Smartphones Now Outselling PCs

According to a report from IDC, smartphones are outselling PCs for the first time ever.

Around the world, smartphone makers shipped 100.9 million of them in the last three months of 2010 — a whopping 87% increase from last year. PC makers only shipped 92.1 million units and that’s down 3%.

While IDC analysts are quick to point out that these two trends may not be related, it’s certainly a significant indication that the times are changing. That bell you hear going off is not your cell phone, it’s hopefully the realization that mobile is no longer something marketers can take casually.

As prices for smartphones continue to drop and service providers offer them for deep discounts — counting on the service charges to fill their coffers — more and more consumers will opt for smartphones. Once they realize that a lot of PC and laptop functionality can fit into their pocket, they may spend a lot less time at a PC.

There’s a lot of value adds with a smartphone compared to a PC. It’s a fashion and status statement which travels and is a whole lot easier to show off than a PC on your desk. Only the geekiest of us may want to hang on your description of your new power PC, but you can pull out that iPhone on the train and show the world your elite status. I know marketers don’t miss the importance of this.

There’s no doubt that the Android mobile OS has certainly helped. Google apparently learned from the Sony Betamax disaster and has made sure their OS is available to manufacturers, powering some of the sharpest smartphone offerings on the market.

The purchase cycle for PCs has also become longer as the technology has stabilized over the years. People wait three to five years to purchase a new PC. Unless they need high performance for work or happen to be uber gamers, they may wait even longer. If all they do is surf the web and check email, the necessity to buy a new PC is not as urgent for most as it once was.

People tend to replace smartphones faster because of such things as upgrade incentives and even for the sake of having the latest greatest model. While some carriers may be phasing out those incentives, you still can’t discount the status symbol influence and of course, the desire for more and faster functionality.

All this is just one more reason marketers must go mobile and realize that as consumers become more mobile, they also become cross-channel. There is a growing consumer expectation that whatever the channel, relevant information will be there. Just as mobile allows a consumer to become unfettered by technology, it also helps unchain them from any one channel.