By Quentin Fottrell
When asked why he stopped patronizing a famed St. Louis restaurant, Yogi Berra once quipped, “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.” That, marketing experts say, could one day be the fate of the iPhone. Apple may sell so many that at some point no one will want them anymore.
This week, Apple reported that its quarterly profit nearly doubled, in large part thank to continued brisk sales of iPhones. The company sold 35.1 million iPhones in the first quarter, up from 18.65 million a year ago. But love affairs with inanimate objects don’t last forever, marketers say. “There’s always a tipping point for something being hot,” says Robert Passikoff, co-founder of marketing consultancy Brand Keys, noting that Nokia and Research In Motion had “the world by the tail” a few years back before the iPhone hit the market.
Apple already faces growing competition. Although the iPhone is the biggest selling phone, Samsung continues to sell more handsets than Apple. Brokerage firm CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets estimates Samsung moved 44 million smartphones in the first quarter. The two firms are close to having 25% of the world’s global market share of smartphones, according to research firm IDC. Samsung has already taken potshots at Apple with advertisements poking fun at people who stand in line for iPhones. “Samsung’s advertisements were poorly executed, but the underlying theme is real,” says behavioral psychologist Matt Wallaert. “Not everyone wants to share their identity with the 35 million people who bought an iPhone last quarter.”
For some, Apple’s brand is already losing its luster. George F. Colony, Chairman and CEO of Forrester Research, says Apple is a “charismatic organization” but lost that edge when the co-founder Steve Jobs died. Without Jobs, he believes the company’s momentum will only last for another 24 to 48 months. Russell Saint Cyr, a Montreal-based IT consultant, recently swapped his iPhone for a Samsung NexusS. He says it allows him to back up his music without connecting his phone to his PC, it’s cheaper and has a bigger screen. That, and he didn’t want to follow the herd. Among techies, Saint Cyr says, the iPhone is already uncool: “It’s marketed towards simple folk who like shiny objects and dislike complexity, like Mac users who can’t handle two buttons on a mouse.”
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