Is 2016 the Death of Mobile Handset Innovation?

At Wireless Technology Forum's Mobile Economy update (April 21, 2016), I got the latest info from GSMA on the state of the Mobile universe. Putting aside the great networking opportunities for professionals in the mobile industry, this is one of my favorite sessions every year because our core mission to provide relevant and quality content about mobility to our attendees. Sure (if I had the time and money), I could have been one of over 101K attendees that traveled to Barcelona for Mobile World Congress in February and received all of this content, but for those of us who stayed in Atlanta, GSMA brings a taste of the show to us. This is an amazing opportunity for aspiring C-level execs to learn about the global mobile economy without getting on a plane.

Dave Bailey, GSMA Marketing Director provided a recap of 2016 Mobile World Congress that occurred 6 weeks prior in Barcelona. Reed Peterson, GSMA's Head of North America provided the Global and North America economy update.

Dave Bailey started off the meeting by asking us, "Is mobile handset innovation dead?" He pointed out that all smartphones are essentially the same, same shape, slightly varying sizes, and glass screens. He provided 4 bad examples of non-mobile handset innovation.

  1. BOOM Key - Bailey presented this as an example of non-innovation as the Boom Key simply took pictures on a smartphone
  2. Size Innovation - Bailey concluded that making the same mobile device in various sizes couldn't be called innovation
  3. Improvement Innovation - Same concept here as Size Innovation, "better than" is almost never truly innovation
  4. Bolt-On Innovation - Adding an accoutrement is often no more than adding an accessory to your mobile device


Next, Bailey proceeded to show us examples of handset innovation that were truly game changers in the not-so-distant future of mobile.

  1. Project Tango by Google & Lenovo - This is a proof-of-concept spacial awareness development kit that hopes to truly bring indoor mapping to reality.
  2. Cat S60 Smartphone - This is a thermal imaging device for first responders to detect humans in disaster situations
  3. Fairphone - This is a smartphone with social values. A modular phone where you can easily replace the screen yourself and more
  4. Oppo battery - Fully charge a dead phone in 15 minutes

After providing these very interesting examples of handset innovation, Dave Bailey concluded that indeed mobile handset innovation was NOT dead after all. Thank Goodness. I can keep on volunteering at the Wireless Technology Forum.