Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Cellphone Evolution

In my case the first instance that I felt that cellular phones will become a new trend, a hit and a need, was when I was in high school. This was right after the beeper trend, approximately around 6 months (or less) after I got my “delayed” green beeper.

It’s obvious from my tone and as indicated in my previous posts that I’m not a tech-savvy person. No one in my family is tech savvy. If not for our friends and our hunger for basic convenience, we would easily be the modern version of cave men. We got our first computer (floppy disk) pretty much late when almost all of my classmates had one. I had to stay up late in school when I was in elementary finishing some “doc” exercises. My father thought that I was too young for computers. He didn’t see it as a priority. He didn’t have to use computers anyways. He has people to do it for him and he was never interested. Why should we be any different? He finds spending for cars that we seldom use more interesting than things like computers. But at the end, due to careful coaxing, he gave in.

In high school, it wasn’t any different. Sure we had a substantial computer then, but when beepers became the new tech-thing we went through the whole “screening” process. Beepers became such a hit and almost everyone has one. While my friends and classmates fret about their new chain accessories, I just find myself not relating. My father had one care of his company, but I never had a slight drip of envy to look and demand for one.

I think it was at around 2nd year to 3rd year High School that I first gazed at the first rendition of a hip cellular phone. A classmate brought her unit with a blue casing and she was suddenly transformed into a celebrity. Girls were drawn to her and they wanted to keep touching the phone as if taking it for a test drive. It was a Nokia 5110. What the hell is a Nokia 5110? I went over and looked at the small phone. It was, at that time, very cute. I know why people continued to ogle. It wasn’t the traditional bulky, black cellular phones with antenna. It doesn’t make unnecessary cringing sound when you press the keypads. Plus, you can play SNAKE with it.

Since most of us didn’t have phones back then, we wouldn’t know what to do with it. For almost a week I think I saw random girls go to her, touch the phone and play snake with it. Globe and Smart weren’t very much around yet, but at that time I saw that it’ll be a major hit as my classmates and friends already devise a plan to ask their parents.

I still didn’t bulge, although I know that owning a cellular phone with text makes a lot more sense than owning a beeper. After a couple of months, my relatively new beeper was put into oblivion as cellular phone units began to pick up. My savvy uncle owned one phone and pretty much lent his to me. My first unit was a dark blue Bosch as I try to practice my text. I kept texting my classmates about silly things, as if we just needed to text for the sake of texting. Sending messages were free then as long as you are subscribed. It was like SUN unlimited text all day, all night.

Soon, my father had his own Nokia and almost everyone I know has one. Naturally, I should demand mine, but I still didn’t budge. Come senior year, my father switched to a smaller Nokia 81-something and I got his Nokia 6110 even though at that time it was already considered delayed. From beepers to cellular phones, I was considered a late bloomer.

By the time I stepped into college almost everyone has a cellular phone. It was the new calling card. People started to depend on its convenience. I just begin to laugh how beepers instantly became obsolete and I didn’t wonder why. Cellular phones are far more sensible, convenient and helpful. Thus, demand surged up like never before. Even “cave men” like me know what a Nokia is and what its latest models are.

Models before weren’t that confusing even if Nokia has other competitors such as Motorola and Sony Ericsson. Everyone knows what a 5110 looks like, a 6110 or a 3210. The cellular phone companies were still testing waters and weren’t that aggressive in pushing new models in the market. Samsung, LG and other cell phone makers didn’t join in the game yet. It made a good consumer pacing.

The green back light, normal text messages, dot-matrix fonts and pre-selected boring ring tones evolved into a composer ring tone, blue back light and smooth fonts. It later evolved into having cameras, nicer resolutions and ring tone downloads. Now, you can’t really just call it a phone. It’s a phone, wallet, computer and a notebook. It’s become sleeker, smaller and modern, and very confusing.

I am confused with the units nowadays. Actually I don’t keep track anymore. Unlike before when I would know the name of a particular cellphone unit, now I wouldn’t have a single clue. Cellular phone makers are aggressive with their technology and marketing. They put out newer and fresher models like how a chicken lays an egg. Go to Greenhills cellular phone section and you’ll get dizzy with all the past and new models facing you. Sometimes I even get amazed of the salesladies there. They breathe the models and they know its features. Whereas I wouldn’t know what the newer cellphone versions of Nokia, Motorola or Samsung are. I doubt if the general public would know unless the person is a certified cellphone or industry expert.

Philippines is dubbed as the texting capital of the world. The globe followed suit and I’m sure billions of people all over the world have cellphones, whether it’s an old or a new unit. Each and everyone, younger ones, older ones, have cell phones all over the world. It’s not hard to imagine that the market’s already saturated.

The once stable and aggressive grow of Cellular phones are facing newer challenges. Although Cellular phones aren’t taken over by a new gadget like what they did to beepers, there’s still this underlying business issue of driving profits. Now that cellular phones are reaching its global saturation point, will there be any more growth left? Who will be the companies’ next target?

Industry analysts say that the boom and glory of cellular phones are over. Almost every one has a cell phone now and not everyone has enough time, resources and need to change units all the time. In fact, that is what cellular phone makers are banking on. They want people to upgrade to higher phones, as their main solution to increase profits. Since their main goal was to provide cellular phones for their market, now that there’s saturation, maybe their main goal has already changed. Their goal now is to make people UPGRADE. It is the driving hope on how they would ultimately tap profits. That's why they are so aggressive in marketing fresher and newer modles that it ends up a little bit confusing. They want US to upgrade.

But people might have gotten tired. Or people are more educated now with what they want. Like me, I’ve had my two cellular phones for years. I don’t change unless I need to and usually the reasons are my old phones may be broken, lost or stolen. As a consumer, I know what I want and I know what I need. As long as I have a cellular phone that works for me, I wouldn’t really think of switching whenever a new model comes up. I couldn’t care less. People like me might threaten the cellular phone industry.

Cellular phones may change in style and features, but they have a much longer lifespan than beepers. Cellular phones have been a part of changing how we communicate and go about in our daily lives. Unless a breaktrhough technological gadget comes through, that doesn't answer to the name of "cellphone" then cellular phones are still here to stay. It's more than just a gadget, it’s an entirely new connection and culture.

But the question ultimately lies on the companies that make them. How will they forge on in the future? What do they need to tap to usher bring back the vitality of cellphone demand? How will they be able to sustain themselves now that we are all “connected?”

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