Unpacked: The Silent Smartphone

I recently completed an in-depth study on the wearable technology market. As I dug into some of the key features as to why people bought or found usage value in their smartwatch or fitness tracker, the products with notification capabilities had this feature ranked high. As I thought more about this, I was struck by an observation.

If you recall in the early stages of the smartphone growth cycle, it was not uncommon to hear ringtones when you were out and about in public spaces. Most people had the same ringtone, which provided amusing scenarios where everyone reached for their smartphone. Today however, I can’t remember the last time I heard a ringtone in public. So I decided to test my theory through my broad consumer research panel.

I asked consumers how often their phone is on silent:

– 40% of smartphone owners said their smartphone is on silent ALL the time
– 29% said most of the day
– 18% said several times a week
– 11% said rarely
– 2% said never

This got me thinking. Many consumers have a product that provides simple notifications to the wrist. This feature may be more valuable and valued than they thought because so many people keep their phone on silent most of the time. Therefore, the value of the notification is enhanced due to the fact they often miss notifications because their phone buzzes instead of rings.

I’ve been adamant that, as of now, our market data suggest notifications are the killer app for wearables. This certainly will likely evolve. However, the silent phone dynamic being a reality in the mass market makes this single feature a bit more interesting to think through.

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Ben Bajarin

Ben Bajarin is a Principal Analyst and the head of primary research at Creative Strategies, Inc - An industry analysis, market intelligence and research firm located in Silicon Valley. His primary focus is consumer technology and market trend research and he is responsible for studying over 30 countries. Full Bio

12 thoughts on “Unpacked: The Silent Smartphone”

  1. Not only is my phone silent, but I get to to dismiss all my ‘unknown’ callers with a twist of the wrist and a touch. (Priceless)

    Also priceless, I never interrupt conversations as I used to (unless my spouse is calling). Previously, the ring tone would interrupt followed by the fishing phone out of pocket dance.

    1. And correct me if I’m wrong, but this is what our research on this area is suggesting.. These are not necessarily points of value you fully comprehended until you owned the Apple Watch right?

      1. Right. I have an iPhone and Watch and these benefits only appeared in the wearing.

        I assume Android’s and some of their watches also provide this functionality. How true is it for Android watches today?

        What are the benefits for Apple in having Watch work with Android? Will they do this soon?

        1. I’m not sure about the Android angle. It could make sense especially once they put a modem in there and it’s standalone..

          I read into their cross platform plays as things designed to expose people to the Apple experience and hope they consider future hardware purchases from them.

          1. Could Watch not benefit from working with Android the way iPod benefitted from working with Windows?


          2. Apple would benefit with Watch as it would make it much more difficult for Android competing at $350+ if Watch took ½ the premium market from Android. Apple could score points, make profits and protect their premium moat.

          3. Only if Apple values the Watch more than the iPhone. Apple added iPod support on Windows because Apple valued the iPod/iTunes business more than the Mac business.

      2. This was one of my primary motivations in getting an Apple Watch. Moving the vibration from my pocket or desk to my wrist has made me more aware of the notifications that I was missing.

  2. Since wearing AW, I’ve silenced my iphone ring. And, every other notification better on AW, as well. Thank you AW!

  3. What we are seeing in general is that the simpler features of the Apple Watch are what people find the most valuable; telling the time, notifications and fitness tracking.

    If this stays the same, then the longer term implications are that it should be easier for competitors to provide the same value propositions. The lock in provided by owning the ecosystem may not be as large as PCs and smartphones.This could make differentiation difficult.

    Of course, it is still too early to tell. However from Apple’s point of view, I think it should be a priority to quickly evolve the value proposition away from these simple features, and towards something more complex and dependent on the ecosystem.

    1. Agreed. I think the value proposition of smart watch may be quick and easy for a few core functions. That’s why so many analysts find it confounding. It may not be like other computing platforms with ever expanding use cases. Or, may be it will be…

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