The smartphone launch event: A largely wasted effort

The smartphone launch event: A largely wasted effort

Summary: Apple's flashy iPhone launch events have become the envy of competitors in the smartphone segment so it's now common for them to throw their own bashes. Fact is most shoppers aren't aware of these events.

SHARE:
iphone5-launch-holding
Image credit: CNET

A common scene since the launch of the first iPhone a few years ago is the flashy smartphone launch event. Company shills take the stage to convince the press covering the event that the new smartphone is the Next Big Thing. With the exception of Apple events, these expensive launch shows are largely ineffective.

In the beginning there weren't many smartphone launch events. Companies showed new phones at tech shows and were happy with the modest exposure. Then Apple turned the launch event into big news and gradually its competitors started throwing big bashes of their own to bring new smartphones into the world.

The tech paparazzi and enthusiasts eat this stuff up but most consumers as a rule don't even see these flashy events.

This year we've already seen big launch events by Samsung, BlackBerry, and HTC with no doubt more on the way. Each company threw a long, lavish show to bring its latest creation to the masses. It seems each new event gets more elaborate and expensive, trying to outdo the others thrown before.

The truth is these launch events don't seem to be very effective. Sure the tech paparazzi and enthusiasts eat this stuff up but most consumers as a rule don't even see these flashy events. If the mainstream media picked up these events on the local news consumers might become aware of the launch event but that usually only happens for iPhone launches.

That may be unfair but its the reality, iPhone launch events get picked up by national and local news. This kicks up the excitement level among prospective buyers which is a more significant audience than the tech press. While companies like the tech press to cover the new phone, it's consumers who are the ones buying smartphones in huge numbers.

See related: How to throw a successful mobile product launch

It doesn't help that most companies don't make the new product available at launch. They usually let what little excitement they build up with the event escape by not actually selling the phone for weeks and in some cases months. What few mainstream consumers hear about the phone as a result of the launch lose enthusiasm for it when it can't be bought during the heat of the moment.

Nokia is about to throw a 5-hour launch event for its new Lumia phones and it will be trying desperately to get consumers psyched up about the new phone(s). The tech press will ooh and ahh over the new model's features and enthusiasts will be discussing the phones excitedly.

Mainstream consumers, the group that Nokia really needs to sell, won't hear anything about the new phones at launch as it won't be big enough news to hit the local air waves. Nokia, like every company but Apple, will have to run a blitz media campaign to get the word out to prospective buyers. And that seems to be a hard thing to do well.

It's not fair but only iPhone launches get covered everywhere. That coverage helps foment excitement in consumers significant enough to get them to not only open their wallets but to stand in line to do so. That stimulates even more coverage in the news which keeps sales flowing. We won't know until we see a few more of them if the absence of Steve Jobs at iPhone events affects the massive coverage, but for now Apple has the launch event advantage.

Topics: Mobility, iPhone, Nokia, BlackBerry, Samsung, Smartphones, Windows Phone

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

9 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • What?

    Launch events are held for the press to show the new hotness. If they can hype the press then consumers will be fired up by them through their own websites, blogs et al.

    Calling these events useless is kind of saying the keyboard is useless because you have a mouse.
    Dreyer Smit
    • Launch event?

      Yes. I'm aware of the "events".
      I try to keep up with the "Samsungs".
      However, I *never* buy a new phone until the current one breaks down.
      No matter how flashy them gizmos are.
      My sons did upgrade (needed a full keyboard for texting) but not until the 2-year plan was up for renewal. And no, they did not get the latest. Just the best features/ratings with the lowest price.
      And definitely would not switch carriers based on availability of phones.
      radu.m
  • JK, Company shill?

    If you person represents them self as an employee of the company that makes the product being promoted then by definition they cannot be a "Company Shill"


    "A shill, also called a plant or a stooge, is a person who publicly helps a person or organization without disclosing that they have a close relationship with the person or organization.
    "Shill" typically refers to someone who purposely gives onlookers the impression that they are an enthusiastic independent customer of a seller (or marketer of ideas)"
    YaBaby
  • smartphone launches

    These are media events, intended to focus media attention on a new product, and they do work, even if consumers aren't always aware of them, the media gets the information, and usually, distributes it to those interested.
    rphunter1242
  • More people seem to choose coke

    so does that mean pepsi should stop advertising??? since everyone knows both companies and what they sell anyways.

    Seems like marketing and launch events are as much important as the smartphones themselves since in the big picture nothing really differentiates smartphones anymore(i.e. they all are technical wonders really). Would possibly not promoting a smart phone via a launch event and marketing send the wrong message, i.e. must suck not even worthy of a launch event sort.
    paulj_edm
    • Pepsi ads?

      Our family, as most of the people we know, buy whatever's on sale when we run out.
      No matter what the flavor-of-the-month is.
      radu.m
  • The Microsoft Surface event was huge

    I hate to splash cold water on the theory being pushed here, but Microsoft's Surface event created huge ripples throughout the industry, despite the fact that the company was not named after a fruit. This must be admitted whether you like the Surface or not.

    Yes, I know it was not a smartphone event -- it was a tablet event. But do you seriously think that whenever Microsoft decides to show a smartphone it will not cause similar huge ripples?

    Even Google's various events have not generated as much buzz as the Surface event did. Actually, I think the most buzz Google generated was when they made the boneheaded decision to close down Google Reader.
    Speednet
  • There was a time....

    There was a time when Apple events generated news stories outside the tech world. That day, however, is gone. The tech world moves so fast and the software iterations are hard for outsiders to understand; thus, "mainstream" press publish stories any time one of these events features a "show-stopping" appearance or occurance. Not even Apple events can generate the headlines they once did.
    DanielJSlick
  • nice article

    i heard this type of event in my whole life first time.. this is amazing and must attend if possible.. here you will get more information about i-phone OS and many other technical knowledge..
    piyush002