Forecasts vs. Reality, Smartphone Edition

A blog about business and economics.
Oct. 3 2012 9:30 AM

Forecasts vs. Reality, Smartphone Edition  


Karl Popper observed that if you had a reliable way of forecasting future technological change, you'd probably be able to just make the future technology, so people who prognosticate about this kind of thing are really just guessing.

In that vein, Horace Dediu tweeted a link to this 2008 report on the smartphone market from RBC's analysts, which includes the above projection. They managed to underestimate Apple's likely success to a degree that would be amazing if not for the fact that they were much more dramatically wrong about Android. Everything else is totally wrong. Nokia doesn't even make Symbian phones anymore.

Some of this is just normal straight-line projections—people hesitated to say Android could go from zero to market share leader in a matter of years—but Page 21 offers a fundamentally wrongheaded look at the underlying technology. They segment the market into a "media-centric" market (depicted by a hip lady wearing red) and a "productivity-centric" market (illustrated by a dude in a suit with a white shirt) and forecast that the availability of a QWERTY keyboard and a removable battery will be key features for the productivity-centric segment. It's only a "media-centric" person, they thought, who'd prefer a bigger screen and a slimmer profile to the basic BlackBerry form factor.


So, of course, if you think that the overall market for large-format touchscreen phones will be limited to a particular market segment ("teenager/student, gadget fan, music/TV/movie junkie, trendy consumers") as opposed to normal people going about their normal business, you're going to end up hugely underestimating Android and iOS.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.



The Democrats’ War at Home

How can the president’s party defend itself from the president’s foreign policy blunders?

Congress’ Public Shaming of the Secret Service Was Political Grandstanding at Its Best

Michigan’s Tradition of Football “Toughness” Needs to Go—Starting With Coach Hoke

A Plentiful, Renewable Resource That America Keeps Overlooking

Animal manure.

Windows 8 Was So Bad That Microsoft Will Skip Straight to Windows 10


Cringing. Ducking. Mumbling.

How GOP candidates react whenever someone brings up reproductive rights or gay marriage.

Building a Better Workplace

You Deserve a Pre-cation

The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.

Hasbro Is Cracking Down on Scrabble Players Who Turn Its Official Word List Into Popular Apps

Florida State’s New President Is Underqualified and Mistrusted. He Just Might Save the University.

  News & Politics
Sept. 30 2014 9:33 PM Political Theater With a Purpose Darrell Issa’s public shaming of the head of the Secret Service was congressional grandstanding at its best.
Oct. 1 2014 8:34 AM Going Private To undertake a massively ambitious energy project, you don’t need the government anymore.
The Eye
Oct. 1 2014 9:26 AM These Lego Masterpieces Capture the Fear and Humor of the “Dark” Side
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 30 2014 3:21 PM Meet Jordan Weissmann Five questions with Slate’s senior business and economics correspondent.
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 8:46 AM The Vintage eBay Find I Wore to My Sentencing
Future Tense
Sept. 30 2014 7:00 PM There’s Going to Be a Live-Action Tetris Movie for Some Reason
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 1 2014 7:30 AM Say Hello to Our Quasi-Moon, 2014 OL339
Sports Nut
Sept. 30 2014 5:54 PM Goodbye, Tough Guy It’s time for Michigan to fire its toughness-obsessed coach, Brady Hoke.