I was COMPLETELY wrong about waterproof phones


Last May I wrote a blog post where I said that more than half of all smartphones would be waterproof by the end of 2015. This wasn’t a Deloitte Prediction, and I am really glad! Because not only will waterproof smartphones be less than 50% of sales, it looks like waterproofs will actually DECLINE year-over year!

At this week’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the new Samsung S6 and S6 Edge were announced: they will be all metal and glass, and will not be waterproof (or allow for a replacement battery or increased storage.) The top of the line Samsung’s are among the world’s most popular phones, and since the S5 (and the S4) were waterproof, the percentage of waterproof phones isn’t just going to fall; it’s going to fall a LOT.

However, although I was wrong about the waterproof thing, this news actually reinforces a few things that I have been saying for years.

  1. The smartphone business is not about technology, it’s about fashion. There was nothing wrong with the plastic that was used on the S5, but the current view is that premium phones HAVE to be only metal and plastic, and consumers are willing to give up a lot in order to get the ‘right’ look and feel.
  2. Never listen to what people say, only what they do. There have been dozens of polls asking people what they want in a smartphone, and replaceable batteries and more rugged are consistently high on the list. But after disappointing sales of the S5, Samsung is making a bet that consumers don’t care about those issues as much as they claim to, and are going for the metal and glass option.
  3. Too early is still wrong. I am confident that the majority of smartphones will end up being waterproof by 2020. But I didn’t say that, and forecasts that don’t get the timing right are not helpful to anyone.

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