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.


June 4, 2010 20:06 David Kerr
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The inevitable movement to tiered pricing which started with Verizon Wireless acknowledging its plans to do so for LTE and has been accelerated with the much anticipated data plan announcement by AT&T this week.  So, what next?

    • Will we see significant priced based competition for mobile data among the top US operators?
    • Will we see significant movement in share of adds for AT&T as iPhone wannabees are tempted by a plan of only $15?
    • What impact will lower data plans for smartphones have on AT&T’s Quick Messaging Devices and Verizon Wireless equivalent?
    • How long before we see family data plans and shared usage across multiple devices?

The move by AT&T is a smart play to extend the smartphone momentum as the low hanging fruit of Apple aficionados, multimedia techies and style seekers willing to pay top dollar has been significantly penetrated.

There is no doubt that the iPhone remains the coolest device on the marketplace and the end to end user experience remains easily the best in class. So, reducing the TCO to attract the next 20% of customers to a paid data plans while educating customers about data usage levels and managing the traffic risk is very smart business in my opinion.

The lower price points will help AT&T maintain its current leading share of smartphone users and may be attractive to casual social networkers

  • Although the 50 photos allowance is not exactly generous! For casual messenger, and social network status checking and moderate email the new DataPlus plan is quite attractive overall and will likely attract a portion of customers who would otherwise opt for a Quick Messaging Device from AT&T or a competitive offering from Verizon Wireless.

I do expect to see some modest price competition among the big operators

  • with T-Mobile most likely to drive prices lower given their need for scale and to protect their predominantly youth centric customer base. but also expect an increasingly strong Verizon Wireless handset line up to compete strongly.

The impact on Quick Messaging Devices is in my opinion likely to be modest

  • as a traditional qwerty remains overwhelmingly the input of choice for heavy messengers in the US although there is definitely room for lowering the $10 mandatory data plan on featurephones

Family data plans and data plans which allow access across multiple devices are in the pipeline

  • but will probably not make an appearance until 2012+ as part of LTE offerings.

From a device vendor perspective, the move to lower priced iPhone plans is likely to put further pressure on vendors like LG who have yet to make a credible offer in this space as well as RIM who will find more competition in the consumer space.

The lower pricing on data plans will be music to the ears of ambitious new entrants like Huawei, ZTE who plan to bring mass market priced devices to the US & Europe. The lower TCO of smartphones as a result of downward pressure on service prices boost their addressable market.


April 14, 2010 17:04 Alex Spektor

After months of industry-wide speculation about Microsoft’s “Project Pink,” the software giant recently unveiled two phones: Kin One and Kin Two. Manufactured by Sharp (the maker of most T-Mobile Sidekick phones, in partnership with Danger, whom Microsoft purchased in late 2008), the phones will ship with specs found on many of today’s smartphones: capacitive touchscreens, QWERTY, high-megapixel cameras, gigabytes of flash memory, Bluetooth, GPS, accelerometers – the list goes on. Yet, the Kins are not true smartphones, as there is no application support. Rather, the Kin family of products consists of cleverly targeted feature phones.

While the smartphone segment is growing steadily, the wireless industry is certainly not done with feature phones, which we expect to account for approximately two-thirds of handsets sold in North America this year. Earlier this year, AT&T announced intentions to give significant attention to the mid-range, messaging-centric feature phone category, which the operator calls Quick Messaging Devices (QMD).

At Verizon Wireless (who, along with Vodafone in Europe, will soon carry the Microsoft phones), the Kin will make an interesting replacement to aging handsets like LG’s enV series. In a way, the Kin family is part of VZW’s answer to AT&T’s QMD category. Expect VZW and Microsoft to back a heavy advertising campaign when the phones come out, promoting the novel user experience and social networking functions. With a low retail price and some innovation on data plan pricing (see the Nokia Nuron smartphone, which requires just US$10/month for unlimited data at T-Mobile USA), the two Kin models could drive strong volumes for the carrier.

 

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For Microsoft, who recently painted themselves into a high-end corner with hefty hardware requirements on Windows Phone 7, the Kin family represents an interesting platform framework to get closer to the youth segment.

The high-tier Windows Phone 7 will be a natural handset upgrade path for today’s Kin user, as both platforms are forming common elements. While the short-term goal with the Kin family is to expand the addressable market by bringing messaging/social networking services through a robust framework, the long term goal is to own the consumer by highlighting the Microsoft value proposition to him/her early on.

Either way, Kin provides an interesting glimpse into Microsoft’s understanding of the future handset market, where feature phones will rely heavily on the cloud. (Like its Sidekick predecessors, the Kins store user data and content on company servers.) Add to that Windows Live service and Zune content integration, and Microsoft can be seen as gradually ramping up its strength on the multi-screen index.

-Alex Spektor


January 20, 2010 16:01 bjoy
 Here in the US it is an all too increasingly common occurrence to hear everyday someone new telling us something that we “have” to do. Verizon Wireless and AT&T introduced new data rate plans recently. Hidden in the hullabaloo about lower unlimited price plans was the new announcement from both that users now “have” to buy a minimum data plan with any new feature phone:
  • Verizon Wireless created a new category called 3G multimedia feature phones that  encompasses a range of cool and not-so-cool devices.  An additional $9.99 monthly data plan, providing 25Mbytes of data use per month, is a requirement on any new 3G multimedia feature phone purchased. Unlimited data plans for these phones cost $29.99.
  • AT&T announced an unlimited texting/browsing plan that will be a requirement for any new Quick Messaging Device (also a new device category) purchased. The rate plans for these phones start at $20/month for individual lines and $30/month for family plans, for either browsing or messaging with no data cap.
We can understand the approach – both operators want to drive use of their portal based offerings. AT&T at least went one step further and eliminated the data cap, but consider that that 20$ doesn’t include both messaging and browsing.  Its an either or proposition. We still “have” to choose one. These plans not only miss the mark in terms of their potential to drive meaningful growth in usage of feature phones, they penalize users for wanting to get a cool, mid range phone that lets them do a little more than talk. This is a significant issue for both operators when you consider that they both have a large share of their users on family plans. Will these prices stimulate usage on all the phones sitting idly in family plans? What’s the thinking here? Are buyers on these plans going to be willing to commit to an extra $20 to $40 per month for two to four additional lines? …”Well, since we “have” to buy it, we might as well use it…” I think not. This approach risks slowing take up of new family plans and may result in a slowing of handset replacements in the featurephone category. At the end of the day, this is one thing these users will quickly decide that they don’t “have” to do.

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