Maximising value for customers--a neglected marketing strategy?
I'm curious about your specific views on what may be good strategies for increasing the value/utility a regular user gets from his handset beyond getting the manufacturer to sell it at a loss. In the discussion about Microsoft Surface, the issue of tradeoffs really caught my attention. What would be your preferred tradeoffs? What do you think other people would consider to be good tradeoffs?
Android handset manufacturers have several strategies for trying to secure profits and survive in the smartphone market, but I think one strategy has been underutilised (with the possible exception of HTC and ZTE), and that is the strategy of publicly committing to offering excellent value to a regular user, whoever that may be. Every handset manufacturer tries to compete in the same way: trying desperately to herd potential customers towards paying premium prices for what they've designed to be their premium segment (easy way to serve the preferences of all users who are price-blind); trying for some reason to differentiate their mid-range offerings with android customisation and mediocre in-house services; throwing an unwanted bone to the price-aware customers in the form of cheap phones that try to do many things but fail at almost all of them. I think that differentiating by focusing on giving buyers excellent value may be an worthwhile niche strategy to explore.
For example, one of the single most important aspects of using a smartphone is viewing and interacting with its display. Iirc, the display is also the single most expensive part of a smartphone... but you can't get away with offering people crappy displays. What's the sweet spot for a modern smartphone display between cost and utility? If it depends on the technology: what's the best value display tech out there atm? Get that and then calibrate the hell out of it. If it depends on size and yields: what's the best value size? I think the average smartphone user can appreciate something around 4-4.3"... are those hard to come by? Are they well-supported by android apps?
Another important aspect of a smartphone's value may be quality-control of its various components. Time and frustration are costs that reduce the value of a phone. How would you minimise hassle for the user while minimising costs, eg. by minimising your outlays for quality-control?
One solution may be to forego excessive and unnecessary customisation in favour of offering a fairly vanilla build of android. Another strategy may be to use the best-supported most open-source-friendly hardware from the previous generation, or just clone most of last generation's Nexus device. It may cost a little more, but you can leverage all of Google's--as well as the larger open-source community's--obsessive drive to develop and test your software for the next couple of generations. If you must, you can recommend an aftermarket launcher or theme.
Continuing on the matter of quality control, how can you maximise the reliability of your hardware? What components are the most likely to mess things up? Pay a slight premium for capacitors if you must.
When I use a smartphone, I interact with it physically, and not just with the display. Shush, be serious for a sec. This places high requirements on build quality and design. How would you make a phone feel premium? How would you make it feel comfortable? How would you maximise value there while keeping costs down?
My impression (as a layman) is that it depends in part on the materials used and in part on the assembly. I think you could get away with using soft-touch (and reinforced?) matte plastic provided the assembly is high-quality. How can you get high-quality assembly without increasing costs? Keep the design simple, familiar, and supremely easy to assemble. Does that entail a unibody design? Accept a slightly thicker phone. Slightly increased weight and thickness may be better wrt ergonomics and feel anyway. If you must, make it glossy and offer excellent premium-feeling skins to recoup some more of the costs.
What of the hardware, the more techy components? What should be prioritised there? Reliable connectivity, a large battery, IMO. You have a thicker phone, may as well use that to house a larger battery. Do you need a front-facing camera?
How about storage? IIRC, storage is one of the most important components for the manufacturer when it comes to profit. Margins on other components are razor thin, but you can command significant price premiums on storage. But what gives a regular user the most value when it comes to phone storage? Is it a particular size? Is it the ability to expand storage?