Measurement & Instrumentation

The Rising Trend of Mobile Handset Incidents

by Vikrant Gandhi 20 Aug 2013
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The evolution from basic features phones to smartphones has been nothing short of phenomenal. Advancements in network and device technologies, coupled with the proliferation of sophisticated applications, continue to aggressively drive data consumption on mobile devices. In fact, Frost & Sullivan research indicates the average smartphone user in the United States is rapidly approaching 2 GB of cellular data usage every month and, according to Google, users 'wake up' their devices to check notifications, alerts, and perform other activities an average of 60 times a day!

Figure depicts the installed base of US smartphone users and average monthly smartphone data consumption on Tier-I mobile operators for 2009-2017.

                                                                                          Source: Frost & Sullivan

New Technology Brings New Challenges

As the smartphone era continues to mature, never before has mobile innovation offered so much too so many in so short a time. But as with all technology advancements, new challenges inevitably emerge.  So what are some of the risks that consumers should be aware of as smartphones advance and mobile data usage accelerates? And, more importantly, what can consumers do to mitigate these risks?

Increased Loss, Theft, Damage, and Malfunction of Mobile Devices

The staggering proliferation of smartphone usage inherently increases the likelihood of loss, theft, or damage occurring to mobile devices. For example, consumers are now actively using their devices in literally every location imaginable (including pools, beaches, bathrooms, etc) which leads to more opportunities for device 'incidents'. Similarly, larger display sizes make smartphones particularly prone to screen damage. Finally, Frost & Sullivan's research indicates that theft of mobile devices make up more than 30 percent of all reported robberies in major American cities. This trend is only increasing as smartphones become more sophisticated and expensive. Thus, the increasing number of mobile device incidents has emerged as a major challenge in the U.S. mobile communications market. Purchasing a replacement device is rarely an attractive economical option - particularly with the more popular smartphones that can cost as much as $850 if the customer is not eligible for the subsidized price.

Loss of Mobile Data Can be Devastating

A device incident also can lead to the loss of data stored on the mobile phone. In fact, the impact of lost data is often considered more disturbing than the impact of the loss of the device itself. For example, consumers may have to manually re-enter all contacts into their replacement device, which can be an extremely tedious process. Files, such as pictures, music, video clips, and corporate documents, could be lost forever. Sensitive data that is stored on the mobile device could also fall into the wrong hands and be misused. Therefore, data protection is equally - if not more - important to minimize the impact of lost, stolen, damaged, or malfunctioning devices.

Technical Issues Accelerate as Devices Become More Sophisticated

As hardware and software features advance, smartphones are becoming more complex and complicated to use. A smartphone can now be paired with many types of electronic devices - including in-car entertainment and communication systems, gaming systems, Blu-ray players, Smart TVs, and even with home controls and automation. This is emerging area where smartphone subscribers increasingly need assistance. Frost & Sullivan's research indicates that technical issues are major pain points for mobile subscribers. Consumers can be overwhelmed by device settings, advanced software functionalities, and new applications, but often don't know who to call when they need help to optimize their experience. With the average smartphone user now dedicating 80 percent of their usage time to non voice activities,  today's' consumers clearly have a need for broader and more in depth technical support (a problem that was not nearly as pronounced when a phone was just used to make calls.)

What to Do? The Need for Holistic Mobile Protection

Consumers have become increasingly attached to their mobile phones and any interruption in service usage is unacceptable in today's connected world. There is a clear (and growing) need for integrated and unified mobile protection solutions in order to provide appropriate resolution to the different types of device related issues including: 1) device loss, theft, damage, and malfunction; 2) recovery and backup tools to protect the loss of mobile data; 3) and comprehensive technical support. With the rise of the smartphone era, consumers need to consider products that provide a safety net for the possibility of a mobile 'incident'.  Mobile carriers have started to recognize this evolving landscape and many have introduced products that address 'next generation' technical support, data protection, and rapid device replacement programs. These solutions will become increasingly important   to ensure consumers can adequately protect devices, personal data, and, most importantly, their overall mobile customer experience.

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