Will smartphones continue to be highly viral?

A recent article on smartphones in Totaltele.com says:

“Smartphone technology has swiftly reached the point where most future improvements will be incremental. This means that from now on launches of new smartphones will be about as exciting as the latest operating system from Microsoft. This means the primary reason to buy a new smartphone is because you just dropped yours in the toilet.”

Which begs the question – will smartphones continue to be highly viral?  Or, put another way, when people buy smartphones, will this continue to cause numbers of their friends to follow suit, as it currently does?

The iPhone - six years and counting, and still highly viral
The iPhone – six years and counting, and still highly viral

Virality level can be defined as the extent to which one person’s purchase of a product (or any other behaviour change by a person) influences their friends to follow suit.  Some products are highly viral, most are much less so.  Idiro has been measuring the virality of many products, including mobile phones, since before the launch of the first Apple iPhone in 2007.

Over that time, smartphone virality has stayed consistently high, within specific brands and across the smartphone product category.  What this means in practice is that:
– If you buy (for example) an iPhone or a Samsung S4, your friends become much more likely to buy the same model of phone
-Even if they do not, there is a strong likelihood that your friends will be influenced to buy a different brand of smartphone.

Idiro works with mobile operators worldwide to  reduce churn, increase ARPU and acquire customers. In 2008, we won awards for our work on smartphones with Telefonica O2 UK.

So, will the high levels of virality shown by smartphones continue?  It depends on what is driving the virality of smartphones.  Our guess is that in OECD countries it will continue, though declining slowly, for a couple of years at least, until the market for smartphones is saturated and the evolution of apps has stabilised.  The virality of smartphones seems to have as much to do with the extra functionality and benefits as it does with the phones themselves – and that’s down to apps as well as features like NFC.

On the other hand, some new personal gadget could come along with a whole new set of features and benefits.  If such a device can usurp the central role of the smartphone as a personal communication / entertainment / information tool, then the buzz about smartphones will transfer to  them and a whole new wave of virality will begin.