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October 12, 2010 04:10 David Kerr

sa photo dk

At CTIA in San Francisco last week, away from the fanfare around LTE rollouts and the next dozen tablet devices (ok, I exaggerate a little), Sprint had an announcement which will have significantly higher impact on mobile broadband adoption and revenues: Sprint ID. 

Sprint ID promises to up the ante on personalization and ease current feature phone users into the smart phone ranks.

Sprint ID offers instant personalization along key themes/packs where the operator has done the heavy lifting of identifying and group related applications of interest to different persona from wallpaper to ringtones to apps. While the one click marketing line is not quite matched by reality given pesky little things like accepting terms and conditions etc, Sprint ID is a significant breakthrough in my opinion as:

  • it broadens the market appeal of Smart phones to current feature phones users with a simple to understand offer in a range of device price points including the critical $49 and $99 levels.
  • it tackles one of the biggest weakness of all app stores: discoverability of content and simple personalization.

Three handsets were featured at launch of Sprint ID: Sanyo Zio™, Samsung Transform™, LG Optimus S™. These three devices cover key price points in the Sprint portfolio and provide customers with a range of form factors, industrial design and brand to meet their tastes. Interesting to note that both LG and Sanyo retain the right to put their own packs on their handsets as well. This is a big win for LG as its Optimus S™ will be available for under $50 with contract giving the vendor a much needed boost in the smartphone space. Samsung meanwhile continues to shine at Sprint occupying the lucrative $149 spot with its Transform™. All three devices of course require a Sprint Everything Data plan.

However, for me the more significant impact is that operators and oems are finally realizing that customers don’t buy phones or services or apps… what they really want are positive experiences

… be that socially connected, sports, education, health and fitness, fashion etc. This is something that our User Experience team has been evangelizing for the last 7+ years. Whether its 80k apps on Android or 250k on Apple store or 10K on RIM, one common experience has been exasperation at the huge waste of time, energy and emotions in finding ANYTHING!!! Which happens first, eyes glazing over or fingers cramping with so much scrolling? Either way the net result is often a disappointing experience which the early smart phone coolaid drinkers have learned to live with.

Newbies to the smart phone arena, will certainly have less tolerance and spend less time to personalize their device and enable applications. Sprint ID is well tailored to the next wave who are taking tentative steps into the smart phone space

 

David Kerr

dkerr@strategyanalytics.com


September 23, 2010 22:09 David Kerr

September 23, 2010

While there has understandably been a lot of attention given to consumer apps post iPhone and the plethora of application stores that have emerged, business mobility and enterprise mobility offer huge potential from horizontal to vertical applications and from smartphones to iPads and tablets to superphones.

In both NA and W. Europe, business customers account for under 30% of users but are the dominant streams of both revenue and profits for operators. On the device side, premium priced models from RIM, Nokia, and Microsoft Mobile licensees as well as the iPhone have long been key drivers of profits in a market where low single digit margins are the norm.  The explosion of smartphone choices has led to the battle ground moving beyond the corner office, to other executive and now increasingly the midlevel manager.

With a new range of devices competing for space in the corporate market, the issue of corporate versus individual liable has become an increasing priority for IT decision makers. Add on the complexity of managing an expanding list of OS (Android, iPhone, Windows Mobile, Symbian, Palm, MeeGo, Bada from Samsung) and the growing importance of mobile portable devices with access behind the firewall and one can already feel a corporate migraine forming…. And that’s before we even discuss device management, mobility policy, device retirement etc. etc.

I am looking forward to CTIA Fall (San Francisco October 5-7) and in particular to the Enterprise Mobility Boot Camp moderated by Philippe Winthrop of the Enterprise Mobility Foundation. The boot camp spread over two days will address many of the issue listed above with our own Andy Brown featured in an analyst roundtable on October 6th.  I look forward to meeting you there. Don’t hesitate to contact Philippe for passes to this the deep dive enterprise mobility event.

David Kerr

David Kerr
Snr. VP - Global Wireless Practice
Tel: +1 617 614 0720
Mob: +1 262 271 8974


September 10, 2010 20:09 bjoy
Android sales have already surpassed the iPhone and with each passing day, its building further momentum with new announcements and launches. The launch of the Huawei Ideos, a mid-tier (<200 USD) device with Android 2.2 is yet another milestone in the Android evolution as the platform now extends its reach to new segments traditionally occupied by the feature phones. Most, if not all, major operators have at least one Android model in the portfolio. The platform also has broad support from the vendor community, with major names under its banner. One question at the top of OEM and Operators is how my Android is different from your Android. Look at the Android portfolio in the US market. Aside from the glossy hardware specs and discounting the differences between the base version releases - Android 1.X/2.X – it’s hard to spot any differences beneath the skin. OEMs ability to differentiate is largely limited to the user interface layers. The HTC Sense UI, Samsung TouchWiz and Sony Ericsson Timescape are some of the leading Android skins available in the market. Under the hood, they all share the common goal of servicing the Google’s apps and service portfolio – Search,GMail, Maps and  Gtalk to name a few.   “True” Internet? An opportunity for differentiation here is to bring the “true” internet experience to consumers by seamlessly integrating services and features beyond Google products. This is a tall task for most OEMs as it’s not always easy to develop exclusive partnerships in the content or service space – and some of the most popular non-Google services like Facebook are already integrated to the core Android base anyways. But for operators, the stage is slightly different. Check out some of the most recent announcements from Verizon Wireless: •    The Verizon Samsung Fascinate, part of Samsung’s premium Galaxy S portfolio, uses Microsoft  Bing as the standard option for Maps. •    Bing will also serve as the default search engine for the device. The Galaxy S series is available under all major US operators, but except for the Verizon version, all bear the same look and feel. I’m not going to the merits of which search or maps service yield the best results, but the fact that operators are looking beyond Google’s umbrella services will provide more choice for the consumers – however small that segment be. Skype integration is another differentiator for Verizon Android devices.  Although the Android core base doesn’t have a Google branded VoIP service yet, sooner or later the Google branded VoIP service will be part of the core Android base – especially given the recent launch of integrated VoIP service with Gmail. Replacing core Google services with alternative services will not prove to be a winning formula in all instances, but it could bring the mobile Internet experience beyond Google’s umbrella brands and provide enough service attributes to differentiate from the Google’s core base. The service element is a critical element in the product planning process and product planners should pay keen attention before deciding what should or shouldn’t be replaced from the core platform.  At Strategy Analytics, we’ve tools to support our clients in positioning products with the right combination of hardware/platform/service elements. Drop us a note if you would like to know more on how we can assist your planning teams. - Bonny Joy

August 4, 2010 23:08 nmawston


Blackberry has finally introduced its much-awaited OS 6 upgrade with the launch of the Torch 3G smartphone. It will initially be sold exclusively at AT&T in the USA in August 2010, giving the operator an alternative to the iPhone. OS 6 employs a Webkit engine, HTML5 support and universal search. The Torch is a QWERTY slider with a 3-inch HVGA+ touchscreen optimized for messaging and media prosumers. Can the Torch outshine Apple? Is it an Android killer?




Well, the external design is a little unexciting. It looks not dissimilar to the Palm Pre. The hardware-list ticks the right boxes for a premium handset -- with 802.11n, 5MP camera, and so on -- but the 624MHz Marvell processor might be perceived as sluggish compared with the emerging tide of 1GHz superphones. The software-list looks good, with Flash, HTML5 support and Webkit for developers. The Webkit-rendered browser will compress data traffic, benefitting AT&T's stressed network. RIM has opened up the platform a little for a better developer environment. Data services are prosumer-friendly and consumer-friendly and primed for email, Internet-browsing, social networking, instant messaging, maps, WiFi geolocation, universal search, RSS feeds, media playback, Blackberry World and PC tethering. No head-to-head videophony, though.

Navigation of the UI is delivered through 3 main interfaces; touchscreen, trackpad and hard-QWERTY keyboard. Our brief trial of the handset in New York recently found the user-experience to be generally satisfying with a responsive touchscreen and good discoverability for apps and services. Retail pricing will be set initially at US$199 postpaid with a two-year contract. This is just in the sweetspot zone for high-end users, and it indicates AT&T will be subsidizing the Torch to the tune of roughly US$200 per unit.

So... are OS 6, Blackberry World and the Torch an Android killer? No. The overall package of hardware, software and services lacks a true wow factor. The Torch helps RIM to close the gap on Android models and iPhone, but it does not overtake them. Is the Torch a Blackberry savior? Maybe. Torch 1 is a solid step in the right direction to stemming churn by upgrading its touchphone portfolio. Torch 2 and Torch 3 will need to be even better, though, with improvements like a 2GHz processor, because the consumer-enterprise handset market in the US has become hyper-competitive and the Torch will not be a leading light for long.


July 6, 2010 15:07 nmawston

 

Steve Ballmer and Microsoft have shut down the Kin social phone project, due to weak sales. An understandable decision; we estimate the Kin captured less than 0.1% of the US handset market in Q2 2010. At least 8 major reasons caused its downfall:

1. Clumsy sub-branding with "Kin";
2. An unattractive handset formfactor that did not wow young users;
3. An unexciting set of features and consumer media;
4. Suboptimal finger-based touchscreen user-experience;
5. Poor marketing of its automated cloud-storage backup service;
6. Mixed integration of the UNIX-Java Danger acquisition;
7. Weak reception from US developers, who couldn’t run downloadable apps or use Flash;
8. High handset and data-plan costs at Verizon Wireless.

This is a long list of failure points. The Kin joins several mobile and portable product flops from Microsoft, such as Courier, Zune and Pocket PC. Will Microsoft and its handset partners learn the lessons of the Kin for Windows Phone 7 in 2011? They will need to, as Microsoft's global smartphone OS marketshare is near a record low.

Reasons 2, 3 and 4 should be Microsoft's and its device partners' priorities. Good-looking touch-smartphones with fun consumer media services and a slick UX will attract developers and persuade tier-1 US carriers to throw subsidies in their direction. Add in Reason 5, the automated cloud backup for data, which was one of the Kin's few differentiators, and Microsoft's prospects will look brighter. And if they could bring the popular Xbox sub-brand and services to the table, then Microsoft's prospects may look even brighter still.

But Microsoft will have to move with urgency, because rivals like Apple, Android and MeeGo are not standing still. If Microsoft struggles to deliver in any way on WP7 in 2011, then I believe it will eventually have to buy its way into the mobile market. Smartphones will soon outsell PCs and mobile is too big a market for Microsoft to ignore. Who do you think Microsoft should buy in software or hardware? And why? Leave your suggestions in our Comments box.


June 7, 2010 21:06 nmawston
The Apple iPhone 4 and iOS4 finally arrived today. After months of leaks, there were no major surprises about the hardware, software or services. There are up to 100 improved features, of which 9 were prioritized by Steve Jobs at launch. They include a pixel-dense 3.5-inch “retina display”, Apple A4 processor, bigger battery, 802.11n WiFi, gyroscope, 5-megapixel rear camera, front-facing camera, HD video-capture and multitasking. All packed into a thin 9mm formfactor. Apple iPhone 4 becomes reality. Phones, Mobile phones, Apple, iPhone 4, WWDC2010, iPhone 3GS 0 Services were front-and-center. Apple continues to favorably position its brand as an enabler of fun media for young-at-heart consumers. There is iBooks for reading, iMovie for film-editing and iAds for advertizing. The most ambitious move is FaceTime, a head-to-head videophony service using the front camera. The service has a catchy sub-brand, so it is off to a good start. But videoconferencing has been around for years and never really gotten off the ground outside Japan, so it will be interesting to see whether the iPhone ignites demand among western consumers or businesses. Two-way webcamming, via sites like Skype, is not uncommon among PC users, so it may be possible to transfer some of those usage traits to the mobile. FaceTime will initially be available only over WiFi, because operators’ 3G networks are not fully ready to cope with the potential spike in data traffic. Many of the iPhone’s weaknesses remain. Despite the hype, Apple is not flawless. There is still no support for popular Flash software. The iPhone’s closed ecosystem and apps-approval process are not ideal for some developers. And the handset’s expensive pricing makes it heavily reliant on operator subsidies. Overall, the iPhone 4 is another step forward. It raises the smartphone and services bar a little higher. Apple has done just enough to maintain its leadership in design, UX and consumer content. Nokia, RIM, Google, Microsoft, Samsung, LG and other OEMs still have some catching-up to do.

March 10, 2010 05:03 Alex Spektor
No, I did not misplace my BlackBerry. This blog post is not about the “Find My iPhone” feature or any other innovations in device recovery. Rather, I would like to lament my disappointment with the general lack of true intelligence in so-called smartphones. Named so for their advanced (PC-like, Wikipedia suggests) capabilities, smartphones trump ordinary phones with their ability to tie in new services, run applications, and browse the real Web. But should being PC-like be the ultimate aspiration for handsets? After all, phones have a key advantage that not even the lightest of netbooks can have – phones are always with their users and, as such, they know a lot about them.
  • Using GPS and accelerometers, the phone can know where you are and whether you are moving.
  • With knowledge of your calendar, the phone can know if you are busy and whether it should interrupt you.
  • By monitoring your behavior, the phone can guess how you will behave next time a similar situation arises.
Privacy advocates and conspiracy theorists will have a field day with this one, of course. But their fears can be assuaged with feature opt-in and with clear, published documentation of what data are stored and shared. Mobile context awareness is nothing new. Academics have been talking about it for over a decade. But, outside of downloadable (i.e., not truly integrated) apps and some barebones functionality (such as the “Automatic” ringtone profile on some WinMo phones, which goes to vibrate during scheduled meetings), there still is not a whole lot of context awareness in smartphones. Platforms like Android allow you arrange your widgets across multiple home screens. Powerful? Yes. You then have to flip through the home screens until you find the one with the right widgets. Smart? Not really. Why can’t your phone – knowing whether you are at work, on a train, or at home – give you the right home screen on its own? And switch wallpapers. And change the vibrate settings.

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This example only scratches the surface of the possibilities out there. Vendors looking to differentiate on open platforms such as Android or Symbian have a terrific opportunity in building a robust context-aware user experience. Tomorrow, this stuff will be table stakes. But today, we are still waiting for somebody to lead the way. Handsets are loaded with power: processors, sensors, round-the-clock connection to services. But where is the intelligence to tie all of this power together? Maybe we should call them powerphones until they start doing something smart. -Alex Spektor

February 10, 2010 17:02 Alex Spektor
When Apple launched the iPhone, it was the first PC maker to successfully cross the threshold into the handset space – a largely unfamiliar territory, dominated by veteran players and guarded by all-powerful carriers. Eyeing their rival’s success and fueled by early accomplishments in the emerging netbook segment, PC vendors have recently ramped up their interest in the smartphone space. So, is another rising star on the horizon?
  • HP was making Windows Mobile-powered PDA-phones under its iPAQ brand more than five years ago, and it continues to make iPAQ smartphones today. HP has been successful with iPAQ in the enterprise, where they can subsidize the device to their customers on lucrative services contracts. The iPAQ Glisten, a late-2009 release, looks fine in terms of specs, but is largely indistinguishable to consumers in the sea of WinMo QWERTY candybars.
  • clip_image002Asus, like HP, has been making WinMo phones for some time. Unlike HP, though, Asus tried to “think outside the box,” and recently teamed up with navigation giant Garmin. The pair put out the Linux-powered Nüvifone G60, which has been available via AT&T since early Q4 2009. But the device has been a disappointment, and we found that a poor user experience was one of the reasons for the weak sales.
  • Acer, who also launched about half a dozen WinMo phones in 2009, recently released the Android-powered Liquid smartphone. The Liquid’s Q1 2010 volume expectation is around one quarter of a million units, driven by quality hardware (Snapdragon, 3.5” display) at a reasonable price.
  • Dell, who previously played in the PDA space with WinMo-powered Axim devices, revealed the Android-powered Mini 3 smartphone, launched in China in late 2009 and due for release with AT&T sometime in the first half of 2010, just in time to boost the carrier’s portfolio after its pending iPhone exclusivity loss.
Let’s recall what has made the iPhone so successful: user experience, apps, industrial design, marketing, distribution, hype … the list goes on. Each of these factors has supported the others to propel the iPhone to stardom. The iPhone was a game-changer, and to repeat what Apple has done would be a feat. Given what it takes to be a star, can other PC makers still succeed in the consumer smartphone space? To be continued -Alex Spektor

January 13, 2010 16:01 Alex Spektor

As usual, this year was a fairly quiet one for mobile phones at CES. Hot consumer electronics products, like ultra-thin 3D TVs, e-books, tablets, and netbooks, all overshadowed phone announcements from the likes of Palm, LG, and Motorola.

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But one bit of important news came from an event that was held in parallel with CES. At the AT&T Developer Summit last week, the big news centered on the impending rollout of Qualcomm’s Brew Mobile Platform across the carrier’s messaging phone portfolio – complete with an app store (AT&T App Center) and “standard” 70-30 revenue sharing. AT&T’s target is 90% Brew MP penetration on mid-range featurephones by end-of-2011.

So, who benefits from the AT&T announcement?

Clear winners

  • US Carriers: Presumably, the most compelling apps would be data-enabled, so the development would drive data plan take-up. Verizon Wireless is already requiring a data plan on a number of its messaging phone models, and is rumored to expand the policy to more non-smart devices.
  • Developers: Improved revenue sharing, a unified platform, and a well-supported SDK make developing apps for multiple devices easier and potentially more profitable.
  • Qualcomm: Prior to this announcement, we were predicting the slow demise of Brew. Although it avoided the fragmentation issues of Sun’s Java ME, the relatively closed nature of Brew caused it to have narrow penetration. Breaking in at AT&T is an important win, though convincing Western European operators will remain a challenge.

Mixed impact

  • Consumers: Apps on phones mean a more powerful device, but if a consumer is ready to buy apps and pay for data, why not get a smartphone, which (after subsidy) is unlikely to cost much more? And what about consumers who might not want a (potentially required) dataplan?
  • Device vendors: A new platform can help vendors with smartphone-weak portfolios compete better, but also means more R&D work, further compliance testing, and potentially longer development cycles.

Strategy Analytics forecasts that 45% of the world’s mobile phones will have application store capability by 2014. While smartphones will account for a large chunk of app store-enabled devices, the fast-growing categories of touchscreen and QWERTY handsets are becoming the leading featurephone categories to embrace the app store business model.

Brew MP on AT&T’s messaging devices and other similar developments all point to the blurring of lines between smartphones and their less-capable featurephone cousins. While benefits of this activity extend to all involved parties, they do so to varying degrees. It remains to be seen how AT&T’s relationship with vendors, consumers, and developers evolves as a result.

-Alex Spektor


January 11, 2010 22:01 David Kerr
Afte the inevitable wave of irrational exuberance has come the equally inevitable correction and flow of negative comments regarding Google Nexus One.
  • We are now seeing a huge rebound of criticisms about customer service, implementation and execution, moaning and complaining for existing t-mobile customers who have to pay more than a new customer to get a cool device and strong complaints from developers about availability of SDK and support.
  •  Naturally, the questions about Google's ability to execute on direct sales are being raised but these shall pass very quickly in our view.
Within our wireless team we had divergent opinions from network centric, application focussed and device driven analysts but ultimatlely we arrived at the following key perspectives:
  • Consensus is that Nexus will be successful by high end tier Smartphone levels (single digit volumes in 2010 but upside potential when it rolls out beyond TMO in US and to more open markets in Europe). Nexus is likely to sell more through operator channels than direct overall. Handset volume though is not the metric by which Google will measure Nexus success nor should operators as Nexus sales are a means to an end.  If Google is successful and Nexus ends up driving usage and value for operators, they will support it with subsidies.  Otherwise, operators can passively watch Google evolve its own-branded offering with little to lose. Tier One handset vendors (SAM, LG) may have the most to lose as Google’s marketing muscle and brand coupled with compelling devices and experiences will be a strong competitor for Operator slots, subsidy dollars.
  • Handset revenues and profits are a nice to have for Google. Key to their success and long term ambition is too boost the mobile browsing ecosystem. More open devices capable of browsing/search/maps from Google or others is positive for Google.  Google needed to update and get close to parity in terms of an engaging, fun, easy browsing UI with competitive links to key apps like maps, media etc and this device achieves that goal. Google is great at creating a buzz and the media is ready to talk about something other than Apple.
  • Google Nexus and indeed the whole Android approach is not about controlling/owning the user (contrast this with Apple). Google’s key metric is advertising revenue. Google's vision is well publicized: the browser is how they will deliver services, even on mobile, and apps are a stop-gap measure as far as Google's strategic vision is concerned. Google is banking on HTML 5 as their solution to fragmentation but we believe they are drinking too much of their own coolaid here and underestimating the importance of apps. Google’s key goal is to increase eyeballs and advertising.
  • Some key elements that have not been addressed which we believe are key in Google’s future evolution and will be key to watch relate to Voice and what Google does its Gizmo5 acquisition to push Google Voice into a full VoIP proposition. This is where Telcos should be most worried and where we have yet to see all the pieces positioned on the battlefiled.