Wireless Smartphone Strategies

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

April 30, 2012 17:54 sbicheno

According to a recent report in the Financial Times, Nokia is in discussions to sell its independently-run hyper-premium handset division - Vertu - for around €200m. UK-based Vertu was created in 1998 to cater to the luxury goods market. While it has never accounted for an especially large proportion of Nokia’s sales, Vertu still owns the majority of the global hyper-premium handset market and is an asset that, were circumstances different, Nokia would presumably have liked to keep.

But the first quarter of 2012 marked the first time since Vertu was launched that Nokia lost its position as the world’s number one handset vendor by volume, as the Finnish giant lost ground in both the high and low ends of the market. While struggling companies often jettison peripheral business units in order to be able to refocus on their core offering this sale, if it happens, is likely more down to cashflow.

The last quarter also marked the setting of another negative precedent for Nokia: an operating margin of -3%, resulting in an operating loss of over a billion euros for the quarter. While Nokia has been quick to stress that it still has around €5 billion in the bank, credit rating agencies have been quick to downgrade it on the fear that it may run out of cash before Lumia sales ramp sufficiently to bring it back into credit. So while Vertu still has some value, not least its database of affluent customers, patience isn’t a luxury Nokia can currently afford, it seems.

April 18, 2012 10:13 sbicheno

The launch of a large number of smartphones sporting similar looks, feel and specs at this year’s Mobile World Congress (MWC) revealed the increasing difficulty OEMs face in differentiating their products. How are consumers supposed to choose one multi-core, 4.3-inch, Android camera-phone from another?

The answer may lie in the materials used to make the casing. Each has their pros and cons: metal is durable, but is heavy and scratches easily, plastic is light but can look and feel cheap, while glass is attractive but fragile. Increasingly smartphone OEMs are looking to ceramics to differentiate their latest devices.

While the launch of the One X grabbed most of the attention from HTC’s MWC offering, the mid-range One S unveiled a new type of casing that uses a technique called microarc oxidation to deposit a super-dense ceramic coating onto aluminium that is claimed to be four times harder than anodized aluminium. More recently Pantech is reported to be launching the Vega Racer 2 in South Korea, with a ceramic glass coating. And lastly the successor to the hugely popular Samsung Galaxy S 2 is widely reported to be sporting a ceramic casing.

(Image credit: D daily)

In an era when the form-factor, feature-set and functionality of smartphones have become largely standardised, innovation in materials could be the key to making your device stand out from the crowd. Until everyone follows suit, that is.