The smartphone market is still going strong. It’s continued to grow, and as the market becomes ever more crowded and ever more technologically sophisticated, retaining customers is critical for companies’ survival, and differentiation in an increasingly homogenous sector is key.
Liquid damage accounts for a third of repairs
Many manufacturers have been differentiating their products by improving resilience against accidents. After shattered screens, liquid damage is the second most common cause of damage, representing more than a third (35%) of all devices repaired.
IDC estimates that over 328 million smartphones were damaged in 2015 because of accidents with liquids, representing a total cost of $96.7 billion.
Improving smartphone resistance to these common accidents, manufacturers know, can result in higher customer satisfaction and greater brand loyalty. Surprisingly however, just 27 of the 360 manufacturers tracked by IDC offered some type of liquid resistance.
An opportunity to differentiate
Over the next four years, cumulative shipments of smartphones will surpass 6.4 billion units, representing $1.5 trillion. Problems associated with liquid accidents are only set to become bigger.
As many manufacturers focus on improving the end user experience with durable devices using premium materials and stylish designs, adding liquid resistance is surely an opportunity to drive sales.
Sony and Motorola are two of the leading handset manufacturers offering water resistance on their devices with Samsung and Apple also recently making it standard in their latest flagship devices.
IDC has found, through its research, that nano-coating, in combination with better industrial design, is a financially proven technology that prevents smartphones from getting damaged by exposure to liquids.
Consumers want quality and durability
Liquid protection is increasingly mentioned as one of the key purchasing drivers for smartphones as it is a feature that has become more and more important to consumers.
When accidents occur, consumers expect a quality device that’s durable. In fact, IDC’s ConsumerScape 360 survey found that the top three purchase drivers for smartphones across the major brands are: quality and durability (77%), battery life (77%) and ease of use (71%).
If manufacturers look first at what consumers want, providing a solution that prevents damage from liquids will become a strategic decision. And the demand is there, for example recent figures from YouGov show that water resistance was ranked the third most wanted smartphone feature, after a longer battery life and shatterproof screen.
For manufacturers, this means moving away from a focus on just saving costs to preventing customer churn from dissatisfied customers. The industry is changing. Since Apple announced that the iPhone 7 will offer water resistance, the level of interest from other manufacturers in adding water resistance to their devices increased.
Physical seals vs nano-coating technology
Manufacturers looking to add protection from liquid damage have two options: physical seals or coatings. Seals and gaskets create a physical barrier that prevents liquid ingress.
A hydrophobic nano-coating, on the other hand, offers a coating that can prevent ingress or corrosion through the repellent effect that reduces liquids getting into contact with the vulnerable component.
Seals and gaskets use small covers over the charger port, headset jack and SIM card trays to prevent a high level of protection against liquids and dust.
However, this means that the covers need to be closed at all times to prevent liquid getting into the phone. Other drawbacks include that the cost to design and manufacturer these types of phones is higher and the physical protection impacts the thinness of the phone.
Three types of nano
There are three types of nano-coating technologies: hydrophobic, atomic layer deposition and multilayer films. When the wetting angle is more than 90 degrees, it is typically defined as hydrophobic, as is the case with our technology.
This creates a more repellent surface compared to standard coatings and allows mass-scale applications. The process results in an ultra-thin hydrophobic nano-coating that provides high levels of repellency.
When liquids come into contact with the hydrophobic coating, they simply roll off due to low surface energy created by the coating. This coating does not affect the look and feel of a product and can be applied to the device without impacting the electrical circuitry or delicate components such as the microphone, antennae or speaker.
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Nano-coating is less expensive and more efficient compared to mechanical physical seals. While nano-coating does not offer the same level of protection as a fully sealed mechanical solution it is sufficient for everyday life.
For users that want products that can handle the occasional accident, nano-coating is a good solution that doesn’t significantly increase the price of the device.
For users that are looking for a higher level of protection, a ruggedised device should be considered.
For manufacturers, nano-coating is an inexpensive solution that provides a strong return on investment, according to the latest research from IDC. If brands want to keep customers loyal and drive sales, it’s a solution that should be considered.
Sourced by Ady Moores, CEO of P2i