Wireless Smartphone Strategies

The industry’s most comprehensive set of critical market statistics and qualitative analysis, tracking and reporting on smartphones.

January 23, 2012 21:15 nmawston

With the International Communications Union (ITU) agreeing some key standards for LTE Advanced in recent days, interest in the emerging technology is rising. The dust has barely settled on the launch of 4G LTE and the hype for 4.5G LTE-A is beginning to ramp.

LTE-A promises faster data speeds, more bandwidth and lower latency. Affluent countries with available spectrum, such as the United States, will be the first countries to launch. Major device vendors and component makers, such as Samsung or Qualcomm, will surely be at the front of the line to enter the 4.5G market to grow revenues.

When will the first LTE-A phones launch? What sort of price-points will they launch at? How many units will be shipped? These are key questions that will be answered in an upcoming report from our Wireless Device Strategies (WDS) service. Please check back in a few days for more info.

January 10, 2012 15:07 Alex Spektor

Yesterday’s Nokia announcement at CES of an AT&T-bound Lumia 900 Windows Phone with LTE represents a significant win for the device vendor, whose marketshare in the smartphone-hungry North American market, as illustrated here, has been on a steady decline for at least the past 4 years.

Together with the earlier-announced T-Mobile version of the Lumia 710, Nokia will now have at least two smartphones selling in the US that are not based on Symbian, a platform that had only niche appeal to US consumers and operators.

According to the Strategy Analytics Handset Country Share Tracker (HCST) service, T-Mobile was Nokia’s most important operator client for smartphones in the US in 2011, as the vendor’s business-centric Eseries devices are long gone from AT&T’s portfolio. So what is likely to happen with the arrival of the two new Lumia models?

At AT&T:

  • Time-to-market will be a critical factor for the Lumia 900. Rival HTC has also just announced its first LTE Windows Phone, the Titan II, which could steal some of Nokia’s thunder with an early arrival. Highlighting unique-to-Nokia capabilities like Drive navigation will be critical in attracting Windows Phone buyers.
  • The Lumia 900 alone will not instantly catapult Nokia into first, second, or even third place at the operator, and the vendor will be faced from heavy competition from Samsung and HTC, both of whom will be fighting for the #2 spot behind Apple.
  • RIM, with its below-average superphone portfolio, could be hurt the most here. If, indeed, there is only room for 3 competing platforms, then AT&T’s OS-diverse portfolio could squeeze the BlackBerry maker’s volumes in 2012.

At T-Mobile:

  • Following the recent arrival of the Sprint iPhone, T-Mobile has become the only major US operator without a strong third platform.
  • The low-priced (US$50 with contract) Lumia 710 will have a lot of appeal to cost-sensitive feature phone upgraders.
  • Nokia will not compete with pricy HSPA+ 4G superphones, but rather will take volume from more low-end devices from Samsung and LG, as well as T-Mobile’s own myTouch brand, as consumers look for a simpler alternative to Android.

Ultimately, the success of these two handsets depends largely on the level of promotional support given to them by the operators, especially in retail stores where a lot consumers make their decisions based on sales rep recommendations. Nokia has been working closely with both carriers on this dimension, winning critical drive slots and retail display real estate.

Finally, it is worth to note the significance of both the AT&T and the T-Mobile phone carrying the Lumia sub-brand, rather than their own re-branding. Globally recognizable, memorable sub-brands have been key parts of the strategy for the world’s leading smartphone vendors (e.g., Apple’s iPhone and Samsung’s Galaxy). In the operator-dominated US market shared brands are still a rarity, and we see this as a positive sign for Nokia’s long-term recovery.

Alex Spektor
Wireless Smartphone Strategies

January 5, 2012 10:58 sbicheno

This year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) takes place in Las Vegas, USA, from Tuesday 10th to Friday 13th January, 2012. There will be dozens of major and minor announcements vying for your attention, but here are three trends we recommend to look out for at the show:


1. Windows Phone LTE handsets

While the main mobile event of the year -- MWC -- occurs a mere six weeks afterwards, CES tends to feature a number of major handset launches of its own -- especially those with a strong focus on the valuable US market. This year, the Windows Phone ecosystem plans to revitalize its assault on the US market with a raft of LTE handsets to counter Android 4.0, Apple iOS 5 and BB10.

A hotly tipped 4G model is the successor to the Nokia Lumia 800, Nokia’s first flagship Windows phone, which was not launched in the US. Instead, Americans could get the opportunity to see what may be Nokia’s first ever superphone, perhaps an enhanced Lumia 800 with a larger screen and LTE, which could be called the Lumia 900 or simply the Nokia Ace. It is important that Nokia gets its sub-branding right for the American market, so we will be watching this one closely.

Elsewhere, HTC should be ready to launch its own LTE Windows Phone devices, while rumors indicate Samsung’s contribution to that market may also be imminent. Sony Ericsson, despite being a launch partner for Windows Phone 7, has been conspicuous by its absence so far. That might be about to change, however, if the ‘tile’ theme for its official pre-show teaser (below) is anything to go by.

 Source: Sony Ericsson

2. Intel Medfield devices

Despite initial hype, we’ve seen few LG Windows Phone launches in recent quarters. Two years ago LG was a lead OEM partner for Intel’s Moorestown mobile chip. Unperturbed by the absence of that chip in the broader marketplace, rumor has it that the successor to Moorestown -- the 32nm Medfield chip -- could soon make its public debut inside an LG handset.

After keeping a low mobile profile in 2011 (excluding the Infineon purchase), we expect Intel to make a bigger noise about Medfield at CES this year. While it remains to be seen whether the chip giant has managed to crack the handset market, we would be surprised if Intel didn’t significantly raise its profile in tablets, with the anticipated launch later this year of Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 possibly its best opportunity yet.

But the loudest Intel-related noise may well come from ultrabooks -- the ‘thin, light and fast bootup’ notebook platform designed to serve the market demand suggested by the popularity of the Apple MacBook Air and iPad. While not all of the ultrabooks will feature 3G chipsets, they are being positioned as ‘ultra-mobile’ devices, so that would eventually seem a natural feature for many to have.


3. More smartphone-to-smart-TV convergence?

2012 is the year that many major players will have a fresh crack at smart TVs. Google’s first effort last year ran out of steam pretty quickly, while Apple is publicly treating TV as nothing more than a hobby. However, we expect both companies to renew their focus on the living room in 2012, and where better to make a statement of intent than CES?

Given the expected overlap with their mobile platforms -- Android and iOS -- it stands to reason that Google and Apple will look for ways to more closely integrate your mobile device with your TV. Not only does this increase the functionality for end-users -- for example, by using the device as a remote control for media streaming -- but potentially leverages the existing commercial relationship into new product areas. Apple will not be formally present at CES, of course, but Android hardware partners we recommend investigating at the show include Samsung, LG, Sony and even Vizio.

January 3, 2012 10:55 sbicheno
A brief recap of what was a massive year for the smartphone industry.
As ever the technology year commenced with the big US tech show of the year: CES. The most positive publicity among the device-makers went to Motorola, which was the OEM lead partner for the tablet-specific new version of Android: 3.0 / Honeycomb. Moto combined Honeycomb with NVIDIA’s Tegra 2 dual-core SoC in the Xoom tablet; considered by many to be the device of the show. Moto doubled-down on Tegra 2 to also launch the Atrix smartphone in Vegas, which showcased an innovative laptop dock peripheral.
The biggest story of MWC 2011 in Barcelona broke just before the show, when Nokia announced its decision to use Microsoft’s Windows Phone as its main smartphone platform. The first NokiaSoft handset was still nine months away, but MWC 2011 did see the launch of the Samsung Galaxy S 2, which would go on to be one of the best-selling handsets of the year.
Another major theme from MWC 2011 was NFC, and in the following month there was widespread anticipation that Apple, RIM and Microsoft would follow Google’s lead in putting NFC at the core of their platforms. As the year progressed it became clear that NFC adoption was going to be a slow, gradual, process as a number of contactless payment initiatives struggled to gain traction.
April saw another round of major smartphone launches, including HTC’s media-centric flagship Sensation and Sony Ericsson’s phone / handheld gamer hybrid, the Xperia Play. These launches characterised a key trend established in 2011 – the need for Android OEMs to find ways of differentiating themselves from each other with additional features and services. The long-awaited white Apple iPhone 4 also finally made an appearance this month.
Mobile platform innovation was the focus for May. RIM announced the latest version of its platform – BlackBerry 7 – which included NFC support, while Microsoft unveiled the first major update to Windows Phone since its launch – codenamed Mango – which claimed over 500 new features, including deeper social networking integration.
Not to be out-done by its rivals, Apple previewed the latest version of its mobile platform – iOS 5 – this month. While there were many new features, including Newsstand and iMessage, but the headline launch was iCloud – Apple’s answer to cloud storage and music locker offerings from Google and Amazon. In June LG formally launched its main Android differentiation in the form of the Optimus 3D, with its auto-stereoscopic 3D display.
By the halfway stage it was becoming clear that two vendors were dominating smartphone sales in 2011: Apple and Samsung. In the second quarter both of them overtook Nokia in smartphone sales, with Apple number one for the first time. Meanwhile Samsung revealed that the Galaxy S 2 was its fastest-selling handset yet. There were also ominous signs for Nokia in the Chinese smartphone market, which had grown to be the world’s second-biggest behind the US.

August is traditionally one of the quietest months of the year for tech news, but that was far from the case in 2011. The big story of the month was Google’s bid to acquire Motorola. While this was positioned as a move to shore up the Android ecosystem with Moto’s patents and by giving Google more hardware expertise, it unsettled the other Android OEMs, which compete directly with Motorola. A possible consolation prize soon became available, however, when HP announced it was planning to sell webOS, while RIM announced its long-awaited BlackBerry 7 family of handsets too.
The big news in September concerned a tablet, but sent shockwaves across the whole mobile device industry. Amazon launched the Kindle Fire Android tablet at an ultra-aggressive price point of $199. This was immediately hailed as the first true competitor to Apple’s iPad, following the relative failure of tablet launches earlier in the year.
This was arguably the biggest handset launch month of the year. First we had the Apple iPhone 4S, launched later than new iPhones have traditionally been, and featuring the Siri voice recognition system. Then NokiaSoft revealed itself in the form of the Lumia family of handsets, which were launched alongside the biggest marketing effort yet for a Windows Phone handset. And lest we forget, October 2011 also marked the passing of Apple’s Steve Jobs.
Strategy Analytics revealed two key smartphone milestones to the world. At the start of the month we reported that Samsung had overtaken Apple to become the world’s number one smartphone vendor in Q3. A few weeks later we announced that China had overtaken the US to become the world’s largest smartphone market in that quarter too.
The early signs were that the 2011 holiday season produced record sales for many device makers, despite the spectre of another global recession in 2012. Amazon and Samsung both made announcements celebrating strong sales, while the Apple iPhone 4S was on a record trajectory as soon as it launched. It seems that, regardless of what’s happening elsewhere in the economy, the mobile device revolution is maintaining its momentum.