John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

Smartphone Price Cuts Ruining Long-Term Price Potential?

imagesAs we head into the holidays, smartphone prices are dropping to points that belie their advanced feature sets. While this is great news for consumers, it may well be problematic for smartphone manufacturers.

According to NPD Group’s latest Mobile Phone Track study, price cuts on devices like Apple’s (AAPL) iPhone and RIM’s (RIMM) Blackberry Curve inspired a three percent decline in the average price for all cellphones in the third quarter of 2009. The overall average purchase price for mobile phones in the U.S. for the period: $85. A year ago it was $88.

An interesting trend given the fast-advancing feature sets and presumably high development costs of the new state-of-the-art smartphones we’re carrying around these days. For while these lower prices mean more sales for smartphone manufacturers and more subscribers for their carrier partners in the short term, they may well be undermining the smartphone’s price potential in the long term. It’s hard not to see the $299.99 Palm (PALM) Pixi for $24.99 on Amazon (AMZN) or the $499.99 Droid Eris for $49.99 on Overstock (OSTK) as having some deflationary impact once those retailers are done with them.

“That impact will continue,” NPD analyst Ross Rubin told me. “The iPhone 3G at $99 has created a benchmark that competitors are responding to with handsets such as the Droid Eris and Palm. Even where a handset is competing closer to the $200 mark, carriers and retailers are using buy-one-get-one promotions (that help lock in family plans). And retailers are discounting even value-priced smartphones further to drive store traffic and accessory sales.”

Rubin’s conclusion: “We will soon reach the point where the handset is a minor expense consideration and the required monthly data fees become the limiting factor in smartphone adoption.”

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