Wireless Smartphone Strategies

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

September 23, 2010 22:09 David Kerr

September 23, 2010

While there has understandably been a lot of attention given to consumer apps post iPhone and the plethora of application stores that have emerged, business mobility and enterprise mobility offer huge potential from horizontal to vertical applications and from smartphones to iPads and tablets to superphones.

In both NA and W. Europe, business customers account for under 30% of users but are the dominant streams of both revenue and profits for operators. On the device side, premium priced models from RIM, Nokia, and Microsoft Mobile licensees as well as the iPhone have long been key drivers of profits in a market where low single digit margins are the norm.  The explosion of smartphone choices has led to the battle ground moving beyond the corner office, to other executive and now increasingly the midlevel manager.

With a new range of devices competing for space in the corporate market, the issue of corporate versus individual liable has become an increasing priority for IT decision makers. Add on the complexity of managing an expanding list of OS (Android, iPhone, Windows Mobile, Symbian, Palm, MeeGo, Bada from Samsung) and the growing importance of mobile portable devices with access behind the firewall and one can already feel a corporate migraine forming…. And that’s before we even discuss device management, mobility policy, device retirement etc. etc.

I am looking forward to CTIA Fall (San Francisco October 5-7) and in particular to the Enterprise Mobility Boot Camp moderated by Philippe Winthrop of the Enterprise Mobility Foundation. The boot camp spread over two days will address many of the issue listed above with our own Andy Brown featured in an analyst roundtable on October 6th.  I look forward to meeting you there. Don’t hesitate to contact Philippe for passes to this the deep dive enterprise mobility event.

David Kerr

David Kerr
Snr. VP - Global Wireless Practice
Tel: +1 617 614 0720
Mob: +1 262 271 8974


August 4, 2010 23:08 nmawston


Blackberry has finally introduced its much-awaited OS 6 upgrade with the launch of the Torch 3G smartphone. It will initially be sold exclusively at AT&T in the USA in August 2010, giving the operator an alternative to the iPhone. OS 6 employs a Webkit engine, HTML5 support and universal search. The Torch is a QWERTY slider with a 3-inch HVGA+ touchscreen optimized for messaging and media prosumers. Can the Torch outshine Apple? Is it an Android killer?




Well, the external design is a little unexciting. It looks not dissimilar to the Palm Pre. The hardware-list ticks the right boxes for a premium handset -- with 802.11n, 5MP camera, and so on -- but the 624MHz Marvell processor might be perceived as sluggish compared with the emerging tide of 1GHz superphones. The software-list looks good, with Flash, HTML5 support and Webkit for developers. The Webkit-rendered browser will compress data traffic, benefitting AT&T's stressed network. RIM has opened up the platform a little for a better developer environment. Data services are prosumer-friendly and consumer-friendly and primed for email, Internet-browsing, social networking, instant messaging, maps, WiFi geolocation, universal search, RSS feeds, media playback, Blackberry World and PC tethering. No head-to-head videophony, though.

Navigation of the UI is delivered through 3 main interfaces; touchscreen, trackpad and hard-QWERTY keyboard. Our brief trial of the handset in New York recently found the user-experience to be generally satisfying with a responsive touchscreen and good discoverability for apps and services. Retail pricing will be set initially at US$199 postpaid with a two-year contract. This is just in the sweetspot zone for high-end users, and it indicates AT&T will be subsidizing the Torch to the tune of roughly US$200 per unit.

So... are OS 6, Blackberry World and the Torch an Android killer? No. The overall package of hardware, software and services lacks a true wow factor. The Torch helps RIM to close the gap on Android models and iPhone, but it does not overtake them. Is the Torch a Blackberry savior? Maybe. Torch 1 is a solid step in the right direction to stemming churn by upgrading its touchphone portfolio. Torch 2 and Torch 3 will need to be even better, though, with improvements like a 2GHz processor, because the consumer-enterprise handset market in the US has become hyper-competitive and the Torch will not be a leading light for long.


July 6, 2010 15:07 nmawston

 

Steve Ballmer and Microsoft have shut down the Kin social phone project, due to weak sales. An understandable decision; we estimate the Kin captured less than 0.1% of the US handset market in Q2 2010. At least 8 major reasons caused its downfall:

1. Clumsy sub-branding with "Kin";
2. An unattractive handset formfactor that did not wow young users;
3. An unexciting set of features and consumer media;
4. Suboptimal finger-based touchscreen user-experience;
5. Poor marketing of its automated cloud-storage backup service;
6. Mixed integration of the UNIX-Java Danger acquisition;
7. Weak reception from US developers, who couldn’t run downloadable apps or use Flash;
8. High handset and data-plan costs at Verizon Wireless.

This is a long list of failure points. The Kin joins several mobile and portable product flops from Microsoft, such as Courier, Zune and Pocket PC. Will Microsoft and its handset partners learn the lessons of the Kin for Windows Phone 7 in 2011? They will need to, as Microsoft's global smartphone OS marketshare is near a record low.

Reasons 2, 3 and 4 should be Microsoft's and its device partners' priorities. Good-looking touch-smartphones with fun consumer media services and a slick UX will attract developers and persuade tier-1 US carriers to throw subsidies in their direction. Add in Reason 5, the automated cloud backup for data, which was one of the Kin's few differentiators, and Microsoft's prospects will look brighter. And if they could bring the popular Xbox sub-brand and services to the table, then Microsoft's prospects may look even brighter still.

But Microsoft will have to move with urgency, because rivals like Apple, Android and MeeGo are not standing still. If Microsoft struggles to deliver in any way on WP7 in 2011, then I believe it will eventually have to buy its way into the mobile market. Smartphones will soon outsell PCs and mobile is too big a market for Microsoft to ignore. Who do you think Microsoft should buy in software or hardware? And why? Leave your suggestions in our Comments box.


June 7, 2010 21:06 nmawston
The Apple iPhone 4 and iOS4 finally arrived today. After months of leaks, there were no major surprises about the hardware, software or services. There are up to 100 improved features, of which 9 were prioritized by Steve Jobs at launch. They include a pixel-dense 3.5-inch “retina display”, Apple A4 processor, bigger battery, 802.11n WiFi, gyroscope, 5-megapixel rear camera, front-facing camera, HD video-capture and multitasking. All packed into a thin 9mm formfactor. Apple iPhone 4 becomes reality. Phones, Mobile phones, Apple, iPhone 4, WWDC2010, iPhone 3GS 0 Services were front-and-center. Apple continues to favorably position its brand as an enabler of fun media for young-at-heart consumers. There is iBooks for reading, iMovie for film-editing and iAds for advertizing. The most ambitious move is FaceTime, a head-to-head videophony service using the front camera. The service has a catchy sub-brand, so it is off to a good start. But videoconferencing has been around for years and never really gotten off the ground outside Japan, so it will be interesting to see whether the iPhone ignites demand among western consumers or businesses. Two-way webcamming, via sites like Skype, is not uncommon among PC users, so it may be possible to transfer some of those usage traits to the mobile. FaceTime will initially be available only over WiFi, because operators’ 3G networks are not fully ready to cope with the potential spike in data traffic. Many of the iPhone’s weaknesses remain. Despite the hype, Apple is not flawless. There is still no support for popular Flash software. The iPhone’s closed ecosystem and apps-approval process are not ideal for some developers. And the handset’s expensive pricing makes it heavily reliant on operator subsidies. Overall, the iPhone 4 is another step forward. It raises the smartphone and services bar a little higher. Apple has done just enough to maintain its leadership in design, UX and consumer content. Nokia, RIM, Google, Microsoft, Samsung, LG and other OEMs still have some catching-up to do.