Handset Country Share Tracker

A vital tracking tool for helping companies measure the success of competitors and partners in their local markets.

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.


March 30, 2010 00:03 David Kerr

sa photo dk Returning from CTIA in Las Vegas last week and with only 2 days before going off on vacation to Florida, I found myself reflecting that two of the most interesting meetings I had at the show were with mobile operators.

During CTIA I spent some time with AT&T emerging devices and T-Mobile M2M teams and was impressed with how both these units had managed to cut (or at least untie) the cord to the mother ship and avoid having innovation stifled by the Borg up at Corporate.

    • AT&T’s efforts to encourage a broad range of new applications and devices has definitely paid dividends with Mr. Lurie and his team adding an impressive 1M users in Q409 as a result of new device categories (mostly PND and EBR).
    • T-Mobile revealed a somewhat unheralded pedigree in M2M.

Partnership is the order of the day.

AT&T highlighted partner applications ranging from location enabled pet collars (Apisphere) to glow cap bottles to aid compliance with medication schedules (Vitality) to a very cool new tablet from Openpeak which is very different to the announced but apparently supply side challenged iPad.  Verizon Wireless and Sprint are of course also praying at the alter of open development but perhaps with less public presence.

When I think of enterprise mobility, AT&T and Verizon Wireless are top of mind but T-Mobile has in fact quietly been developing strong competency in the M2M space over the last 7-8 years.

T-Mobile offers four different SIM form factors to suit specific applications and have enjoyed triple digit growth for the last four years. T-Mobile US has quietly activated “hundreds” of different device types on its network with only a handful of devices being rejected or pulled due to network unfriendly characteristics. These devices span Telematics, Connected Energy, Telemedicine and several other applications.

So what is the common DNA of two very different operators that has allowed them to innovate and focus on new opportunities? Separation and operational autonomy to facilitate and open funnel approach to partners and speed of execution not normally associated with US carriers.

In the case of AT&T, the Emerging Devices group was chartered with developing a new space and freed from the legacy of voice & data consumer tariffs and prepaid/postpaid categories which just don’t cut it in the new connected reality where users will have multiple devices connected but used in very different ways. Mr. Lurie and his team have been able to streamline device certification and experiment across the spectrum of business models for new connected applications.

For T-Mobile, speed of certification (days not months) and the independence of being a self-contained unit (own engineers, own sales although linked to broader enterprise group) reporting to Finance & Strategy have allowed them to pursue their “easiest to do business with” approach to the M2M markets.

So, the takeaway? Innovation is alive and well at US operators but separation from the collective corporate mind is essential.

David Kerr