Unless you closely pay attention to the mobile phone industry, you might not know that we often get devices here well after they’ve been available in Europe. Why is that? Victor Godinez of the Dallas Morning News explores the topic. He looks at cutting edge smartphones like the HTC Touch HD and the Samsung T*Omnia, follow-up to the original Omnia, which has just now hit the U.S. Why can’t a handset manufacturer not named Apple base its models in the U.S.? Godinez offers up a bit of his rationale:
A decade ago, I would have understood this mentality, as almost all Americans used their landlines as their primary phones, and cellphones were a luxury or business device. But cellphones are almost as ubiquitous now in the U.S. as in any other country, many people are ditching their landlines in favor of cellphones, and 3G wireless data networks are available in most cities. Again, the iPhone 3G was the best-selling phone in the third quarter, and even poor people are snapping up Apple’s smart phone.
While the above points are true, there’s on aspect he’s not seeing: penetration. As of this June, the penetration rate in the U.S. was 84 percent. This means that the total number of wireless accounts amounts to 84 percent of the population. This counts double lines, so fewer than 84 percent of the population actually has a cell phone. In Europe, penetration crossed the 100 percent threshold in 2005. No, correlation is not causation. But after examining Godinez’s argument, it seems this is one of the rational explanations. Manufacturers cater to Europe because there’s more interest in the market.