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IFA 2017: Demand For Rugged Mobiles Set To Grow 25%

Australian retailers attending IFA 2017 are set to be offered an array of new ruggedized smartphones, a category that the experts claims are set to grow 25% in the next 12 months.

With Australia undergoing a building boom, trades are looking for devices that stand up to a “Hard Days Yakka” said one retailer.

With Android devices leading to growth across the entire smartphone category in Australia, data from CCS Insight, the research company, predicts the market for rugged handsets will boom 25 per cent this year as more workers opt for durable phones that can withstand a harsh environment.

CCS expects the niche to continue to expand rapidly, this contrasts with overall growth of 4 per cent for the global smartphone market, which has slowed as more consumers have opted to hold on to their phones for longer.

At IFA, several brands are spruiking rugged smartphones which they claim will appeal to many consumer and business categories.

According to the Financial Times the makers of rugged handsets have proved more active, in adding useful new functions to their handsets such as thermal imaging cameras and barcode scanners.
The market for rugged phones is split between consumer models and more expensive ultra-rugged ones. Consumer rugged phones include the Cat Phone, made by Britain’s Bullitt Group, Samsung’s Galaxy Active and Xcover models.

Lesser known brands including Evolveo and RugGear.

In Australia Telstra has been selling a rebadged ZTE tough phone for several years for retailers such as JB Hi Fi and Harvey Norman the rugged category is new. Also looking at this category is Bunnings and Officeworks.

Rugged phones represent a small portion of the overall smartphone market, which is expected to reach 1.6bn unit shipments this year.

Yet CCS believes more consumers that work in manual labor are using their rugged phones as a primary device, given improvements in the design of rugged phones to make them less “thick and bulky”.

Bullitt, which makes phones on behalf of brands including Caterpillar, Land Rover and Kodak, and is the UK’s only remaining phone maker after the demise of luxury brand Vertu, will reveal two new rugged handsets at the IFA Consumer Electronics Show in Berlin this week.

Ben Wood, head of research at CCS Insight, said that the durability of rugged phones makes the devices more attractive to consumers who are fed up with fragile phones.

Cat rugged smartphones

“The mainstream Android smartphone market is now dominated by a small number of large players offering similar looking devices with near similar features. Differentiation is becoming increasingly challenging,” he said.

Tim Shepherd, a director at Bullitt Group, said:

“The research clearly identifies a problem with many mobile phones and it’s understandable that consumers are becoming increasingly frustrated with the fragility of their phones not coping with the demands of their daily lives.”

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