In year 2010, 6 years ago, I made a famous forecast. I took the best smartphones of the day, the iPhone 4 and its various competitors like the Blackberry Bold, Samsung Galaxy, Nokia N8 etc, and applied Moore's Law for ten years. I said, if Moore's Law really will hold true, we should see a clone of that top-most phone of the day, say the iPhone 4, take all its specs, clone that on a cheap Android, give it 10 years of Moore's Law, and what cost 600 dollars (before any contract discount of handset subsidy) should cost 10 dollars - to manufacture, ship, market, sell - and still make a profit, by year 2020.
So to consider. Year 2010, if you took a brand new iPhone 4, which had a 5 mp camera, 3.5 inch touch screen, 3G and WiFi, the camera had an LED flash, and the iPhone 4 had also GPS. It was a VERY powerful pocket computer back in 2010. Any kid would have loved it, and with a bit of effort, you could run your business from that phone, it was clearly a fully-fledged computer. The App Store was now in full swing, you could also install almost any business productivity type of app from word processing to spreadsheets to accounting and billing. Or if you were more of an artist, it shot video, you could edit your photographs on the phone, and of course upload or download and view online etc. If you could give every human being on the planet, in year 2010, an iPhone 4, the 'digital divide' would essentially vanish. Everyone would have access to almost unlimited information, almost all education online etc. But the problem obviously was the price. In 2010 that pocket miracle machine cost 600 dollars. You can I could afford it. Someone in Tanzania who earns 2 dollars a day, could not afford it. And the rival flagship phones, Blackberry Bolds, Samsung Galaxies, Sony Xperias, Nokia N8s what have you HTCs and LGs and ZTEs and Lenovos, their flagships also cost in that roughly 600 dollar range, in year 2010.
So I applied Moore's Law. Moore's Law is a computer science law that says, that every 18 months the amount of microprocessors that can be squeezed onto the same space of a silicon chip will double. So in effect, computing power doubles every 18 months. The corollary to the law says, to get the SAME computing power, every 18 months, the COST of producing the same computing power will be cut in half. And if we start from 600 dollars in the summer of 2010, then cut it in half in 18 months, by Christmas of 2011, there should be an equivalent smartphone costing 300 dollars, and 18 months later, by the summer of 2013, one should exist for 150 dollars etc. You see how this goes. I am looking for specs of 5mp camera, 3.5 inch touch screen, smartphone, on 3G, WiFi, with GPS (and an LED flash for the camera). If you've seen me speak in the past 6 years, you've seen this slide and my latest update of where we are:
So its a CLONE. Not the actual Apple iPhone. Apple is not interested in selling us the same iPhone at half price every 18 months until it costs essentially nothing in a decade. They will try to think of ever more cool gadgets and specs and tech to squeeze into the phone, to keep up its price and ideally even raise its price (like they did with the 6 Series phablets). I have not predicted that APPLE would sell us a 'real' new iPhone in 2020 for ten dollars. BUT if we apply Moore's Law, then some clone-maker, could design an iPhone 2010 clone, in year 2020, put it on Android, and offer us the COMPUTING SPECS that are the same, as the iPhone 4 was in 2010, and if Moore's Law really holds, that smartphone should really cost about 10 dollars in year 2020, including manufacturing, shipping, marketing - and a modest profit to the maker.
So I made this famous prediction in 2010. The nice thing about it is, that it gives us a calendar, a schedule, of benchmarks. We can TEST the theory, to see if it is 'on track'. Every 18 months, I have then tested the theory to see, can I find some cheap smartphone somewhere that fits those specs and is on the price that my theory suggested 6 years ago. And so far, up to Christmas of 2014, I had managed to find some Android device - a new smartphone, not discounted old model - that fit those specs and was priced at or just under what the theory suggested. We were on track still in 2014. Now, its summer of 2016. It is time for the next 'check point'. Is that theory still on track. Can I find a new smartphone, released and sold this year, which has minimum specs of 5mp camera, 3.5 inch touch screen, 3G and WiFi, GPS, and flash for the camera. Obviously those are the minimum required specs, the smartphone can have BETTER specs on any of those, and the theory would still hold true. But the price is the key element. Can I find one that has an unsubsidised real price in some country selling for 38 dollars or less.
And would you know it. Yes I can. I found in India a new smartphone, released this March, by a brand I had never heard of, called Microkey. The Android smartphone is the Microkey E9. It has: 5mp camera and LED flash; 5 inch touch screen; 3G and WiFi, plus GPS. It matches or exceeds (5 inch touch screen vs 3.5 inch) the specs I needed. And its retail price is 2.443 India Rupees today, June, which is 36.25 US dollars. We are 1 dollar and 75 cents BELOW the target price. The theory still holds. We are on target to reach a 10 dollar 'iPhone 4 clone' to sell by year 2020. In fact, my original theory said 10 US dollars by summer of 2019, and yes THAT schedule is still today, year 2016, on target. I am expecting my theory to start to fail, because now so may of the remaining price elements of the path are not subject to Moore's Law - the price of plastic or glass does not fall by Moore's Law; the price of battery storage does not follow Moore's Law; the price of labor in manufacturing, the price of shipping, the price of packaging, the price of retail and marketing - does not follow Moore's Law. So I am seriously expecting not to hit that 10 dollar Android 'iPhone 4 clone' in the summer of 2019, and I expect very soon we will find that we are 'falling short' of my prediction - but so far, gosh, so good. Still now, six years into this forecast, of a 9 year journey, we are ON TRACK. If that final end is a 12 dollar smartphone rather than 10; or if the resulting date for 10 dollars is summer of 2020 rather than 2019, I will take that as a 'win' - because if humanity can have the power of an original iPhone 4, sold for 10 dollars without contract, it means everybody can have a scanner in their pocket (5mp camera is good enough to do page scans). Everybody can shoot videos. Everybody has the internet in their pocket. Everybody can have precision-mapping in their pockets. This is an amazing industry. And the golden years of mobile are only now ahead of us.
PS 1 - if you were not sure why the golden years of mobile are only now starting, read this.
And PS 2 - if you need all the stats of our amazing industry, you need to get the TomiAhonen Almanac 2016 edition - it only costs 10 Euros.