Wireless Device Strategies

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March 4, 2015 18:00 nmawston

Strategy Analytics' devices team (WDS service) is this week on the showfloor at Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2015 -- the world's largest tradeshow for the wireless industry -- in Barcelona, Spain.

We blogged previously here on Day 1, Day 2 and Day 3.

These are the "big three" events that caught our eye on Day 4 (Wednesday 4 March):


1. 5G Phones : The mobile industry loves a good buzzword and there is plenty of talk about the next big one -- 5G. We expect 5G handsets and tablets to be soft-launched in 2018 and hard-launched by 2020. South Korea, Japan, Scandinavia and the US will lead the way for early introductions. Real devices and networks are years away, of course, but the planning for 5G is taking place right now and it is gathering pace at the proposed 5GPP standards body and among major companies like Ericsson, Orange and Samsung. What will first-generation 5G smartphones look like? Expect them to be expensive, heavy, short on battery life, with lightning data-speeds and ultra-low latency. The industry's vision calls for 5G cellular, "5G WiFi", "5G IoT networks" and "5G satellites" to be meshed together as one seamless network -- it is clearly a very ambitious roadmap, and the complexity of it strikes us as very high. That can surely mean only one thing for 5G in the coming years -- arguments and delays!;

2. Tizen OS : We trialled Samsung's Z1 cellphone this week, which incoporates the new Tizen OS for emerging markets like India. We can report that software usability is good and the speed of the user-interface is very fast for what is an entry-to-mid-tier device. We think Android users will find it easy to learn Tizen and make the switch if they want to (the UI looks "familiar"). In short, the software is very good. By contrast, the hardware still needs some improvement. For example, we found the camera quality a little lackluster and the formfactor slightly ho-hum;

3. Ubuntu OS : BQ of Spain is making its presence felt at MWC by carving out an early niche with its Aquaris E4.5 handset with Ubuntu OS. We must say, this device surprised us (in a positive way). The menu-system is intuitive and the UI is easy to learn. Mass-market consumers will like it. However, we found the Aquaris E4.5 is let down by its modest formfactor design and weak camera functionality and BQ obviously has some extra work to do on the next-generation Ubuntu models.


That completes Day 4.

Check back tomorrow for the final Day 5!


March 3, 2015 20:00 nmawston

Strategy Analytics' devices team (WDS service) is this week on the showfloor at Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2015 -- the world's largest tradeshow for the wireless industry -- in Barcelona, Spain.

We blogged previously here on Day 1 (Sunday) and Day 2 (Monday).

These are the "big three" events that caught our eye on Day 3 (Tuesday 3 March):

1. FUJITSU IRIS (EYE) AUTHENTICATION : The Japanese company has developed an iris-authentication system for smartphones and tablets. You look at the smartphone screen, your eye gets read instantly, and the smartphone self-unlocks. The system uses an infrared LED to map the iris and an infrared camera to capture the image. This is an alternative security mechanism to fingerprint-recognition, already used widely in Apple and Samsung devices. However, iris-recognition will remain a niche feature for now, due to cost, battery and usability issues -- but it is a potential differentiator for premium smartphones when the technology matures in 2016, particularly among enterprise users.

2. BLACKBERRY DUAL-CURVED TOUCHSCREEN PHONE : The Canadian vendor introduced its mid-range Leap LTE touchphone, and spoke of reviving its high-end Porsche Design handset -- but it was talk of a dual-curved touschscreen smartphone for the second half of 2015 that pricked up our ears. Blackberry, for almost a decade, has lagged badly behind rivals for mobile-display quality. Its cellphone screens have been (and still are) too small, too dull and lacking good usability. But if Blackberry can deliver a large, rich, dual-curved-display smartphone (or smartwatch) in the second half of this year, it will put Blackberry right back near the forefront of smartphone innovation. Given its past record, we remain skeptical that Blackberry will actually be able to pull this off -- but if they can, we may find Blackberry surprising to the upside for the first time in a long, long time.

3. CASH BY OPTUS SMARTWATCH : Optus -- Australia's second largest operator -- will launch commercially a proximity-payment solution for smartwatches in the second half of 2015. The goal is to replace cash and credit-card micropayments in retail stores under AU$100 (US$80). The prototype smartwatches on display today -- made by ConnecteDevices of Hong Kong -- work with Apple or Android smartphones and use NFC chipsets. This is an interesting move by Optus to shape and control an emerging mobile-payments ecosystem. In a world where most major carriers simply sit on their hands and wait for third-parties to deliver the innovation, we applaud Optus for taking charge and experimenting with its own smartwatch-payments solution. 


That completes Day 3.

Check back tomorrow for Day 4!

Innovative ... Optus created the proof-of-concept smartwatches with Hong Kong firm Connec


March 2, 2015 20:00 nmawston

Strategy Analytics' devices team (WDS service) is this week on the showfloor at Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2015 -- the world's largest tradeshow for the wireless industry -- in Barcelona, Spain.

We blogged yesterday on Day 1 (Sunday).

These are the "big three" events that took place on Day 2 (Monday 2 March):

1. HTC ONE M9 : The new flagship M9 offers an aluminum-unibody, 5-inch screen and Android Lollipop OS (which some wags have labelled "Lolliflop", due to weak sales). The formfactor is thin and pretty and the hardware specs are suitably premium, such as 3GB RAM and a Qualcomm octocore CPU. The M9 will be launched commercially worldwide in Q2 2015. HTC's slick smartphones have long been popular among critics and device testers... but they are rarely popular among mass-market consumers. Can the M9 reverse this trend and strike a chord with mass-consumers? In our view, probably not -- because HTC's brand has lost a lot of its shine in recent years -- but the M9 does give the vendor a good tool in its arsenal to stabilize the struggling ship this year;

2. MICROSOFT LUMIA 640 / 640XL DUAL-SIM : The 640 and 640XL are two of the world's first dual-SIM LTE smartphones to be launched commercially in H1 2015. This is an impressive technological feat -- especially when we recall how Nokia (now Microsoft) was one of the last major hardware manufacturers to deliver 2G or 3G dual-SIM phones in the 2000s and 2010s. Along with WP8.1 and dual-SIM 4G capability (mostly for emerging markets), Microsoft will also give buyers US$69 of complimentary access for one whole year to Office365 in the cloud. The US-Finnish vendor is quietly improving the quality of its hardware, software and services, as it seeks to make Windows Phone 8.1 and Windows Phone 10 the mobile industry's "third ecosystem". But while its products are markedly better, there are still questions about Microsoft's limited retail distribution channels in China, the US and other major countries;

3. LG URBANE LTE : The South Korean company has launched almost 20 new products at MWC this year. But the Urbane LTE stands out most because it is one of the world's first LTE smartwatches and because it uses LG Wearable Platform for its OS (not Android Wear). Adding 4G to smartwatches -- without making the formfactor too thick -- is technologically complex right now, due to component immaturity. And LG is taking a bold step by dimissing Android Wear for its top wearable model in H1 2015. LG is obviously attacking the global smartwatch market very aggressively this year, and -- along, with Huawei and Xiaomi -- LG is "one to watch" in wearables throughout 2015.

That completes Day 2.

Check back tomorrow for Day 3!


March 1, 2015 20:00 nmawston

Strategy Analytics' devices team (WDS service) is this week on the showfloor at Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2015 -- the world's largest tradeshow for the wireless industry -- in Barcelona, Spain.

These are the "big three" events that took place on Day 1 (Sunday 1 March):

1. SAMSUNG GALAXY S6 / S6 EDGE/ GEAR VR : The South Korean giant launched two new flagship LTE Android smartphones for the first half of 2015, the S6 and S6 edge. Both are premium models, with 5.1-inch screens, and they will launch commercially worldwide from April, 2015. We have trialled the devices and found them sleek and user-friendly. Better hardware comes in the form of a glass body, dual-curved display, more internal memory, a Gear VR virtual reality headset accessory, wireless-charging, and fast-charging (10mins of recharging delivers up to 4 hours of battery life). Better software comes in the form of Samsung Pay (magnetic strip or NFC) and a more-secure Samsung Knox. The S6 is a significant improvement over the previous S5. Is it an iPhone killer? No, not yet, but it has closed the quality gap on Apple;

2. ALCATEL ONETOUCH IDOL 3 : The Chinese-French company introduced two new flagship LTE Android handsets for 2015. They will launch commercially worldwide from May / June, 2015. The mid-range model carries a 4.7-inch screen. The higher-tier model uses Cat-4 LTE and sports a 5.5-inch screen, like Apple's iPhone 6 Plus. Alcatel has partnered with JBL, MixVibes, Technicolor and FotoNation for stronger sound and richer visual effects. These devices are an important part of the vendor's "Step Up" strategy to raise volume and profits. They will help Alcatel (and TCL) to maintain their established position as a top-ten handset maker;

3. HUAWEI WATCH / TALKBAND N1 / TALKBAND B2 : This was the most-striking wearables product-launch on the first day of MWC. Huawei has clearly been working hard behind the scenes to develop smartwatches and fitness bands. The Chinese vendor will introduce the Talkband N1, Talkband B2 and Watch globally in the first half of 2015. The B2 Bluetooth fitness band is compatible with Apple iOS 7.0 and above, while the Watch works with the Jawbone health platform and delivers an attractive, 1.4-inch, circular display with 40 customizable watchfaces. This is a strong start from Huawei -- expect them to quickly become a top-ten wearables player this year.

That completes Day 1.

Check back tomorrow for Day 2!


February 25, 2015 10:33 PLin

Mobile World Congress (MWC) takes place in Barcelona, Spain, between Monday 2nd to Thursday 5th March, 2015, and several major announcements are expected on Sunday 1st March.

MWC is the world's most influential tradeshow for the mobile industry.

Our WDS (Devices) analysts will be on the showfloor -- click here if you would like to meet us in-person at MWC.

Following our pre-show blog of what to expect by company and topic at MWC, this is a summary of our "top 3" mobile devices / smartphones we recommend you go see at the event:


1. Samsung Galaxy S6 / S6 Edge: Rumored to be a 4G LTE Android flagship model with glass body, metal frame and 5-inch S-AMOLED display. Galaxy S6 Edge may also feature a curved or double-curved display. Both of the models are rumoured to support wireless charging and multiple memory-sizes of 32 / 64 / 28 GB.

2. HTC One M9: A rumoured new flagship model of its predecessor, the One M8. It looks set to be a 4G LTE Android 5.0 Lollipop handset with metal-unibody case. The new device should run on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 Octa-core processor and feature a 5-inch 1080P display, plus 20-megapixel rear-camera.

3. LG Magna/ Spirit/ Leon/ Joy: LG has pre-announced four new mid-range handsets, just before MWC. Magna, Spirit, Leon and Joy run on Android 5.0 Lollipop and 1.2GHz or 1.3GHz quad-core processors with 5.0-inch, 4.7-inch, 4.5-inch and 4.0-inch displays, respectively. All four models will be available in LTE and 3G versions.

Looking at the multiple upcoming models from LG, HTC and others, it is fair to conclude Android Lollipop will be playing a bigger role at MWC, following its lackluster launch and consumer-reception in recent months. 


February 17, 2015 12:48 nmawston

Mobile World Congress (MWC) takes place in Barcelona, Spain, between Sunday 1st to Thursday 5th March, 2015.

MWC is the world's most influential tradeshow for the mobile industry.

Our WDS (Devices) analysts will be on the showfloor -- click here if you would like to meet us at MWC.

These are the "top five" companies and themes we recommend visiting at the event next month:

1. Wearables -- The hottest topic in mobile right now. The booths from LG, Samsung and Alcatel will display multiple swartwatches across multiple price-bands. There is unlikely to be an "Apple Watch killer" at MWC, but it will be fascinating to see how next-gen features and apps are evolving (e.g. health, fitness, email alerts, etc.);

2. LTE / LTE-Advanced -- There will be hundreds of 4G / 4.5G phones on show. At the higher-end, Samsung's flagship "S6 / S6 Edge" with a funky screen and Android / Microsoft apps will be the model to watch. At the mid-range, check out Huawei or Microsoft (Nokia). At the entry-level, we expect Alcatel to showcase competitive designs;

3. Chinese / Indian Brands -- Many will focus on the fashionable brands of today, such as Lenovo and Xiaomi. But our research indicates their best days of growth are pretty much over. Instead, we recommend visiting the emerging brands of tomorrow, such as OPPO, Micromax or Vivo. Their LTE models are quietly building a solid fan base;

4. Ubuntu -- This UK-based, open-source smartphone platform is trying to break the stranglehold of Android, by offering low-cost software and innovative "scopes" (apps). So far, reaction to Ubuntu has been mixed. MWC will be a great chance to handle the actual, new Ubuntu models from device makers, Meizu China and BQ Spain;

5. Acer / Microsoft Smartphones -- Windows Phone holds a tiny 3% share of the global smartphone market today. Microsoft badly needs new hardware vendors (beyond the Nokia takeover) to adopt its ecosystem in 2015. Help may be coming in the form of Acer, which is desperate to shift from PCs and laptops to tablets and smartphones. We expect Acer to introduce one or more WP handsets at MWC. We expect pricing to be competitive.

Our device analysts will be presenting, meeting and researching at MWC 2015. Please check back here every day -- from Sunday 1st to Thursday 5th March -- to read our daily blogs from the showfloor in sunny Barcelona. 



February 25, 2014 18:09 sbicheno

Our Wireless Device Strategies (WDS) service is attending the Mobile World Congress (MWC) trade show in Barcelona, Spain.

This is a summary of some of our main findings from Day 2 (Tuesday):

Our attention was mostly caught be lower-priced smartphones on day 2 of MWC 2014. In addition to the low and mid price-tier smartphone announcements from Mozilla, Huawei and Nokia previously, several other major handset vendors played their mass-market hands today.

LG complemented the launch of the G Pro 2 phablet with the F70 and F90 Android smartphones that are designed to bring LTE to lower price bands. Lenovo went one better with the launch of three smartphones: the S660, S850 and S860, which will address a range of price-points.

Alcatel, meanwhile, maintained its rapid rate of handset launches, with the Alcatel Onetouch Pop Fit standing out as it has a tiny 2.8-inch screen and is aimed at the currently niche fitness smartphone market.

And BlackBerry has been quick to learn the lessons from the launch of the Z10 and Q10 by announcing the first fruits of its partnership with Foxconn. The Z3 is an all-touch smartphone designed specifically for the BlackBerry stronghold of Indonesia, while the Q20 will be a combination of the traditional QWERTY handset design with the new BB10 OS in a lower-priced package.


February 24, 2014 16:15 sbicheno

Our Wireless Device Strategies (WDS) service is attending the Mobile World Congress (MWC) trade show in Barcelona, Spain.

This is a summary of some of our main findings from Day 1 (Monday)

Nokia
has a rich history of announcing major strategic initiatives at Mobile World Congress and the clear highlight of day 1 was another such bombshell. Nokia announced the Nokia X, X+ and XL: a family of smartphones running Android Open Source Project (AOSP) software, rather than the Windows Phone platform, on which all its Lumia smartphones are based. Since one of the main reasons for adopting Windows Phone three years ago was to enable differentiation from Android devices, this is quite a significant U-turn by Nokia, and is made especially intriguing as it comes just weeks before the acquisition of Nokia’s devices division by Microsoft.

The stated aim of the launch is principally to enable entry price-tier smartphones, with the Nokia X having an estimated wholesale ASP of US$85. Nokia is positioning these new smartphones as a bridge between the Asha and Lumia families. The other theoretical primary benefit to end-users is access to Android apps, although since the Lumia X family will not have access to the Google Play store, this will require developers to resubmit their apps to the Nokia store.

The other most prominent device launch of the day so far has been from Sony, which bravely decided to launch a smartphone and a tablet sharing the same name. The Xperia Z2 is the new flagship Sony smartphone, although with its 5.2-inch screen it’s actually a phablet, and continues its predecessor’s focus on waterproofing and imaging. The Xperia Z2 Tablet is a 10.1-inch device that claims many of the qualities - waterproofing, thinness, screen quality - of its smaller sibling, hence the naming scheme.

The other big device announcement of the day is from Samsung this evening, when it is expected to unveil the Galaxy S5 flagship smartphone. We will update this post as soon as the details are made public.

UPDATE: As expected Samsung launched the Galaxy S5 this evening in Barcelona. Since its predecessor was one of the best-selling smartphone models globally in 2013, Samsung has gone for an ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ approach to the Galaxy S5. The look, feel and size appear very similar to the S4, but Samsung has ensured it matches the innovations of flagship smartphones from competitors such as Apple and Sony by introducing a fingerprint scanner and making the device waterproof.

 


February 23, 2014 21:01 sbicheno

The annual celebration of all things mobile is upon us once more and Strategy Analytics devices team will be blogging their first impressions daily. While Mobile World Congress doesn't officially start until tomorrow, handset vendors often look to beat the rush by making their announcements on the Sunday, and this year will be no exception.

Chinese telco giant Huawei was one of the first out of the starting blocks with the launch of the Ascend G6, which aims to bring the popular P6 design and 4G connectivity to the mid price-tier. Huawei has also launched a couple of tablets and unveiled its foray into the wearables market, which is set to be a major theme of this year's show, as is the mid price-tier smartphone segment, which is where we forecast a large chunk of handset sales to come from in the near future.

Firefox OS will be hoping to be part of that growth story, with smartphones focused on the mid and low price-tiers, and Mozilla announced a new reference phone - the Firefox OS Flame - today, in a bid to boost its ecosystem. Meanwhile Microsoft is renewing its efforts behind Windows Phone with the launch of version 8.1 which will allow lower priced smartphones to be built on the WP platform.

We expect there to be further announcements on Sunday and, of course, over the course of the week. We are especially looking forward to seeing what major vendors such as Samsung, Nokia, Sony and LG have up their sleeves. With all vendors producing hardware of a high standard, differentiation is becoming increasingly difficult, and we wouldn’t be surprised to see some novel hardware initiatives, such as bendable screens or modular handsets, make an appearance at the show.

Stay tuned for our daily update of the latest news from the show floor as MWC 2014 commences in earnest tomorrow.

Update: Mozilla also announced a partnership with chip-maker Spreadtrum on Sunday to target the US$25 wholesale ASP smartphone price point. Samsung launched the Galaxy Gear 2 smartwatch, which runs on its own Tizen platform, rather than Android as the previous version had, and LG launched the G Pro 2 phablet.


February 21, 2014 18:42 khyers

Clients of Strategy Analytics' device services are invited to join us for a complimentary webinar at 4:00pm London -time (11:00 AM EST / 8:00 AM PST) on Tuesday 4th March, 2014, where we will present a post-Mobile World Congress analysis of the most important device news from MWC 2014. Please click this link to register you or a colleague.

Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, Spain, is the most important mobile industry trade show of the year, where vendors, operators and the rest of the industry meet to present their strategic visions and flagship products. Strategy Analytics’ device analysts will be at MWC 2014 and will meet with the leading smartphone vendors, carriers and component makers.

Following MWC 2014, we will present to clients an after-show review of the most important topics from the event. We will share our analysis of what those topics mean for the industry and individual companies. Attend this complimentary webinar to analyze the most important new 4G smartphone launches, the hottest wearable brands, and how new operating systems like Firefox plan to challenge Android and Apple iOS.