Today, LG announced that it has one million of its Optimus One Android phones in just over a month (40 days). The one million in a month (or thereabouts) mark seems to have become a metric for success after Apple sold one million iPads in just under a month following the tablet’s launch in April. Although a bit arbitrary, this is generally a pretty good way to benchmark a successful product launch.
What makes this million in about a month stat intriguing, however, isn’t just that LG sold a million units of a particular smartphone. The bigger story is that the Optimus One (sold by T-Mobile under the Optimus T moniker) is the first smartphone to cater specifically to new smartphone owners and offer a very attractive price point: officially $30 with a T-Mobile contract (some locales have seen offers for the Optimus One for free) and with the full price of the phone hitting around$230 – a far cry from the price of an iPhone and most Android phones.
While most techies and Android power users might scoff at the specs of the Optimus One (slower processor, lower resolution screen, less onboard storage), reviews of the device are positive and LG managed to ship it with the more recent Android version, Froyo.
This leads to an important point about the smartphone market (one that I touched on briefly in my post about Android fragmentation yesterday): most users aren’t concerned with specs, don’t want to spend a lot of time researching the specifics of a wide range of phone models and OSes, and simply want a smartphone that offers a good mix of features and app choices at the lowest price possible. While that seems somewhat obvious, it’s something that many manufacturers (not to mention some IT pros, smartphone power users, and even us pundits) tend to forget.
This is the reason the Optimus One has succeeded and why e-readers often have an advantage over tablets for many users. If a device can make it easy to accomplish tasks quickly and easily, the rest is almost irrelevant. Users know what they want their device to do (or at least they have some concept about it). And for most users, cost is a consideration, particularly in this economy.
LG got all of this right with the Optimus One. Apple tends to get this right with its bent to minimalism and the age-old idea that form follows function (though Apple doesn’t always get the price consideration). Samsung is beginning to get this with its Galaxy lineup. Amazon got it with the Kindle.
As the smartphone market continues to grow by leaps and bounds and as the tablet market truly becomes a market, this focus on the basics (core features, apps, easy selection and setup, and price) are going to be the factors that determine broad mainstream success. Niche markets will always exist that leave some of those factors out (enterprises with rigid management and security needs, specialized industries, and power users all come to mind), but by and large, the money and platform sustainability are going to come from the mainstream.
The mainstream will always be a market that wants its needs met and wants value for money. LG got the both right in the Optimus One. It’s an inexpensive phone, but it isn’t really a cheap one (it’s not truly high-end but buying one doesn’t mean compromising on any of the basics).