Smartphones Keep Getting Smarter & Your Supply Chain Should, Too

Mobile phones are becoming more cognitive, signaling a shift from cool hardware design to making the OS the key enabler. As the shift happens, different parts of the supply chain will have to adjust to keep pace.

Regardless of which OEM brand name is on the device, smartphones seem to be acquiring more cognitive capabilities with each new major product release, as noted in this PwC article.

Multiple factors — related to the devices themselves and broader IT developments — are driving this, including improved sensor technology, more powerful processors, better connectivity, increased cloud reliability, and sophisticated data analysis tools.

PwC predicts that as these advances continue, the role of the OS for phones, tablets, and other mobile devices will “only grow in importance as the orchestrator of all the components and services on the device and those that reside in the cloud. The OS is the enabler of the enablers, if you will.”

Ongoing innovation in the mobile OS and user interface, along with the core services layer, will make smartphones capable of self-learning users' behaviors and the device more personalized, Daniel Eckert, PwC director for Mobile Computing, noted in the report.

This puts pressure on OEMs in several ways. First, because there are no comprehensive metrics for measuring OS performance, PwC expects to see incremental improvement mirroring what has happened in DRAM, storage, and other mobile building blocks.

Also, the OS improvements will be more qualitative with things like security, multitasking capabilities, and supported media protocols will getting more focus than rather bits transferred per second or bytes stored per dollar, the firm said.

Although this article doesn't directly address the wider supply chain issues around it, we can all make a leap here. We have seen it before with other disrupted technologies.

When smartphones first came out, hardware design and device form factors influenced consumer purchases. Now, the “cool factor” is migrating towards OSs, apps, and service-level functionality. This crossover in electronics often brings with it new engineering requirements, perhaps some additional component changes (i.e., design with quad-core processors instead of dual core) and improved market segmentation (what works in the US may not work in Japan or China).

Supply chain impact
The point is that eventually it all comes back to supply chain management practices, one way or another.

Luckily, supply chains are getting smarter. The people and organizations running them have tuned in to these design flow patterns, and there is better cross-team planning on how to manage product lifecycles as these shifts happen.

But, have the cognitive capabilities of the supply chain grown as well, keeping pace with the devices they track and monitor? Heck, if a smartphone can become a self-learning tool that senses and reacts to their user's whims, couldn't some of that technology make supply chain platforms even more powerful, creating “bigger masters of the supply chain universe”? Then again, maybe smart enough is good enough for now.

16 comments on “Smartphones Keep Getting Smarter & Your Supply Chain Should, Too

  1. Tom Murphy
    June 12, 2013

    Not only are phone getting smarter, they're getting faster. By that I mean the shelf life of a smartphone is falling rapidly from 18 months down to 12 months or less.  And prices are dropping. So to make the same profit, more phones must be sold in a shorter period of time. 

    Where will that time come from? Perhaps faster manufacturing, quicker shipments, continual redesign and retooling, and faster distribution.

    Don't even get me started on the need to educate the consumer faster on why she/he needs to buy the next phone generation just 7-9 months after buying the last one. 

  2. _hm
    June 12, 2013

    Tools are no doubt very helpful to make one's task facsile. Employing them effectively and keep upto date with technology is also sound plan.

    However, to differentiate from crowd and move further and ahead of group, one needs many other soft skills. Natural interest, dreaming and intuition, thirst and perseverance are much more important.

    It is suggegsted to make in-depth evaluation of investment in technology and its return in short term and long term. One also needs to balance, keep money for rainy day and other important opportunities availabe for growth with power of money.

    Technology adaption should not exceed about 25% of all investment.


  3. Daniel
    June 14, 2013

    “Not only are phone getting smarter, they're getting faster. By that I mean the shelf life of a smartphone is falling rapidly from 18 months down to 12 months or less.  And prices are dropping. So to make the same profit, more phones must be sold in a shorter period of time. “

    Tom, exactly. The life time of smartphones is becoming even lower than that due to the frequent introduction of new models. When new models are introducing, obliviously the existing one may got older and forced the manufacturer for slashing the price.

    June 14, 2013

    It looks like the future for the HW portion of the phone is that is will become a commodity and all the value add will be the OS and services the phone offers.  This will put more pressure on cost and delivery….all the things the supply chain should be good at.

  5. SP
    June 14, 2013

    I think one day the time will come when you can just buy the HW of smartphone off the shelf, port OS your self as per your choice and load the applications of your choice, It will be smarter that way. The supply chain issues and challenges will still remain but yes would get smarter.

  6. Mr. Roques
    June 14, 2013

    A couple of years ago, OS was THE thing, hardware wasn't as important and Android came out and anyone could use it. But companies realized they could use Android, improve parts of it, integrate it with their own particular services and to its hardware and have a “flavor” of Android. If it continues to go that way, we will go back to everyone having their own OS, based on Android, but with many differences.

  7. Dr. Edward F. Knab
    June 14, 2013


    As global pricing begins to shift, it is important that companies focus on their strategy.  There is little doubt that the complexity associated with todays supply chain has increased significantly and the tools we use should be focussed on adaptability in terms of speed in which we adjust to change resulting from complexity.  This would be a great topic for your next article.

    Dr. Edward F. Knab

  8. elctrnx_lyf
    June 15, 2013

    The demands from supply chain remains same irrespective of technology improvements in the recent times. To certain extent technologies could help and the companies like SAP have definitely helping a lot with dedicated software and I believe these solutions will be made more mobile.

  9. Patrick_yu
    June 15, 2013

    If the shelf-life of smartphone is becoming less than 12 months, the supply chain model would look like that of PC, wouldn't it?  In fact, with the number of SoC inside smartphone dominated by Qualcom, MediaTek, Samsung (for now, not sure if this can be persistent), Intel (upcoming), Spectrum (not sure for the long term), Huawei (not sure if it is sustainable), Marvell (not sure for how long), Nvidia (a farce perhaps), Broadcom (always upcoming), I believe that modularization is becoming feasilble with the manufacturing of smartphone.  Therefore, HW should become less relevant in the future, while service and the stability of the OS platform will become more critical in the future.

  10. t.alex
    June 15, 2013

    This is so true. I believe what smartphones OEM really need are ready-made solutions that can help them quickly develop the next-generation phone 6 months down the road. 

    Faster, cheaper solutions with seamsless integration into manufacturing and distribution. 

  11. apdobaj
    June 15, 2013

    Getting the most out of the supply chain will take a community effort to federate supply chain metadata by adopting universal structure in the manner prescribed by or OpenCyc. If you really want to increase the intelligence of your supply chain in a realizable, scalable and sustainable fashion, this is the place to start. From the standpoint of a project manager, how cool would it be to have a real-time, SINGLE source of design truth that is visible to every stakeholder (from widgit supplier to R&D to management to CM to… well, you get the idea) in a fashion that is relevant for each. New tools are available to make this much easier than it used to be.

  12. hash.era
    June 16, 2013

    Supply chain has been dominating very slowly for no reason. Many does not understand the concept behind SCM I guess. 

  13. Adeniji Kayode
    June 16, 2013


    I do not think it can get to that level because what influence or control will the manufacturer has over it product.


  14. Adeniji Kayode
    June 16, 2013


    I think that is begining to happen, tablets come with different version of android OS now. I think the lasted one is 4.1 and it keeps improving every day.

  15. SP
    June 18, 2013

    @Adeniji, To some extent I agree. It may not be happen very time soon. But you never know. There was a time when old mobile phones were a big thing, then it became so common as our daily stuff. Nowadays 3-4 years old kid handle or play with smartphone so well that it just looks like kids play. Technology will become so approachable to people that nothing would seem difficult.

  16. Mr. Roques
    June 18, 2013

    Well, yes but I meant we will have Android 4.2 (samsung version) and android 4.2 (HTC version) or not even called Android but based on it.

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