Are accessories important to a smartphone's success?

Published: March 18, 2013

It’s almost impossible to narrow down every specific reason why someone might pick one smartphone over another. Sure, we try to narrow it down to a few major things, like operating system, apps, display size or even carrier, but the truth is there could be any number of reasons why someone decides to pick that one phone over that other phone. I’m sure that we’ve all been in a situation where you’ve been talking to someone, and at one point or another you find out which phone they are using. You may ask why, or you may leave it alone. For me, though, my curiosity always gets the better of me.

Sometime last week I was standing in an AT&T retail store, chatting with one of the representatives. We were talking about the BlackBerry Z10, and how it may (or may not) stack up against the competition. The sales representative I was talking to is an Android fan, and carries a Galaxy S III as their personal device. They told me they’d probably stick with Android, at least for the foreseeable future.

What was more interesting to me, though, was the individual who walked into the store while we were talking about the Z10 and pre-ordered the device from another rep. So, I obviously had to ask why on Earth they were doing that. What had been the driving force behind the desire to pre-order a brand new device, with a brand new mobile OS, versus the competition?

Well, the most obvious answer was that they were a BlackBerry fan to begin with. They pulled out their Bold 9900, said they loved it, but that they were ready for something new. BlackBerry 10 and the Z10 provided that, without having to leave the BlackBerry brand they’ve grown to love over the years. (The Z10 is a stopgap, though, as they plan on picking up the Q10 when it launches later.)

Okay, so brand loyalty. We’ve heard suggested that might be the reason BlackBerry survives this new venture, and lives another year to fight the good fight, haven’t we? So, there’s one person attesting to that sweeping postulation. I left that retail location having a little bit more faith in BlackBerry.

The next day, I was wondering all over again if BlackBerry stands a chance.

I was in another store, which one I don’t remember, and I was having a quick chat with one of the employees talking about the iPhone. They told me that they carry an iPhone, but have an Android tablet (Galaxy Tab 2). I couldn’t help it: I asked why on Earth they have an iPhone, but chose an Android tablet. (In my head, I’d think that the “perfect” combo would be an Android phone, like the Galaxy Note II, and an iPad (even a Mini, depending on your phone’s size.)).

He told me that he just prefers having iOS on his phone, but he wanted a tablet and didn’t need “more iOS.” Okay, I can understand that. Before I could change the subject (talking about the Galaxy Tab 2 was not how I wanted to spend my time), he went on to tell me why he was using an iPhone at all, and not any other phone out there on the market.

Accessories.

He then showed me his iPhone 4S, tucked safely into one of those awesomely huge “indestructible” cases, and tossed it onto the ground behind him. I think he was trying to prove a point, but I missed it because he threw his phone on the ground. He brought me back to the page he was on (probably a few chapters ahead), and told me that he chose the iPhone because there are just more accessories out there for the phone.

That got me thinking, not so much about his poor iPhone (who does that!?), but about the devices coming down the pipe. This was before Samsung unveiled the Galaxy S 4, but they actually proved my point – they’ve got accessories. If you go to their accessories page, you can see 11 individual accessory options right now. And that’s only going to get bigger from other third party options. Just as our own Anna Scantlin pointed out, accessories like S Health are going to only help sell the Galaxy S 4, and I think it goes to show that it’s not completely about the phone itself anymore.

Personally, I don’t use accessories like cases, or screen protectors, or similar additions. Headphones are usually where my accessory options start and end. But I can understand where he was coming from. I don’t see a lot of phones outside of cases anymore, actually. Especially iPhones. And for those people who want to protect their phones, or just show off some kind of allegiance to a sports team, cases make that easier than ever.

The BlackBerry Z10 is one of those devices that I think could gain some ground from new and interesting accessories, or just options that are already available for other phones. Like wireless charging, for example. Or how about some interesting docks? Whatever the case, even a nice range of cases can make the Z10 –and the Q10 later—stand out among the competition. Accessory options mean more ways that people can show off their phones. That’s what manufacturers want, because it means that people have to buy them first.

So, tell me how important accessories are to you. Which phone are you currently using, and do you have any type of accessories clinging to it? Did you buy that particular device because of the accessory options? Or was that not even remotely one of your considerations? Let me know.

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