Tech. 2019 | Challenging the dominance of the mobile

By: Lauren Smartt

22nd October 2019

Earlier in the month at Retail Week during Tech. 2019, two titans of tech insight took to the arena for a fierce debate over whether the mobile phone was dead.

Our Head of Strategic Services, David Coombs, went head-to-head with Roland Palmer, Head of Europe at Alipay, and spoke honestly about why we no longer live in a purely mobile-centric world.

“We’ve stopped upgrading them as regularly; what used to be a renewal every 1-2 years is now every 3-4 years. And we don’t even use them as phones; Ofcom shows that traditional mobile calls are in steep decline. 25% of millennials said they would never use their smartphones to make calls at all.”

Countering David’s argument, Roland referred to the strong mobile market in China, where 1.1 billion people there use a mobile phone.

“The mobile phone is not going anywhere,” Roland added. “We can do thousands of things on our phones. In China, they have one app for many services, from sending money to a friend, to booking a taxi.”

But according to David, the only reason we still hold mobile phones dear is that we haven’t yet taken the plunge to upgrade to a life beyond the smartphone.

The alternative? Wearable technology.

According to IDC, wearable technology is growing at 16% year-on-year. “Double digit growth to counter the double digit decline of mobile,” said David.

With a cheeky counter blow below the belt, Roland referred to David’s underpants as his only wearables.

“Wearable tech is not a replacement for the mobile. Who wants to walk around with 20 different items? [The mobile] represents simplicity compared to the confusion of many devices”, argued Roland.

David persevered: “Industry analyst CCS Insight forecasts it to be a $27 billion industry in the next three years. Samsung, Sony, LG and Alphabet are the top four companies with wearables patents; they have thousands of them. They understand the market is moving and that mobile is no longer the answer.”

“More and more wearable tech is becoming self sufficient. It doesn’t need a smartphone, and with 5G enabling hundreds of thousands of stable connections in the same place, technology has never been more unreliant on smartphones than it is today.”

“We are nearly at the era of ambient internet. Where every device and every surface is connected. We already have that in the home. Homes are voice controlled and enabled by AI. Homes will become our main point of purchase. The retail experience out of the home will change to be more experience driven. We have no need for the mobile phone in our home and the same will soon be true outside of them.”

While Roland arguably had the easier point to debate, David dealt some deft blows and emerged with a doubling of his support. Polling before the debate showed 17% agreed with his premise, while afterwards 34% agreed. That’s winning share of mind in anyone’s book. We look forward to the rematch.