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!


October 22, 2014 10:15 nmawston

Qualcomm, one of the world's largest component makers, is starting to promote 4K content and 4K video-recording for cellphones in 2015 (e.g. see page 7 of this published Qualcomm report). Device vendors and component builders are keen to sell more 4K phones next year because the integrated technology can differentiate their brands and raise average selling prices. Consumers are certainly interested in 4K phones, but relatively high costs, limited 4K content, and slightly confusing marketing ("what is 4K") are challenges for the category in the near-term. A forecast for global 4K phone sales by region through 2020, from our WDS (Devices) service, can be downloaded by clients at this link.


September 18, 2014 11:50 nmawston

At a recent event in London, UK, Motorola outlined its plans to re-attack the Western European cellphone market in the second half of 2014. The vendor is launching four new flagship products -- two phones, one Bluetooth headset and a smartwatch. However, some products, like the Moto 360, are far from perfect, and Motorola clearly has some way to go to fully recover in the European arena. Additional analysis of Motorola's European prospects in 2015 can be downloaded by clients of our WDS (Devices) reserach service here.


April 25, 2014 13:10 sbicheno

Today marked the end of an era in the mobile handset industry as the acquisition of the devices division of the once-dominant handset vendor Nokia by software giant Microsoft was completed, after the scrutiny of various global regulators caused some delays.

Such a move would have been inconceivable back in 2007, when Microsoft’s worth was only double that of Nokia, but the arrival of the iOS and Android mobile operating systems somewhat ironically damaged Nokia far more than Microsoft, and the US$5.44 billion this acquisition has cost Microsoft represents around a 60th of its current worth.

Now the hard work really begins for Microsoft, which is making its boldest move yet towards becoming a vertical hardware player, adding to established products such as Xbox and Surface. It is presumed that Microsoft acquired Nokia Devices in order to boost its own mobile OS - Windows Phone - but this is far from guaranteed.

Microsoft’s global smartphone OS shipment market share was just 4% in 2013, while Nokia’s share of smartphone shipments last year was and even more modest 3%. Furthermore, Nokia’s last major handset initiative before being acquired - the launch of a range of lower-priced smartphones based on Android, rather than Windows Phone - is hardly a ringing endorsement of its new parent.

Microsoft has made this acquisition because it cannot afford to be marginalised in the post-PC world, but the combined operation still has a very small stake in the mobile market and the publicity photo below, released by Microsoft to mark the event, may indicate it realises there is still a mountain to climb.


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.


January 8, 2014 20:54 nmawston

Analysts from our Wireless Device Strategies (WDS) research service are at the CES trade show this week in Las Vegas, US, from Sunday 5th to Thursday 9th January, 2014.

Our blogs from Day 1 (Monday) and Day 2 (Tuesday) can be viewed here and here.

These are three key trends and important device models we have identified at the event on Day 3 (Wednesday):

1. Phablets are everywhere at the show. They are not a new trend, but they are a growing trend. The rise of the phablet in the US surely means Apple cannot hold back the tide for much longer and it will have to finally launch a 5-inch iPhone worldwide later this year. Samsung, LG, Nokia and other phablet leaders will be looking nervously over their shoulders.

2. Bluetooth remains as popular as ever, from speakers to tablets. It is a great wirefree technology that deserves more credit for its success. Attractive new Bluetooth products continue to be developed, such as Monster's DNA Pro Wireless stereo headphones for high-end consumers. This over-the-ear model may come to challenge the best-in-class Parrot Zik.

3. Sony delivered this week its SmartWear strategy for 2014. It showcased a fitness band and a fitness app for Xperia smartphones. Sony is clearly getting into lifestyle wearables in a big way. However, we caution that Sony's limited mobile presence in the "big two" countries of the US and China, where demand will be greatest, could put a cap on its global ambitions.

Please check back here, every day, to our blog pages for further blogs and daily updates from CES this week.


January 3, 2014 18:16 nmawston

Analysts from our Wireless Device Strategies (WDS) research service will be pounding the floors at the influential CES trade show in sunny Las Vegas, US, next week, from Sunday 5th to Thursday 9th January, 2014.

Mobile devices, such as smartphones, will be a huge part of the event. We will be blogging live from the show every day.

Here are three mega trends across the mobile device world we expect to see at CES 2014 and recommend clients / journalists focus on:

1. Wearables will be hot. Smartwatches, smartglasses and fitness bands are the "big 3" product types to prioritize. Look out for smart-contact-lenses as an added "sci-fi" bonus. Companies to visit will include Samsung, Sony, LG, ZTE, Huawei, Qualcomm and Vuzix.

2. Curved smartphones, like the LG G Flex, will fascinate. Curved phones will very soon outsell curved TVs. They are the first step on the industry's road to rollable touchscreens. Pioneering companies to visit will include Samsung and LG.

3. The rise of Chinese smartphone brands in the US market. The Chinese brands dominate China, and they have now set their sights on the valuable United States market. Major device makers with major American ambitions to visit will include ZTE, Huawei, Alcatel and Lenovo.

Who will NOT be at CES this year? Apple, of course, will be the missing piece in the jigsaw. But that is nothing new. Apple rarely appear at industry trade shows and they are influential enough to "do their own thing".

Please check back here, every day, to our blog pages next week for further blogs and daily updates from CES... What takes place in Vegas will NOT be staying in Vegas!