The world of mobile phones today is vastly different from that of three decades ago. This article visualizes how the mobile phone market has evolved over the last 30 years and what caused it.
Motorola controlled more than half of the mobile phone industry in 1993. By 2021, though, its market share had dropped to just 2.2 percent. What caused this, and how has the mobile sector evolved in the last 30 years?
The rise and collapse of many mobile phone manufacturers are depicted in this video, which charts the evolution of the mobile phone market. The data covers from December 1992 to December 2021.
The Early Days of Mobile Phones
Motorola is noted for being a mobile phone industry pioneer.
The DynaTAC 8000X, one of the first commercially available mobile phones, was introduced by the American company in 1983. The nearly $4,000 analog phone provided users with up to 30 minutes of talk time before needing to be recharged.
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Over the next few years, Motorola released a few more devices, including the MicroTAC 9800X in 1989 and the International 3200 in 1992, and swiftly established itself as a dominating player in the nascent industry. The company’s only real opponent in the early days of the market was Nokia, a Finnish multinational that had bought the early mobile network pioneer Mobira.
Other competitors, including as Sony and Siemens, began to gain traction in the mid-1990s, chipping away at Motorola’s dominance. The company’s market share had dropped to 32.1 % in 1995.
Nokia has eclipsed Motorola as the leading mobile phone manufacturer by January 1999, with 21.4 % of the global market share. This put it just ahead of Motorola, which had 20.8 %.
The significant progress Nokia was making in the digital phone space was one of the reasons for its growing popularity. The Nokia 7110, the first mobile phone with a web browser, was released in 1999.
Motorola was hampered by more than simply Nokia’s advancements. Motorola went insolvent in 1999 after one of its spin-off initiatives, Iridium SSC, filed for bankruptcy. The company was forced to lay off a big portion of its workers after the project failed due to the financial burden.
Motorola’s market share remained stable between 14 and 20 percent until 2007, when Apple’s iPhone arrived on the scene and turned the mobile phone industry on its head.
The Emergence of the iPhone
With the introduction of the iPhone in 2007, things began to change significantly.
In a keynote address at the 2007 Macworld Expo in San Francisco, Steve Jobs described the iPhone as “three items in one”: a touchscreen iPod, a new cell phone, and an internet communications device.
A year later, Apple introduced the App Store, which allowed customers to download apps and games to their iPhones. Not only did this dramatically improve the iPhone’s functioning, but it also gave users unprecedented control over their mobile devices.
This marked the dawn of a new era of cellphones, one in which Motorola fell behind. Apple had taken 17.4 % of the mobile phone market less than two years after the iPhone was released. Motorola’s market share, on the other hand, had fallen to 4.9 %.
Apple had approximately 27.3 % of the global mobile market by the end of 2021. The iPhone is a big element of Apple’s success, accounting for more than half of the company’s revenue.
A Failure to Pivot
While numerous reasons contributed to Motorola’s collapse, many point to one major stumbling block: the company’s inability to pivot.
The iPhone marked the beginning of a new software-driven era. Motorola had mastered the hardware-driven period, but when the tides turned, they couldn’t keep up. Other firms that failed to adapt or stay up include BlackBerry (previously RIM), Palm, Sony, and LG.
Apple, however, is not alone. The success of Google’s Android mobile operating system has aided competitors such as Samsung of South Korea and Huawei and Xiaomi of China in establishing substantial footholds in the global mobile phone market.
In today’s fast-paced world, organizations must be able to pivot in order to stay competitive. Will today’s smartphone behemoths Apple and Samsung maintain their dominance? Or will other firms, such as Huawei, catch up in the coming years?