Wireless Smartphone Strategies

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

May 20, 2010 21:05 David Kerr

sa photo dk

 

May you live in interesting times as the old Chinese proverb goes. Well in the information, communication and entertainment industry we certainly do. Some very interesting questions face our industry whether we look at:

  • the outcome of much delayed Indian 3G auction or
  • the battlegrounds around HSPA+ and LTE or
  • the surging Android ecosystem vs. weakening Symbian or
  • the upside potential for WebOS under it new owners
  • the potential disruption caused by mobile cloud phones and device

Every major technology advancement has lead to a massive disruption in the handset and infrastructure vendor community.

  • In 3G, Motorola’s slim myopia led to its near ruin and has provided huge growth for Samsung and a foothold in international markets for LG and SEMC.
  • On the infrastructure side 3G was expertly grasped by Huawei and ZTE leading to a new wave of M & A and a new world order which counts Nortel as a victim and seriously challenges ALU.

So how will the migration to 4G change the playing field?

  • Who will benefit most on the operator/service provider side?
  • Will Cloud Phones be disruptive in LTE?
  • Will operators find a path to realign the traffic/revenue mix with mobile broadband devices?

I would welcome your thoughts on these key questions. Also don’t forget to join our client webinar on Thursday May 27.

 

David


April 22, 2010 22:04 bjoy
The Q1 2010 results season are upon us, and Apple reported yet another stellar performance, shipping 8.8 million iPhones globally. This is the best iPhone performance the company ever had outside the fourth quarter.  Typically the iPhone sales are the strongest in during the back half of the year. The third quarter stands to benefit from product refreshes and the fourth quarter from holiday sales. The record first quarter sales is really promising, the upcoming OS 4.0 along with a likely hardware refresh this summer will boost the second half sales even further. The AT&T results the following day shed some additional light on Apple’s performance. The Apple iPhone is still the breadwinner for AT&T, even after nearly three years of launch. Check this fact: AT&T activated 2.7 million iPhones during the quarter, and one third of the activations came from new subscribers, which is higher than the total post paid net-adds reported by the carrier. The impact of the iPhone becomes more obvious if we consider the fact that this is despite the competition from a growing smartphone line-up under the AT&T portfolio, including Android, RIM , and Symbian devices. So who is buying the iPhone these days? After all, the device has been in the market for several quarters now. The early adopters and early majority are already iPhone subscribers (read youth, prosumers etc). The tail end of the demographics, which are the late majority and the laggards (typically the 55+ age group) are the next wave of opportunity for Apple and AT&T. innovation-curve.jpg Innovation Adoption Curve; Chart Source: Google The tail-end of the market is always a difficult proposition for companies as they are often hesitant to embrace new solutions, even if the product or service on offer enhances the quality of life. The word of mouth through family and friends is a major driver for smartphone adoption among seniors, and for this to occur, the product should have a large installed base and be in the market for a very long period. The iPhone in the US is at a distinct advantage in this respect as it enters its fourth year this summer - and perhaps that is already showing in the most recent AT&T results. - Bonny Joy

January 20, 2010 16:01 bjoy
 Here in the US it is an all too increasingly common occurrence to hear everyday someone new telling us something that we “have” to do. Verizon Wireless and AT&T introduced new data rate plans recently. Hidden in the hullabaloo about lower unlimited price plans was the new announcement from both that users now “have” to buy a minimum data plan with any new feature phone:
  • Verizon Wireless created a new category called 3G multimedia feature phones that  encompasses a range of cool and not-so-cool devices.  An additional $9.99 monthly data plan, providing 25Mbytes of data use per month, is a requirement on any new 3G multimedia feature phone purchased. Unlimited data plans for these phones cost $29.99.
  • AT&T announced an unlimited texting/browsing plan that will be a requirement for any new Quick Messaging Device (also a new device category) purchased. The rate plans for these phones start at $20/month for individual lines and $30/month for family plans, for either browsing or messaging with no data cap.
We can understand the approach – both operators want to drive use of their portal based offerings. AT&T at least went one step further and eliminated the data cap, but consider that that 20$ doesn’t include both messaging and browsing.  Its an either or proposition. We still “have” to choose one. These plans not only miss the mark in terms of their potential to drive meaningful growth in usage of feature phones, they penalize users for wanting to get a cool, mid range phone that lets them do a little more than talk. This is a significant issue for both operators when you consider that they both have a large share of their users on family plans. Will these prices stimulate usage on all the phones sitting idly in family plans? What’s the thinking here? Are buyers on these plans going to be willing to commit to an extra $20 to $40 per month for two to four additional lines? …”Well, since we “have” to buy it, we might as well use it…” I think not. This approach risks slowing take up of new family plans and may result in a slowing of handset replacements in the featurephone category. At the end of the day, this is one thing these users will quickly decide that they don’t “have” to do.

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.

December 4, 2009 15:12 David Kerr

sa photo dk 

As we rapidly close the cover on one of the toughest years the telecommunications, content and internet industries have ever seen, SA takes a look ahead beyond the recession to detail the key megatrends for the mobile industry in 2010.

We see a tough but positive mobile ecosystem outlook with devices recovering stronger than services. More consolidation is likely among network operators, while profits for device vendors will continue to flow away from handset only vendors in favor of device/services integration specialists. Emerging markets will continue to dominate volume with strong 3G rollout competition expected. The global market for services, applications, devices and infrastructure will post modest growth of approximately 3% in 2010.

The total mobile industry revenue including services, infrastructure and devices was flat in 2009. We expect a modest growth of 2.8% in 2010 to $1140B.

· In 2009, only strong growth in data spends by users ensured that total industry revenues did not decline. Data revenues grew 9.5% in 2009 and are expected to grow at a 13% rate in 2010 reaching over $200B.

· Handset market sell through revenue will rebound well in 2010, posting growth of 4% while the infrastructure market will continue to struggle and will decline slightly.

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Key issues shaping the 2010 landscape include:

  • Operators needing to balance the the strong rise in Capex requirements driven by the data traffic explosion against slow revenue growth. The likely outcome being significant M&A, network sharing and even applications development.
  • Handset OEMs will be forced will put the early stake in the ground for new device categories. Traditional OEMS will continue to struggle to match the Apple & Google vertical integration strategy which has proven so successful.
  • As the big five vendors focus on smart phones and content/services in the open markets, a race develops to get services/apps onto feature phone products or other operator customized devices
  • On-portal traffic continues to grow but is outpaced by off portal session growth. Contextualization and personalization of the user experience will determine winners and losers.
  • The rapid diffusion of Flash and HTML 5 on handsets could negate much of the need for mediacos to use open platforms/app stores in mature markets.
  • In the business sector we see SMEs and Manage Mobility as key battlegrounds. We see growth in hosted services for SMEs (e.g. Unified Communications infrastructure-one phone mobile and fixed, one voicemail etc.  Personal v corporate liable devices (iPhone v BlackBerry) becomes a major issue.
  • In the Emerging Markets area we see consolidation & 3G expansion in urban areas as key battlegrounds. With improved financing prospects, there will be significant consolidation among regional operators and rationalization of holdings.