Smombie apocalypse

When people aren’t killing themselves taking selfies, there are lucrative opportunities to sell them all sorts of must-have products for their mobile devices, says Computers Unlimited group marketing and PR manager Clare Newsome

It’s official: we have a deadly addiction to our ‘smart’ devices. In 2015, more people died by taking selfies than by shark attacks. Russian selfie deaths have become so rife that the government has released a guide on how not to die while taking a smartphone picture of yourself (top tips: avoid balancing on dangerous surfaces and/or posing with loaded weapons).

Meanwhile, the German dictionary gained a new word: smombie, short for smartphone zombie – those who stagger around like the undead, glued to their smartphones. Cities, including Cologne and Augsburg, are embedding warning lights into pavements, so smombies have a better chance of knowing a tram’s about to hit them.

And why should you care? Because like any addiction, this device habit needs feeding: power, protection, headphones and more – all regularly purchased and renewed in the quest to perfect the mobile experience. And there are exciting new opportunities to sell device accessories this summer.

Firstly, with call and data-roaming charges slashed across Europe, thanks to EU legislation that came into force on April 30 (with more cuts to come in the year ahead), many more consumers could be taking their phones on their summer holidays, not to mention action cameras, wireless headphones, iPads, Kindles, and any number of other devices they’ll need to keep charged and protected.

Fast USB chargers with travel plugs – Griffin does a great line – should be a till-side staple in summer months. Griffin’s Survivor range of cases – for just about any device – is military drop-tested and water-resistant, too: ready for the beach, British BBQ weather or just rampaging children out of school.

There are also 12 million Apple Watch users facing a summer holiday with a device that needs charging every day. Again, there are some superb solutions for that very first-world problem. The Twelve South Time Porter provides Apple Watch charging, a desktop stand and a cable cubby, with suitably sunglasses-case styling. And if you want a battery-powered solution, the Kanex GoPower Watch can deliver 10 full charges – or a combination of Apple Watch and phone charging.

Twelve South Time Porter
Twelve South Time Porter

Despite Apple’s shares taking a slight tumble (a moment’s silence, please, for a company with a $233 billion cash mountain), it sold 512 million iPhones in the past three months, and strong sales are expected for the next-generation iPhone 7, due in September.

It seems increasingly likely that the next-generation smartphone will have no headphone socket – meaning millions of music-loving Apple owners are ripe for an upgrade and it’s time to start discussing future-proofing when you’re selling headphones.

Wireless headphones are an obvious solution, but for those who want better than Bluetooth, there are some more exciting options. American Award-winning headphone specialist, Audeze, has been working closely with Apple on the first Lighting connector headphone cable to offer full high-resolution audio functionality – 24-bit music support plus hands-free phone calls and Siri usage. This DAC-toting Cipher cable is now available for the over-ear Audeze EL-8 Titanium (£699) and on-ear, foldable SINE headphones (£449 – pictured top).

These are obviously both great companions for any Apple device with a Lightning socket – ideal for those wanting an instant audio upgrade for Netflix or BBC iPlayer on their iPad, for example. Oh, and if a customer is happy with the headphones they’ve got, Chord’s pocket rocket Mojo also connects to Apple devices via the Lightning socket, as well as offering a major sonic boost to any other smartphone, computer, games console and more.

Another hot technology trend is virtual reality – something every smartphone user can get a great taste of via the new generation of affordable VR solutions. From the pince-nez style Homido Mini at £15 to the colourful Kaiser Baas VR at £30, through to Homido’s adjustable VR Headset at £50, there are impulse-purchase options available to let any retailer provide a gateway to different worlds – and potential upgrade sales in future, if they get hooked.

What’s great about all those VR solutions is they work with just about any phone – you’re not buying into stock that’ll be obsolete. That ‘one SKU fits all’ benefit also applies to another exciting technology, and something allowing me a second mention of sharks (well, June 26 does herald the beginning of this year’s Shark Week), from British firm Shark Proof.

It has developed a screen protector that uses nanotechnology to coat device screens with liquid glass, all in a simple wipe-on application. One small packet of Shark Proof can protect any device for up to two years, saving it from scratches, water spills and – thanks to its anti-microbial properties – germs. It’s just £14.99, too.

One last thing to consider: some pavement advertising near your stores, to capture the downward gaze of passing smombies…