Mobile Explosion: 3 Tipping Points

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Andy Crestodina

As usual, times are changing.  But there is one change that is about to reach its inflection point: mobile computing.  New research shows we’re about to reach critical mass on several mega-trends.  So as a follow up to our post on Mobile Marketing 101, here’s an update on 3 mobile milestones coming up…

Tipping Point One: Most Phones are Smart Phones

You may have already heard people mumbling excuses for their old flip-phone, or defending the Motorola Razr in their pocket. (“Hey, it’s a great phone!”)  But these conventional phones (aka “dumb phones”) will likely be the in the minority some time next year.


smart phone sales will exceed dumb phone sales in 2011

Source: Ehud Gelblum, Morgan Staney Research


Tipping Point Two: More Smart Phones than Computers

Looking at the global market, a more staggering trend is that sometime in the next few years, laptops and desktops will be in the minority.  By the end of 2012, the world will be buying more smart phones than all personal computers combined!


Smart phone sales trends

Source: IDC, Gartner, Morgan Stanley Research


Tipping Point Three: Can The Networks Handle It?

The third tipping point isn’t statistical, it’s an actual tipping over of the networks.

As millions of new bandwidth-hungry smart phones land in people’s hands, can the wireless networks handle it?  Not so easily.  It’s beginning to look as if these already-strained wireless networks are going to tip over under the massive load. Consider this:

  • iPhone uses 10 to 15 times more bandwidth than conventional phones
  • 3 million new iPhone users just signed up
  • The new Droid X uses 5 times the bandwidth as similar smart phones


The networks are scrambling to keep up with this demand.  It’s made more challenging because the cellular networks were originally built to handle voice traffic, not data.

“We can’t all watch HDTV on our mobile phones”
– Glenn Fleishman, Wi-Fi Networking News

The real tipping point here will be on your cell phone bill.  Expect to pay more for your data plan, as the carriers spend billions to upgrade their networks to keep up with all the smart new phones.

Bottom Line

  • As marketers, let’s read the writing on the wall and consider mobile websites in our marketing mix.
  • As network users, expect load-time and pricing issues as networks meet the big needs of small screens.
  • As phone owners, let’s enjoy the fun and productivity we get out of the little computers in our pockets.
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Comments (2)
  • Andy, I largely agree with your post, save for this exception: I don’t think we have reached the tipping point. So-called ‘dumb’ phones still outpace smartphone sales, even if that gap is closing quickly.

    Still, I’d like to add a 4th element to your argument that suggests a tipping point is near: supply shortages.

    Today’s hot smartphones, the iPhone 4, the HTC Evo (Sprint) and both flavors of Motorola Droid (original and the X model, both at Verizon) are not easy to buy because demand is outstripping supply. This will eventually fix itself, but just imagine how severe this problem could have been if the economy were singing?

  • I think I have a smart phone. It plugs into the wall, so it never needs charging. Now that’s smart. Having trouble updating my friendster account with it though… Any tips? Maybe there is a computer-like apparatus that I can plug the phone into? That’d be cool.
    Love the new site! Congrats Team Orbit! Gotta go work on some mix-tapes now… Cheers, Mark S.

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