At this year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, there were plenty of announcements from the big names like Samsung, Nokia and HTC, but that doesn’t mean that there wasn’t room at the party for the little guy. Smaller companies were out in full force at this year’s show, and some of the technologies on display may really be worth paying attention to, particularly for specialty markets.
The high number of cool mobile devices coming from companies no one has ever heard of before is a clear sign that innovation is alive and well in the mobile industry.
“With the big companies, their goal is always to try and create a device that’s just a little bit better than whatever their direct competitors are putting out on the market,” said technology expert Jason Hope. “That usually means having better technical specs, like a faster processor or better screen resolution. These companies rarely take a risk trying something new that could alienate their large customer bases.
The smaller companies are more open to trying something completely different, because they don’t have those very large customer bases to worry about. At the same time, they understand that there are niche groups out there who may care about things other than technical specs. These small companies could end up being very successful if they’re able to serve their niches well.”
Just because these companies are small doesn’t necessarily mean they’re staffed by complete industry outsiders. Kazam is a tiny British company that was founded by two former HTC employees. A relatively new company, Kazam attended its first Mobile World Congress in 2014. The company’s devices are all relatively ordinary—with the exception of the flagship Kazam Tornado 2, which is the first device on the market to use an octa-core chip.
Other than that one device, it is clear that Kazam is not trying to compete with large companies on technical specs alone. The niche market the company is chasing is people who care more about good customer service than having the latest and greatest devices.
The company pledges to repair cracked screens within the first year, and also offers a remote-access customer support service, meaning that customer service representatives are able to take control of devices in order to diagnose and fix problems. The company’s approach clearly demonstrates that they are paying attention to the realities of the mobile industry.
“There are a lot of people out there who aren’t really techies, so having the most powerful device isn’t that important to them. They’d be willing to forgo that if it meant they could work with a company that was willing to take care of them and provide good customer service.”
Another underserved market being targeted by smaller companies at MWC this year was the elderly. The Yezz Andy AZ4.5 is made by a company that is located in Miami, but is relatively unknown in its own country. Most of its customer base is located in Latin America. The AZ4.5 was specifically designed with senior users in mind. It features a simple, easy-to-use interface, very large icons, and a voice assistant that repeats commands.
It also features the ability to lock certain apps with a PIN code, which could be a useful feature for people who are concerned about what kind of trouble their elderly relatives might get in to with a smartphone.
The AZ4.5 doesn’t appear to be a very good device, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be good to be a hit within its niche market.
“When I look at this device, I think that the display quality is very poor, and the technical specs are definitely nothing to write home about. All in all, it’s not the type of thing that would interest me in the least. But that’s OK, because I’m not in the intended customer base. This device does seem to know what seniors need out of a smartphone, and the shortcomings that exist are probably not things that the elderly are going to be concerned about anyway.”
About Author: Amy Taylor is a business and technology writer. Amy began her career as a small business owner in Phoenix, AZ. She enjoys writing about business technology trends. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys hiking with her Alaskan Malamute, Sam.