Wireless Smartphone Strategies

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

July 17, 2014 18:14 nmawston

Mozille announced today that its Firefox OS is now available on 7 smartphone models at 5 major carriers in 15 countries worldwide. Latin America and Europe are the current regions of availability, with Asia next on the roadmap.

Clients of our Wireless Smartphone Strategies (WSS) service can download our global Firefox smartphone sales, installed base and user base forecasts across 88 countries through 2018 at this weblink.


April 2, 2014 10:25 sbicheno

Canadian smartphone specialist BlackBerry announced another major year-on-year fall in global units shipments recently, which marks the 11th quarter in a row it has seen an annual decline.

Our Wireless Smartphone Strategies (WSS) service notes that it also reported a significantly larger figure for sales through to the end-user, with the difference accounted for by inventory recognized in previous quarters, and the majority of which were running the older BlackBerry 7 OS, which was replaced as the main BlackBerry platform by BB10 a year ago.

While BlackBerry’s shipment decline began in 2011, it seemed to have stabilised in the latter half of 2012. In the light of the continued clearing of BB7 inventory it now appears that the Q3 and Q4 2012 BlackBerry shipments numbers were inflated by a rush to pump BB7 units into the channel - presumably at a discount - in order to clear the decks for the big BB10 launch. One possible negative side-effect of this may have been to offer a cheap, familiar alternative to consumers who might otherwise have given the new BB10 smartphones a try.

On that note, BlackBerry seems to also be streamlining the channel itself, with the recent announcement that it will not renew the licence for T-Mobile US to sell BlackBerry devices after it expires towards the end of April. This decision seems to have been influenced by a February T-Mobile email marketing campaign, encouraging its customers to switch from BlackBerry smartphones to iPhones. BlackBerry CEO John Chen made his displeasure known at the time through a blog, and the damage done appears to have been permanent.


January 7, 2013 08:06 nmawston

The United States is the world's most influential smartphone market. Chinese vendors are keen to crack the US, particularly Huawei and ZTE. Both firms have single-digit marketshare there right now; they would like to make it double-digit. Beyond cutting prices of their devices, what do Huawei and ZTE need to do to crack the US smartphone market? This published report, available to clients of our Wireless Smartphone Strategies (WSS) service, analyzes the situation and provides recommendations for both firms.


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


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

June 4, 2010 20:06 David Kerr
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The inevitable movement to tiered pricing which started with Verizon Wireless acknowledging its plans to do so for LTE and has been accelerated with the much anticipated data plan announcement by AT&T this week.  So, what next?

    • Will we see significant priced based competition for mobile data among the top US operators?
    • Will we see significant movement in share of adds for AT&T as iPhone wannabees are tempted by a plan of only $15?
    • What impact will lower data plans for smartphones have on AT&T’s Quick Messaging Devices and Verizon Wireless equivalent?
    • How long before we see family data plans and shared usage across multiple devices?

The move by AT&T is a smart play to extend the smartphone momentum as the low hanging fruit of Apple aficionados, multimedia techies and style seekers willing to pay top dollar has been significantly penetrated.

There is no doubt that the iPhone remains the coolest device on the marketplace and the end to end user experience remains easily the best in class. So, reducing the TCO to attract the next 20% of customers to a paid data plans while educating customers about data usage levels and managing the traffic risk is very smart business in my opinion.

The lower price points will help AT&T maintain its current leading share of smartphone users and may be attractive to casual social networkers

  • Although the 50 photos allowance is not exactly generous! For casual messenger, and social network status checking and moderate email the new DataPlus plan is quite attractive overall and will likely attract a portion of customers who would otherwise opt for a Quick Messaging Device from AT&T or a competitive offering from Verizon Wireless.

I do expect to see some modest price competition among the big operators

  • with T-Mobile most likely to drive prices lower given their need for scale and to protect their predominantly youth centric customer base. but also expect an increasingly strong Verizon Wireless handset line up to compete strongly.

The impact on Quick Messaging Devices is in my opinion likely to be modest

  • as a traditional qwerty remains overwhelmingly the input of choice for heavy messengers in the US although there is definitely room for lowering the $10 mandatory data plan on featurephones

Family data plans and data plans which allow access across multiple devices are in the pipeline

  • but will probably not make an appearance until 2012+ as part of LTE offerings.

From a device vendor perspective, the move to lower priced iPhone plans is likely to put further pressure on vendors like LG who have yet to make a credible offer in this space as well as RIM who will find more competition in the consumer space.

The lower pricing on data plans will be music to the ears of ambitious new entrants like Huawei, ZTE who plan to bring mass market priced devices to the US & Europe. The lower TCO of smartphones as a result of downward pressure on service prices boost their addressable market.


May 12, 2010 15:05 Alex Spektor
From a total handset volume perspective, not much has happened in a year in North America. Indeed, our findings show that the region’s growth during the first quarter of 2010 has been flat on a year-over-year basis. But, if we look closer, we can actually observe a lot of movement within, as smartphone specialists face off with traditional vendors. South Korean vendors Samsung and LG have carved out a nice spot at the top of the market, controlling nearly 50% of volumes last quarter. But, while Samsung continues chugging forward—the vendor surpassed 30% market share for the first time ever—LG should be concerned. After many quarters of strong growth, the vendor is now more than 4 percentage points below its peak market share. Without doubt, its essentially nonexistent smartphone portfolio is to blame here. image Astonishingly, Motorola has remained in the top four despite 12 consecutive quarters of annual declines. However, this time around, Motorola finally yielded the #3 spot to North American neighbor Research In Motion. Of course, Motorola’s Android portfolio is ramping up quickly, with all-time-high smartphone volumes. But, as the vendor continues to shed featurephones from its portfolio, we expect further reduction of volumes. Despite moving up in ranks, RIM has not been seeing stellar domestic performance either. In fact, while everyone around them has been moving up or down, RIM has been standing still. The vendor’s North American market share has been essentially flat for six consecutive quarters. RIM has been (quite successfully) focusing on expanding internationally, but that has come at the cost of stagnation at home. A significant portfolio refresh (more touch?) will be necessary to shake things up. Nokia once again traded places with Apple, losing the #5 spot in our rankings. But, actually, for Q2, my money is on Nokia retaking fifth place. Partly it’s because Apple’s shipments will see a lull in anticipation of the next-generation iPhone. But I also see a lot of potential for the Nokia’s Nuron phone on T-Mobile USA, which offers innovative (read: affordable) smartphone data pricing. In the long run, however, Apple is much better positioned for growth in America, having essentially defined the smartphone experience for the market. Q1 2010 North America Vendor Share -Alex Spektor

April 14, 2010 17:04 Alex Spektor

After months of industry-wide speculation about Microsoft’s “Project Pink,” the software giant recently unveiled two phones: Kin One and Kin Two. Manufactured by Sharp (the maker of most T-Mobile Sidekick phones, in partnership with Danger, whom Microsoft purchased in late 2008), the phones will ship with specs found on many of today’s smartphones: capacitive touchscreens, QWERTY, high-megapixel cameras, gigabytes of flash memory, Bluetooth, GPS, accelerometers – the list goes on. Yet, the Kins are not true smartphones, as there is no application support. Rather, the Kin family of products consists of cleverly targeted feature phones.

While the smartphone segment is growing steadily, the wireless industry is certainly not done with feature phones, which we expect to account for approximately two-thirds of handsets sold in North America this year. Earlier this year, AT&T announced intentions to give significant attention to the mid-range, messaging-centric feature phone category, which the operator calls Quick Messaging Devices (QMD).

At Verizon Wireless (who, along with Vodafone in Europe, will soon carry the Microsoft phones), the Kin will make an interesting replacement to aging handsets like LG’s enV series. In a way, the Kin family is part of VZW’s answer to AT&T’s QMD category. Expect VZW and Microsoft to back a heavy advertising campaign when the phones come out, promoting the novel user experience and social networking functions. With a low retail price and some innovation on data plan pricing (see the Nokia Nuron smartphone, which requires just US$10/month for unlimited data at T-Mobile USA), the two Kin models could drive strong volumes for the carrier.

 

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For Microsoft, who recently painted themselves into a high-end corner with hefty hardware requirements on Windows Phone 7, the Kin family represents an interesting platform framework to get closer to the youth segment.

The high-tier Windows Phone 7 will be a natural handset upgrade path for today’s Kin user, as both platforms are forming common elements. While the short-term goal with the Kin family is to expand the addressable market by bringing messaging/social networking services through a robust framework, the long term goal is to own the consumer by highlighting the Microsoft value proposition to him/her early on.

Either way, Kin provides an interesting glimpse into Microsoft’s understanding of the future handset market, where feature phones will rely heavily on the cloud. (Like its Sidekick predecessors, the Kins store user data and content on company servers.) Add to that Windows Live service and Zune content integration, and Microsoft can be seen as gradually ramping up its strength on the multi-screen index.

-Alex Spektor


March 30, 2010 00:03 David Kerr

sa photo dk Returning from CTIA in Las Vegas last week and with only 2 days before going off on vacation to Florida, I found myself reflecting that two of the most interesting meetings I had at the show were with mobile operators.

During CTIA I spent some time with AT&T emerging devices and T-Mobile M2M teams and was impressed with how both these units had managed to cut (or at least untie) the cord to the mother ship and avoid having innovation stifled by the Borg up at Corporate.

    • AT&T’s efforts to encourage a broad range of new applications and devices has definitely paid dividends with Mr. Lurie and his team adding an impressive 1M users in Q409 as a result of new device categories (mostly PND and EBR).
    • T-Mobile revealed a somewhat unheralded pedigree in M2M.

Partnership is the order of the day.

AT&T highlighted partner applications ranging from location enabled pet collars (Apisphere) to glow cap bottles to aid compliance with medication schedules (Vitality) to a very cool new tablet from Openpeak which is very different to the announced but apparently supply side challenged iPad.  Verizon Wireless and Sprint are of course also praying at the alter of open development but perhaps with less public presence.

When I think of enterprise mobility, AT&T and Verizon Wireless are top of mind but T-Mobile has in fact quietly been developing strong competency in the M2M space over the last 7-8 years.

T-Mobile offers four different SIM form factors to suit specific applications and have enjoyed triple digit growth for the last four years. T-Mobile US has quietly activated “hundreds” of different device types on its network with only a handful of devices being rejected or pulled due to network unfriendly characteristics. These devices span Telematics, Connected Energy, Telemedicine and several other applications.

So what is the common DNA of two very different operators that has allowed them to innovate and focus on new opportunities? Separation and operational autonomy to facilitate and open funnel approach to partners and speed of execution not normally associated with US carriers.

In the case of AT&T, the Emerging Devices group was chartered with developing a new space and freed from the legacy of voice & data consumer tariffs and prepaid/postpaid categories which just don’t cut it in the new connected reality where users will have multiple devices connected but used in very different ways. Mr. Lurie and his team have been able to streamline device certification and experiment across the spectrum of business models for new connected applications.

For T-Mobile, speed of certification (days not months) and the independence of being a self-contained unit (own engineers, own sales although linked to broader enterprise group) reporting to Finance & Strategy have allowed them to pursue their “easiest to do business with” approach to the M2M markets.

So, the takeaway? Innovation is alive and well at US operators but separation from the collective corporate mind is essential.

David Kerr


January 11, 2010 22:01 David Kerr
Afte the inevitable wave of irrational exuberance has come the equally inevitable correction and flow of negative comments regarding Google Nexus One.
  • We are now seeing a huge rebound of criticisms about customer service, implementation and execution, moaning and complaining for existing t-mobile customers who have to pay more than a new customer to get a cool device and strong complaints from developers about availability of SDK and support.
  •  Naturally, the questions about Google's ability to execute on direct sales are being raised but these shall pass very quickly in our view.
Within our wireless team we had divergent opinions from network centric, application focussed and device driven analysts but ultimatlely we arrived at the following key perspectives:
  • Consensus is that Nexus will be successful by high end tier Smartphone levels (single digit volumes in 2010 but upside potential when it rolls out beyond TMO in US and to more open markets in Europe). Nexus is likely to sell more through operator channels than direct overall. Handset volume though is not the metric by which Google will measure Nexus success nor should operators as Nexus sales are a means to an end.  If Google is successful and Nexus ends up driving usage and value for operators, they will support it with subsidies.  Otherwise, operators can passively watch Google evolve its own-branded offering with little to lose. Tier One handset vendors (SAM, LG) may have the most to lose as Google’s marketing muscle and brand coupled with compelling devices and experiences will be a strong competitor for Operator slots, subsidy dollars.
  • Handset revenues and profits are a nice to have for Google. Key to their success and long term ambition is too boost the mobile browsing ecosystem. More open devices capable of browsing/search/maps from Google or others is positive for Google.  Google needed to update and get close to parity in terms of an engaging, fun, easy browsing UI with competitive links to key apps like maps, media etc and this device achieves that goal. Google is great at creating a buzz and the media is ready to talk about something other than Apple.
  • Google Nexus and indeed the whole Android approach is not about controlling/owning the user (contrast this with Apple). Google’s key metric is advertising revenue. Google's vision is well publicized: the browser is how they will deliver services, even on mobile, and apps are a stop-gap measure as far as Google's strategic vision is concerned. Google is banking on HTML 5 as their solution to fragmentation but we believe they are drinking too much of their own coolaid here and underestimating the importance of apps. Google’s key goal is to increase eyeballs and advertising.
  • Some key elements that have not been addressed which we believe are key in Google’s future evolution and will be key to watch relate to Voice and what Google does its Gizmo5 acquisition to push Google Voice into a full VoIP proposition. This is where Telcos should be most worried and where we have yet to see all the pieces positioned on the battlefiled.