Yup, it’s that time of year again (already?), when FOMO-suffering tech lovers get all wound up about new gadgets. And this time it's Samsung's turn, with the Samsung Galaxy S6 and the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge released in New Zealand over the weekend. Here’s how Samsung and the main telcos are ensuring the upgrades continue.
When Samsung launched the new phones at the Mobile World Congress, it changed its marketing tune slightly and didn't reference its main competition through its long-running 'the next best thing is already here' campaign. Instead, it backed its more stylish metal and glass-laden gadgets and went with the line 'next is now'.
In New Zealand, Samsung hasn't thought to have enlisted its agency Colenso BBDO for any creative promotional ideas. It is running a TV ad with a New Zealand voiceover (and the obligatory shots of spinning, levitating phones), it got Nick D in for a 'review', and, in an effort to promote the phone's stylishness and quality, it also struck up an association with Remix magazine for the launch event in Auckland.
The stunning new GALAXY S6 and S6 edge have now landed in NZ. So it's time to head down to your local retailer to grab yourself one, or both. #NextIsNowPosted by Samsung NZ on Friday, April 10, 2015
Hands up who's excited about the new #SamsungS6? We've teamed up with Foureyes to bring you something special so make sure you're following us on Snapchat & Instagram tomorrow and get ready for #TheNewSwag. Snapchat: SnapSparkNZ Instagram: @sparknzPosted by Spark on Sunday, March 29, 2015
Given that the telcos stand to gain from these new releases, the manufacturers also rely on their marketing muscle. And Spark in particular been stirring the excitement pot on its social media pages for the S6 models.
It offered the option for potential buyers to pre-order the device in March and offered the first 200 people to do so “a free gift”. The telco also launched a small celebratory campaign in the lead up to the release with street style blog Four Eyes called “The New Swag”, which is evidential of Spark’s attempt to tap into a younger market, post-rebrand (the classy clip pumped up the phones' fashion chops and it has received over 50,000 views on Facebook). Spark also showed its team locking up items of interest in glass boxes (Beats headphones, bikes, cameras etc) and getting passers by to “Unlock the New Swag” by trying to crack a code on the box. The campaign has also been pushed out over Instagram, Twitter and SnapChat.
The Samsung Galaxy S6 is here! And it can be yours for $0 on a $129 per month Red+ 24 month plan. T&Cs apply. www.vodafone.co.nz/samsung-galaxyPosted by Vodafone New Zealand on Friday, April 10, 2015
Vodafone on the other hand, says it’s “rolling out the red carpet” and drawing on all that is Hollywood (in dual celebration of the arrival of Netflix) for its release of the smartphone. The telco is inviting potential customers to “Join the A-list” by purchasing the S6 or S6 Edge on its 24 month Red Plus plan, which includes six months of free Netflix. The deal is outlined in a 30-second TVC (which also favours the spinning phone approach). Vodafone is the only telco that exclusively stocks the gold colour of the S6 Edge, which it mentions in the ad (it also ran a Facebook competition through Breakfast where entrants had to name a photograph of a famous American bridge to win a gold Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge), while Spark and 2degrees only stock the black or white versions.
2degrees, which has had a bit of a facelift lately after the departure of Rhys Darby from its commercials, has been a bit quieter than its two telco rivals. But it has been using its big Play the Bridge campaign as a way to combine the announcement of its new plans, its Trade Up deal and the new Samsung phones (it has added a bridge scene into its new ad).
It ran a deal advertised through its Facebook page in late March where the first 600 people to pre-order an S6 or an S6 Edge would receive a free wireless charging pad. The telco also offered to waive the $10 monthly Trade Up fee for buyers of the new models. The ‘Trade Up’ deal allows customers to upgrade annually to the latest smart phone for an extra $10 per month over the course of a year and a ‘Trade Up’ $120 fee at the end of the 12 months.
This deal—and the feverish excitement for new products, particularly those from Apple—seems to show we no longer live by the saying “out with the old and in with the new". Now it’s more like “out with the new and in with the new”. And one example of the effects is detailed in a BBC article in which the writer Tim Maughan explored a remote spot in Mongolia called Baotou, which is one of the world’s biggest suppliers of “rare earth” minerals.
Maughan says: “These elements can be found in everything from magnets in wind turbines and electric car motors, to the electronic guts of smartphones and flatscreen TVs. In 2009 China produced 95 percent of the world's supply of these elements, and it's estimated that the Bayan Obo mines just north of Baotou contain 70 percent of the world's reserves.” Baotou is also home to a toxic lake “…filled with black, barely liquid, toxic sludge”, created by damming a river and flooding what was previously farm land, instead using it as a dumping ground for waste byproducts.
But while we are mining the earth for this exhaustive supply of minerals, tech companies still push for us to upgrade constantly. As mentioned above, one of 2degree’s main promotions is for its consumers to ‘Trade Up’ every year to the latest smartphone, giving resonance to a phenomenon dubbed as style obsolescence.
And of course, tech companies are aware of this and have been accused of engaging in planned obsolescence, building in a certain lifetime to a product, which will eventually stop working, forcing consumers to buy a new one, something the international light bulb cartels of the early 20th century played on. You might purchase a brand-spanking new laptop, but you’ll often do so with the knowledge that it will only live for another three to four years. Apple incentivises upgrades in a number of ways, it uses tamper-proof screws on iPhones and the new Macbook Air laptops have the RAM soldered into the logic board, so upgrading it means replacing the entire logic board, which is very expensive. The battery of the model, when first introduced, was also designed to last only 300 charges, according to ifixit.org. Apple claimed it made this decision to keep the computer ultra-thin.
A potential solution to this problem are modular smartphones, like Google’s Project Ara. The smartphone’s prototype is essentially made up of small parts you can slide on and off yourself which fit on to a main “endoskeleton”.
Say you want a camera piece with a higher megapixel, the idea is that you’ll be able to purchase the attachment and slide it right on to your phone. Or, if perhaps you don’t use your camera often, you can replace that piece with something else you might use more. Because the components can be swapped out and replaced if they eventually die, the devices are expected to last longer, which will hopefully reduce electronic waste, an initiative first set by Dave Hakkens and his organisation Phonebloks. Project Ara will begin pilot testing in Puerto Rico later this year.