Mobile phones go scalp hunting: The Red List

GSMArena team, 26 July 2010.
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Tags: Misc

Fixed-line telephones

Most of us still have one of those at home but the wired is taking big hits from the wireless yet again and we are afraid those won't be with us for much longer.

Landlines are taking a lot of punches but are still standing

Landlines allow two-way communication, plus they need much lower investment to get going and thus cost less, which makes them pretty suitable for developing markets. That allowed fixed phones to continue to grow in popularity even after cell phones became widespread.

At the turn of the 21st century, fixed-line handsets were gaining in market share all over the world as they were still notably cheaper than mobile phones.

It goes like this: everyone is willing to sacrifice mobility if the price is right. When the difference between cell phones and landlines falls below that price, users start to switch teams.

This moment came somewhere around the year 2000 for most of the developed world, when landlines market share stopped growing. A couple of years later they were already losing ground quickly with the number of subscribers per 100 residents falling from 57 to 50 in just under five years.

What gives us enough ground to say it is the slowing growth of landlines in developing markets. Until 2006, less developed countries grew fast enough to make up for the losses sustained in advanced markets.

However, the negative trend surpassed the positive and now the decline is faster than the rise. So with less than 19 people out of 100 having a fixed line phone in 2007 globally, things look bad enough on their own.

Excluding the corporate world, landlines are getting less common for home users and thus giving up on them becomes all the easier. There will just be fewer people to stay in touch with that way. It's obvious there will be probably be quite some time before they are completely gone in developed countries (and even longer in the rest of the world). Perhaps they will slowly turn from telephones into plain DSL delivering lines.

And now that we are done with the means of communication that cell phones have replaced (or inherited if you will), we'll look aside at what other devices will forever curse the day when mobile phones were invented.

PDAs and personal organizers

OK, those are actually newer species but had a part in the ecosystem in the teething years of mobile phones. At the time, mobile manufacturers were all busy inventing the internal antenna and fitting 2G radios in something you can actually hold in one hand, so they just didn't have time to waste on PIM features.

There was a time when the PIM features required a dedicated device

Smartphones weren't even born yet and people were perfectly happy with a handset that could only make calls. Storing data and handling contact information had to be assigned to another device (phones used to only have SIM memory, remember?).

There were plenty of those electronic organizers coming from all over the world. Unluckily for them once Nokia came up with the first communicator - the Nokia 9000 monster, which officially downgraded the organizer to a phone feature, rather than a stand-alone device.

Still a substantial number of touch-driven PDAs were to remain on the market for a while longer, as they were cheaper and a bit more compact than the ones that could make calls. But we all knew this wasn't going to last long.

Cellular radios were quickly getting smaller and cheaper, until it made no sense to omit them on dedicated PDAs. The price gap between cell phones and PDAs was getting thinner and there was absolutely no point in carrying two devices instead of one, doing all the work.

You know what followed shortly after - each and every mobile nowadays can give you better organizing features than the best of the electronic organizers in the past. PDAs got a bit higher up the food chain so you will probably need a smartphone to comfortably top all their functionality, but that's not that much more to ask.

However, most of the big PDA manufacturers joined the mobile phone race, following the good old "If you can't beat them, join them!" formula. Sony were there from very early on - first on their own and later in cooperation with Ericsson. Dell, on the other hand, are just now starting but their first offerings are more than promissing

Apple, who started the whole PDA thing with the Newton-powered MessagePad are now considering the iPhone their flagship product.

Some others, like HP for example even managed to convert the successful line of iPAQ PDAs into a line of mobile phones. They were creating some pretty interesting handsets before deciding that keeping pace is too demanding on their budget and quit business.

We are now witnessing their return though, as HP purchased the last of the big names in the PDA game - Palm. Unlike HP, Palm decided to go all in with mobile phones and developed a whole new OS of their own, but they run out of cash before their investment started to pay off.

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