The insiders guide to smartphone launches

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MWC is one of the key dates in the diary for smartphone launches by manufacturers. Apple marches to the beat of its own drum, but Android manufacturers try and go close to MWC:

  • Samsung has gone out the week before with its foldable smartphones
  • Huawei starts off at MWC as one of a series of launch events for their products
  • Sony Mobile launched there, as well as other minor Android manufacturers

The reason why they go to MWC is that it has a critical mass of journalists in Barcelona covering bigger impact stories.

Mobile World Congress 2014

Expect all kinds of hype on 5G that the smartphone vendors can then ride on.

Why are smartphone launches news?

So we know that smartphones are the most personal technology for consumers. For many of us it accompanies everywhere from waking us up in the morning, to work and back again. Some people even take it to the toilet. By definition the devices that we’ll be using through the next year or two will be news.

But its a miracle that the launches make news since the details of the phones are often leaked. Specifications usually come out through sources in the supply chain. This usually affects both iOS and Android devices.

Where Android device manufacturers differ is in later leaks. Handsets are often photographed during testing revealing the industrial design. There is often video giving an idea of device real world performance.
These leaks aren’t accidental, but is often down to egotism or hubris of senior executives. This is very different to the discipline and self-control shown by Apple executives.

This is often post-rationalised as building buzz. This is counter-intuitive to PR and marketing perceived knowledge. It would make it very hard to justify the kind of large scale dog-and-pony show used to showcase a new phone.

So far, no phone launch has been seriously hurt by the ego-leak. But now things might change. We’re at a stage were smartphones are a mature sector. Total global unit sales are down year-on-year, this will impact media coverage of smartphone launches over time.

The launch isn’t the end of the beginning

The launch event is just the start of activity. Next comes the review programme. This means putting phones in the hands of media journalists and increasingly in the hands of influencers.
Influencers are more important for a few reasons:

  • They flood social channels in particular YouTube with positive content
  • They’re naturally more likely to react positively as access and devices are still novelties for them compared to journalists
  • Influencers provide reach of marketing messages. Many manufacturers don’t advertise as much as they should relying too much on PR in their marketing mix