Wireless Device Strategies

First to market each quarter with the most accurate and detailed data on handset strategies. The industry’s most timely, consistent and accurate tracking of device vendor KPI metrics, as well as handset market sales and shipment forecasts.

September 27, 2012 17:46 Alex Spektor

We recently reported that MirrorLink handset sales are set to grow at a healthy clip in 2013. According to the latest research from our Wireless Device Strategies (WDS) and Mobile For Automotive (MFA) programs, the MirrorLink ecosystem will face a variety of opportunities and challenges in the coming years, as the various parties involved work together toward a common goal. MirrorLink's multiple features will provide multiple benefits, such as increased safety. However, the companies involved will also be challenged by early issues like cross-industry momentum and lack of participation from key players like Apple. Clients can view the full ecosystem analysis report here (MFA) and here (WDS).


MirrorLink(TM) Logo



Source: Car Connectivity Consortium (CCC)


July 27, 2012 03:17 Alex Spektor

According to the latest research from our Wireless Device Strategies (WDS) service, global mobile phone shipments grew a modest 1 percent annually to reach 362 million units in the second quarter of 2012. Samsung was the star performer during the quarter, capturing a record 26 percent marketshare.

Ongoing macroeconomic challenges in mature markets like North America and Western Europe, tighter operator upgrade policies, and shifting consumer tastes were among the key reasons why global mobile phone shipments grew just 1 percent annually to reach 362.0 million units in Q2 2012. Fuelled by record-high smartphone shipments, Samsung was the star performer, shipping 93.0 million handsets worldwide and capturing a record 26 percent marketshare to solidify its first-place lead.

Nokia’s global handset shipments continued to decline, albeit at a more moderate minus 5 percent annually, reaching 83.7 million units in Q2 2012. Nokia’s Windows Lumia family of smartphones has made a relatively encouraging start, but shipments are not yet high enough to offset rapidly fading volumes for its Symbian platform. Nokia’s feature phone volumes showed healthy, single-digit annual growth, bolstered by Nokia’s expanding portfolio of dual-SIM and Asha models for emerging markets.

Apple shipped 26.0 million handsets worldwide in Q2 2012. Apple delivered 28 percent annual growth, which was bolstered by solid demand in Asia. Apple’s next major task is to ensure that the upcoming release of its rumored iPhone 5 upgrade is a success. The hardware design, screen size and any integrated new technologies for the iPhone 5 will need to wow consumers and make the new model stand apart from competitors like Samsung’s Galaxy S3.

Other findings from the research include:

  • ZTE captured 5 percent of global handset shipments as shipments slipped minus 16 percent annually, partly because of weakened demand in major markets of Western Europe and China;
  • LG’s shipments nearly halved year-over-year to 13.1 million units, as its feature phone volumes continued to slip. However, its global smartphone shipments encouragingly improved on a sequential basis.

 

Exhibit 1: Global Handset Vendor Shipments and Market Share in Q2 2012

Global Handset Shipments (Millions of Units) Q2 ’11 Q2 '12
Samsung 74.0 93.0
Nokia 88.5 83.7
Apple 20.3 26.0
ZTE 19.6 16.5
LG 24.8 13.1
Others 130.8 129.7
Total 358.0 362.0
     
Global Handset Vendor Marketshare % Q2 ’11 Q2 '12
Samsung 20.7% 25.7%
Nokia 24.7% 23.1%
Apple 5.7% 7.2%
ZTE 5.5% 4.6%
LG 6.9% 3.6%
Others 36.5% 35.8%
Total 100.0% 100.0%
     
Global Handset Shipments Growth Year-over-Year % 11.9% 1.1%

July 17, 2012 14:24 Alex Spektor

Samsung, the world's largest handset vendor, has acquired the mobile division of CSR, a UK-based chipset maker. CSR's portfolio includes key technologies for mobile device connectivity, such as Bluetooth and WiFi, including the emerging 802.11ac standard. The US$310 million purchase brings two primary benefits to Samsung:

  1. The vertical integration of components to improve its supply chain, optimize BOM costs, and introduce a point of differentiation. Samsung already makes many of its own components, such as displays, flash memory, and application processors;
  2. The strengthening of the device vendor's patent portfolio to help with IPR battles. Samsung and rivals like Apple have been in courts around the world over patent infringement issues.

Samsung is strengthening its component assets for Bluetooth, GPS and WiFi, which should eventually strengthen its handset designs. If Samsung has great displays and great chips in-house, then that’s going to be a solid basis for technology differentiation and supply chain control that can give Samsung devices a competitive edge. Of course, in the longer term, Samsung may end up juggling too many component balls at once, and a sprawling components portfolio could potentially become a negative rather than a positive if they don’t keep things under control.


December 21, 2011 16:30 Alex Spektor

The impending avalanche of NFC phones, which our Wireless Device Strategies (WDS) service projects to grow at an average of 67% per year over the next five years, has everybody thinking about contactless payments. With all the buzz around Google's soft-launched Wallet service and the US carrier joint venture ISIS, which should roll out in 2012, it makes sense. Indeed, the simple fact that money is directly involved in this particular application of NFC rightfully encourages the whole wireless value chain to think about potential revenue opportunities.

However, there is one often overlooked application for NFC -- intelligent device pairing. The idea is simple: instead of inputting PINs, passkeys, or even 26 hexadecimal digits to pair two wireless devices, the user simply "taps" two NFC devices together. The concept can be applied for any pairing event, regardless of which enabling technology, such as Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, is used to make the actual connection.

So far, only one handset vendor has actively promoted NFC for this application. Nokia's latest NFC-enabled handsets and Bluetooth headsets can be paired together using this very concept. Unfortunately, the latest Windows Lumia devices are not yet in this category, as Microsoft has not yet added NFC support to its platform. Nevertheless, Nokia's attention to NFC tech is a positive sign for the vendor's future portfolio. Nokia's strategy holds two key benefits: it future-proofs handsets, getting them ready for mobile contactless payment services once they eventually roll out, and it improves the usability of a typically cumbersome process.

Chip supplier Broadcom, whose interests span Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and NFC has also recognized this useful application of the emerging tech, and we expect its chipsets and middleware to help device vendors think beyond mobile payments as they develop their NFC smartphones and tablets.

Alex Spektor
Wireless Device Strategies


December 16, 2011 15:18 Alex Spektor

Analysts from our Wireless Device Strategies (WDS) service attended the recent 2011 Broadcom Analyst Day held in New York City, where the semiconductor firm highlighted its recent successes in the wireless chipset space and outlined a strategy for further growth.

Broadcom's major revenue growth driver so far has been the proliferation of its "combo chip" wireless connectivity solution, providing enabling technologies like Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, GPS, and NFC. The solution, Broadcom claims, gives them a typical ASP of US $6-8, which provides a healthy contribution thanks to Broadcom's strong marketshare. Moving forward, Broadcom is seeking revenue uplift from going after the combination baseband/applications processor/GPU market, which together with the wireless combo chip would yield to Broadcom a per-handset ASP of US$12-30. Indeed, Broadcom are already well on their way, and according to our Handset Component Technologies team, Broadcom broke into top-five smartphone AP chip supplier rankings during Q3 2011.

The first phase of Broadcom's long-term plan targets the low-end smartphone market, where Broadcom claims that its solution delivers better performance, dollar for dollar. In particular, Broadcom is targeting cost-sensitive Indian and Chinese microvendors, which are small individually but, according to our Wireless Device Strategies service, together represented about 1 in 10 handsets shipped worldwide during Q3 2011. Going after the low-end smartphone segment, we believe, is a wise decision. Indeed, according to our Wireless Smartphone Strategies (WSS) service, more than half of all smartphones will be priced below US$200 wholesale globally in just a few years.

The second phase of Broadcom's long-term plan will be to target the emerging LTE market. Indeed, we expect well over 100 million LTE phones to be sold during the next two years. Coupled with the technology's significantly above-average ASPs, makes it an attractive market for Broadcom to target.

Ultimately, the success of Broadcom's long-term strategy depends on their ability to gain design wins with microvendors and megavendors alike. The recent success of the Broadcom-powered Samsung Galaxy Y is an early indicator that initial momentum is in the right direction.

Alex Spektor
Wireless Device Strategies


November 14, 2011 12:04 Alex Spektor

In a recent report from our Wireless Device Strategies (WDS) service, we published that superphones will be the world's fastest growing sub-category of wireless handsets this year. Global superphone sales will grow 200 percent in 2011, driven by popular models such as the Samsung Galaxy S2 and HTC Sensation, increasing fifteen times faster than the overall handset market's growth rate of 13 percent.

Superphones are a relatively new sub-category of wireless handsets that first appeared on the global market in 2009, initially leveraging the now-obsolete Microsoft Windows Mobile platform. Superphones today integrate high-level operating systems like Google Android and Microsoft Windows Phone with supersized displays of at least 4 inches and superfast processors of at least 1GHz.

Superphones are driving super growth in the handset market. Consumers and operators like the richer experience of larger screens and faster processing speeds that can be delivered by superphones, for applications like Web browsing, gaming, and watching HD video. Samsung is currently the world's leading superphone vendor due to the success of its Android-powered Galaxy S2 model, and Samsung has been aggressively leveraging this leadership to attack rivals with much weaker superphone portfolios such as Nokia, Blackberry and even Apple.

Alex Spektor
Wireless Device Strategies


January 12, 2011 21:17 Alex Spektor

After years of public speculation, AT&T has finally lost its US exclusive on Apple’s megastar smartphone. As consumers prepare for the arrival of the Verizon Wireless (VZW) iPhone, we address some questions about the impact of this development.

Just how many iPhones will they sell?clip_image002

AT&T customers bought an average of around 4 million iPhones per quarter in 2010. Even if VZW achieves a conservative half of that run rate, it could mean 8 million CDMA iPhones shipped domestically in the first year. In addition to newcomers from other carriers, buyers will include existing subscribers, whose contracts will steadily come up for renewal over the next two years.

Of course, no longer the only option for iOS enthusiasts, AT&T volumes of the iPhone are likely to suffer this year. We can reference the end of iPhone exclusivity in Western Europe for an example of what may happen. As our Handset Country Share Tracker service shows, Apple’s peak share at exclusive carrier O2 UK was 10%. By the time the phone was also introduced at Vodafone and Orange, Apple’s share was roughly just 5-6% with each carrier.

Thus, while Apple’s total volumes are going to benefit as a result of this week’s announcement, neither carrier should expect to see the iPhone account for anywhere near the huge 70% of smartphone volumes that AT&T recorded in Q3 2010.

What impact will the network have?

Aside from a revised radio section and some cosmetic tweaks, the availability of a Wi-Fi hotspot feature is the only official new feature of the VZW iPhone. But AT&T defectors may find one other difference – the inability to simultaneously use voice and data on a CDMA network. As Droid users know, Wi-Fi data access can be used as a limited substitute, but expect outcries of a “lesser” experience from some frustrated buyers. Of course, the inevitable LTE iPhone (in 2012, perhaps?) will eventually equalize this matter.

Unlike AT&T, VZW does not have a bandwidth cap on its US$30/month plan. AT&T’s US$25/month plan provides just 2GB, which protects the carrier’s pipes from overloading, but prevents carefree use of compelling, but bandwidth-hogging apps like NetFlix. Coupled with broad perception that VZW is more reliable, it could mean an upside for the phone’s new carrier. However, we can expect AT&T to send a heavy message about its HSPA network being faster than its competitor’s EV-DO Rev. A.

How will this impact the competition?

AT&T has been preparing for the loss of exclusivity since at least early last year, adding a broad range of Android (and later Windows Phone 7) models. Expect an onslaught of high-end Android handsets (such as the Motorola Atrix 4G) to quickly replace lost iPhone volumes at AT&T, benefitting the likes of Samsung and HTC.

Meanwhile, VZW’s strong Droid brand of Google-phones is likely to take a hit. VZW subscribers looking for a less complex experience than Android’s will find the iPhone to be a gem, cannibalizing the carrier’s own volumes. The real impact, however, will be felt by RIM. The BlackBerry portfolio still lacks a solid full-screen touchphone, and unless the Canadian vendor comes up with one soon, it stands to lose further share with VZW.

-Alex Spektor

USA Smartphone OS Marketshare by Operator: Q3 2010

Global Smartphone Sales Forecast by Operating System: 2002 to 2015


December 8, 2010 13:12 Alex Spektor
In recent years, the titans of the handset industry have been surprised by the success of newcomers. First, Apple – a computer vendor – shook up the smartphone market by storm, taking Nokia’s profit crown in the process. Then, Google – an advertising/search firm – brought to market a new mobile operating system, quickly overshadowing historic leaders RIM and Microsoft. Now, Google’s Android has also become the fastest-growing major smartphone platform, having shipped more than twice as many handsets in the first eight quarters.

Cumulative Shipments, First 8 Quarters

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Google’s successful growth has been enabled by strong support from its many partner vendors. As the first Android handset maker, HTC long enjoyed top market share, steadily broadening its portfolio across protocols (including hot “4G” technologies like HSPA+ and WiMAX), global carriers, and retail price points, staying ahead of Android competitors Motorola and Samsung. Historically, Samsung’s smartphone share had been disproportionate to its successful position in the overall market, and we had long commented on the matter. However, starting in Q3 2010, Samsung became the world’s largest Android vendor. Samsung accomplished this by launching an all-out assault across the globe with its Galaxy S family of handsets. For example, in the fickle US market, where each carrier has demanding compliance and customization requirements, Samsung launched a Galaxy S phone with each major carrier. Samsung’s share of the global handset market has tripled since 2001, when it was already a third-ranked player. Given that historic show of determination, the vendor’s leap to first place in Android smartphones should not at all be surprising. Expect Samsung to expand this leadership position in 2011 and beyond, riding Android’s coattails to huge smartphone volumes. -Alex Spektor Samsung Overtakes HTC to Become World's Largest Android Vendor in Q3 2010 Global Smartphone OS Market Share by Region: Q3 2010

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.

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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 16, 2010 21:07 Alex Spektor

Those following the “Antennagate” saga no doubt tuned in to reports from the press conference held by Apple earlier today.

clip_image002As Apple explained during the event, many other phones potentially suffer from a similar issue. Putting on my electrical engineering hat, I have to say I believe it – to an extent. A user’s hand (or ear or cheek) all impact the environment “seen” by the phone. Antenna engineers work carefully to direct signals away from such sources of interference. However, there should be no reason why the left-handed “deathgrip” scenario is unaccounted for.

The smartphone vendor announced that while its “18 PhDs and scientists” work on studying the problem further, Apple would issue free protective cases (of both the Apple-made “bumper” variety and the third-party kind) to all iPhone 4 buyers.

So, why all the negative press?

It appears that consumers and the media alike have a love-hate relationship with successful electronics firms. We love to use their products, but also love to find faults in them. (Google and Microsoft come to mind.) The antenna issue has put the first major dent in Apple’s armor since the original iPhone launched in 2007. To find a fault with a company this successful is a rare occasion, and it often makes for catchy headlines.

The iPhone still offers best-in-class usability for data services. However, the vendor will now need to fix the growing perception that its voice-call capability is sub-optimal. As Apple loses heartshare, it may not stop the die-hard fans from purchasing a device, but it may impact on-the-fence buyers. Given that Apple relies on essentially a single SKU, consumers holding off on making their buying decision can have a quick impact on volumes (without other SKUs to absorb the impact).

Unlike previous years, when Apple’s competition was lackluster, this summer brings compelling Android-powered alternatives from vendors like HTC, Samsung, and Motorola.

So far, we believe that the negative impact on marketshare has been negligible. After all, Apple has already shipped 3 million of the new handset since launch. Furthermore, according to Apple-provided stats, only 0.55% of iPhone 4 users have called to complain about the antenna problem.

However, while the figure is pretty low in percentage terms, it still comes out to about 17 thousand people. The sooner Apple can bring that number to zero (the vendor hopes that consumers will accept the free bumper solution) the sooner it can curb the loss of heartshare and the potential long-term impact on the iPhone’s otherwise gold-plated brand.

iPhone 4 Insight

Smartphone Sales by Country Forecast

-Alex Spektor