Has the 12-Key Phone Had Its Day?

Having spent a large part of last month testing a new online product we’re developing, I’ve become quite familiar with the phone data we’ve amassed over the years. I couldn’t help noticing that each month we’re adding more and more phones with either a touch screen or a full qwerty keyboard. While we know anecdotally that the market has seen increasing numbers of such products, I was curious to see how the statistics would bear up.

Of the 52 phones that have been added to our database since the beginning of this year, 22 of them feature full touch-screen capabilities. And six feature a full qwerty keyboard (interestingly, three phones have both these features). So, touch-screen and qwerty phones account for just under half the new phones in our database over the past five months — not a bad proportion.

Our database includes an estimated operator transfer price for every product. This provides an indicator of how likely it is the phone will be sold in the prepaid market and, therefore, its potential for high market penetration (the majority of prepaid sales are in the sub €150 space). From our Pricing database, the average operator transfer price of touch-screen products has dropped to just over €200 from €270 a year ago. For qwerty, the decline’s even steeper — from €390 a year ago to just over €200. It would appear from our data that touch-screen and qwerty products now dominate the high tier and are pushing lower down into the mid-tier, with some hitting the prepaid market. This can be further corroborated by looking at retail data for prepaid phones. (We’ve got some exciting announcements in this area soon.)

But what does this mean for the plain old 12-key phone? Of the 52 new phones mentioned above, the current average operator transfer price for those with a 12-key keypad is less than €90 and the highest priced is just €145.It would seem that the mainstay of the mobile phone business has been replaced by devices with touch-screen or qwerty input mechanisms in the high tier, is facing stiff competition in the mid-tier, but is holding its own at the bottom end of the market.