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Column: Nokia's camera phone, Samsung's outdoor handset point to a fragmented market



Like mountain biking? There's a phone for that.

The need to stand away from the crowd, and improve margins, has smartphone makers moving into niche markets.

The Galaxy S4 was announced in March, and there’s a good chance you heard about it.

Samsung’s spring event, like Apple’s fall one, has turned into something like the State of the Union address. One day a year, everyone tunes in - even those who could normally care less - to get informed about the seminal issues of our time.

What you may not realize is that there are actually five Galaxy S4s.

There’s the standard 5-inch version, and there’s the 4.3-inch Mini.

The Galaxy S4 Mega is a pocket-stretching 6.3-inch phablet, while the Zoom is a camera phone with a beer gut.

Finally, there’s the Active, a water-resistant S4 that goes mountain biking on the weekends.

Samsung’s surprisingly complicated lineup reflects an increasingly complicated market. For years, the smartphone industry was a vanity race between rock-star handsets, namely Apple’s iPhone and the Galaxy line.

Today, however, even low-end devices offer handsome form factors, high-resolution screens, and advanced data connections.

In many cases, consumers no longer need the latest and greatest, and they’re settling for the cheapest. The industry is commoditizing, and this in turn is driving fragmentation.

To stand out from the pack, and prop up falling margins, manufacturers are turning to niche markets, where competitors are fewer and innovation might still get noticed.

Full story at Minyanville.


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