it! In other words, they work merely as a display with the ability to connect to the Internet. The computational power and memory for storing data are provided by a cloud-service platform which is owned and run by the company.
Such idea can provide at least the following advantages:
It’s easy for a company to build an ecosystem on the basis of the cloud-service platform it owns (e.g., only the people who bought the devices made by a company can use the cloud services proffered by the very company).
The price of the consumer-end devices should be lowered significantly because it has rather simple functions. And with a cheaper price, it’s easier to convince the customers to buy multiple devices or shifting to the newest model.
The hardware and software that actually perform computation are at the company-end, which makes problem fixing, performance upgrading or so fairly easy for a company.
All the software and data of a particular customer are safely stored in a cloud space so that no data transmitting or reinstalling needed when one purchase a new device. This can further encourage people to buy the newest model since they are freed from the trouble of resetting the environment.
Since the consumer-end devices do not perform calculation, they may be less electricity-hungry and thus have longer battery life.
The R&D budget may be cut down by adopting different renewing rates at company- and consumer-end (high renewing rate at the consumer-end and low at the company-end).
With a slower renewing rate at the company-end, any performance-related feature and update can have more time to undergo quality control and refinement, reducing the possibility of having bugs.
The above solution is just one of the potential answers that a company can try. We believe there are still other, and perhaps better, ways for ones to exit the said vicious cycle, but it’s possible that a complete change of thinking is indispensably required regarding to a company’s marketing and product developing strategies!
One must always remember, satisfying the customers is the foundation for a company’s survival. Bad strategies that involve making anti-consumer products, like the one described above, may increase profit in a short period of time, but it will inevitably demolish the reputation of a company in the long run. I sincerely hope that through this article, one can have a better understanding about the potential problem in today market of technology, and being inspired to seek out a new way to boom not only in profit but also innovative power and customers’ satisfaction!
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