Wireless Smartphone Strategies

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

September 10, 2010 20:09 bjoy
Android sales have already surpassed the iPhone and with each passing day, its building further momentum with new announcements and launches. The launch of the Huawei Ideos, a mid-tier (<200 USD) device with Android 2.2 is yet another milestone in the Android evolution as the platform now extends its reach to new segments traditionally occupied by the feature phones. Most, if not all, major operators have at least one Android model in the portfolio. The platform also has broad support from the vendor community, with major names under its banner. One question at the top of OEM and Operators is how my Android is different from your Android. Look at the Android portfolio in the US market. Aside from the glossy hardware specs and discounting the differences between the base version releases - Android 1.X/2.X – it’s hard to spot any differences beneath the skin. OEMs ability to differentiate is largely limited to the user interface layers. The HTC Sense UI, Samsung TouchWiz and Sony Ericsson Timescape are some of the leading Android skins available in the market. Under the hood, they all share the common goal of servicing the Google’s apps and service portfolio – Search,GMail, Maps and  Gtalk to name a few.   “True” Internet? An opportunity for differentiation here is to bring the “true” internet experience to consumers by seamlessly integrating services and features beyond Google products. This is a tall task for most OEMs as it’s not always easy to develop exclusive partnerships in the content or service space – and some of the most popular non-Google services like Facebook are already integrated to the core Android base anyways. But for operators, the stage is slightly different. Check out some of the most recent announcements from Verizon Wireless: •    The Verizon Samsung Fascinate, part of Samsung’s premium Galaxy S portfolio, uses Microsoft  Bing as the standard option for Maps. •    Bing will also serve as the default search engine for the device. The Galaxy S series is available under all major US operators, but except for the Verizon version, all bear the same look and feel. I’m not going to the merits of which search or maps service yield the best results, but the fact that operators are looking beyond Google’s umbrella services will provide more choice for the consumers – however small that segment be. Skype integration is another differentiator for Verizon Android devices.  Although the Android core base doesn’t have a Google branded VoIP service yet, sooner or later the Google branded VoIP service will be part of the core Android base – especially given the recent launch of integrated VoIP service with Gmail. Replacing core Google services with alternative services will not prove to be a winning formula in all instances, but it could bring the mobile Internet experience beyond Google’s umbrella brands and provide enough service attributes to differentiate from the Google’s core base. The service element is a critical element in the product planning process and product planners should pay keen attention before deciding what should or shouldn’t be replaced from the core platform.  At Strategy Analytics, we’ve tools to support our clients in positioning products with the right combination of hardware/platform/service elements. Drop us a note if you would like to know more on how we can assist your planning teams. - Bonny Joy

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.