Handset Country Share Tracker

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

June 10, 2013 22:26 khyers

AT&T announced June 09, 2013 that it would revise its handset upgrade policy, extending the duration before consumers can upgrade a phone at the lowest subsidized price from 20 to 24 months. The move brings AT&T’s upgrade policy in-line with Verizon Wireless, which made a similar move in April 2013, and aligns upgrades with its standard two-year contracts for postpaid customers.

AT&T’s decision to revise its upgrade practices comes in the face of continued high equipment costs, in particular due to its generous subsidies for Apple’s iPhone, which according to our Country Share Tracker (CST) service accounted for 60% of handsets sold in Q12013 by AT&T. By adjusting its upgrade policy, AT&T gains an additional four months in which to recoup the cost of previous subsidies. The move to revise subsidized upgrade policies by both AT&T and Verizon in the first half of 2013 is in contrast to that of T-Mobile, which has ended handset subsidies in favor of a payment plan which lets consumers pay off the cost of their handset over the course of their contract.

With three of the big-four US operators having made significant changes to their handset subsidy policies over the last few months, all eyes will be on Sprint to see if it changes its own upgrade policy, which still allows customers to upgrade their handsets after 20 months. If Sprint decides to follow the lead of Verizon and AT&T this year, it will likely make the move in early Q3, prior to the next major wave of new handset purchases by consumers that will come in the back-to-school season starting mid-August.

Strategy Analytics provides detailed breakdowns of vendors handset share for each of the big 4 Tier I US operators on a quarterly basis in its USA Handset Vendor Marketshare by Operator report, published in its Handset Country Share Tracker service.  The report provides detailed share and analysis across 16 vendors on a quarterly basis, and is a critical tool for operators, handset vendors, and distributors who follow the US operator and handset market.


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 11, 2010 14:08 Alex Spektor
It may be the exclusive iPhone carrier in the US, but AT&T is also becoming an attractive option for consumers looking to buy an Android handset. Though things weren’t always as they are today. If T-Mobile was the clear early leader in Android adoption among tier-one US carriers, then AT&T was the clear laggard. Let us quickly recap highlights from the US Android timeline:
  • T-Mobile launched the first Android phone in the world in late 2008.
  • It took approximately one year for Verizon Wireless and Sprint to bring to market their own models, in time for the 2009 holiday season.
  • AT&T began selling its first Android handset quite recently: in March 2010.
Less than six months later, AT&T will have as many as five Android phones in its portfolio. This won’t be quite as many as Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile, but it will put AT&T roughly on par with Sprint. AT&T will also be a leader from a variety standpoint, offering smartphones from vendors Motorola, HTC, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, and Dell.

clip_image002

So, what are the key drivers for the ramp-up?
  • Catering to consumer tastes. Despite what Apple might tell you, not everyone wants an iPhone. Consumers looking for alternative features, such as a bigger screen, memory expansion, a more customizable UI, HDMI, etc., can find them among Android handsets.
  • Lower subsidy levels. Now that AT&T has lowered its monthly data plan rates, there is less revenue to offset the subsidy burden. Paying $200-$300 subsidy for an Android handset seems more attractive than Apple’s $400+ subsidy.
  • End of iPhone exclusivity? The Internet is always abuzz with rumors, and AT&T shifting its focus to other platforms is yet another sign that a Verizon Wireless iPhone is potentially in the works. The carrier may be strengthening its portfolio to offset potential losses once the exclusivity ends.
Regardless of AT&T’s underlying reasons, broadening the options available to consumers is a good thing for many of the involved parties. For example, shoppers get a wider selection of handsets and emerging vendors like Dell get exposure to a growing market. However, AT&T will need to be careful in managing the persistent issue of fragmentation. While developers and content providers will be happy to have a larger Android installed base for which to create applications and services, they will also be faced with the cost of addressing multiple models/processors/resolutions/etc. -Alex Spektor

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 4, 2010 20:06 David Kerr
sa photo dk

 

 

 

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.

 

clip_image002

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


April 12, 2010 15:04 Neil Shah
Verizon Wireless in the US is pressing hard to get its hands on the Apple iPhone. Its CEO, Ivan Seidenberg, has reportedly told Apple that it wants to stock the iPhone sooner rather than later. Why would Verizon Wireless want the iPhone? Well, it would surely love to break AT&T’s exclusive for the iconic device. Verizon would be keen to solidify its data ARPU and improve the company’s churn outlook by stocking the popular iPhone. And with next-gen models like the HTC EVO 4G WiMAX starting to appear at Sprint, Verizon needs to remain at the cutting-edge of data-centric handsets and services. If (if) Verizon Wireless were to stock the iPhone in 2010 to 2012, should it be optimized for CDMA or LTE connectivity? Of course, timing is king. Should a Verizon iPhone be launched in the second half of 2010, then it would definitely be a CDMA-only version, because Verizon’s LTE network will not be fully commercialized. How about an LTE version in mid-2011? Well, our Wireless Device Strategies (WDS) service forecasts LTE handsets will make up just 1% of total shipments in the United States next year. Launching an LTE iPhone in 2011 would be a huge marketing coup for Verizon, but it would be entering a niche immature market, so we think this approach is too high a risk for Apple -- as a historical benchmark, Apple’s first WCDMA iPhone in 2008 did not launch until WCDMA volumes were approaching some 10% of the nationwide total. Therefore, we believe a launch-date of 2012 or even 2013, when LTE will be more established, is a more realistic option for a Verizon Apple LTE iPhone. If an iPhone arrives at Verizon before those dates, then it will almost certainly be a CDMA-only version. - Neil Shah

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


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.

clip_image002

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