Wireless Smartphone Strategies

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

December 22, 2010 16:12 bjoy
Nokia has a healthy working relationship with Microsoft, and the partnership has been growing over the past few years. Recent initiatives include:
  • Microsoft Office Mobile Suite for Symbian.
  • Microsoft Sliverlight for Symbian.
  • The Nokia Booklet, a 3G netbook based on Windows 7.
On the organization front, Stephen Elop, a Microsoft veteran, took over the helms at Nokia earlier this year, bringing both companies closer than ever. While Sliverlight, Microsoft Office, and Windows 7 netbook initiatives are all signs of a healthy partnership, embracing the WP7 platform in its totality takes the relationship to the next level. Shifting the building blocks of your device/software/service ecosystem in favor of third parties is no small decision and will have effect on your intangible sub-brand assets such as Ovi. And that exactly is the rumor from this week, that Nokia will launch WP7 devices in 2011. While we have no official version of the story, it would be interesting to assess the impact of such a partnership in the market. On the positive side, Nokia’s industrial design, distribution and supply chain process are among the best in the industry. WP7 will gain a strong partner in Nokia to bring the best-in-class devices among Windows Phone series. But how much of an impact it will have on Nokia’s platform portfolio, positioning and regional priorities? Where WP7 sits in Nokia’s portfolio?                                        Given the base set of high-end hardware requirements for WP7, the Nokia WP7 device will be positioned in the same premium space occupied by the MeeGo platform. Will Nokia abandon the MeeGo platform in favor of WP7? Or are they going to co-exist, with WP7 focusing on the prosumer and business segments along the same lines of the S60 E-Series? Will there be any major shift in regional platform trends? USA: With an estimated 6% marketshare in 2010 (nearly all basic and featurephones), Nokia has been steadily losing marketshare and carrier shelf space in the US. The partnership is unlikely to change the competitive landscape in the US market, where Apple, HTC, Motorola and Samsung lead the operator shelves. WP7 LTE phones in H2 2011 / H1 2012 might be a potential option for Nokia to make inroads in the US. Western Europe: Microsoft will find more acceptance in carrier channels through Nokia in Western Europe. But beyond the “foot in the  door” strategy, the partnership will have to do little with the success of the platform. In emerging markets, where Nokia has the broadest reach in mid-tier smartphones, the WP7 will be not be the obvious choice for the cost sensitive segments. We believe Nokia will continue to rely on the S60 platform in the mid-tier smartphone segment. Overall, while the idea of a Nokia WP7 device looks like a big win for Microsoft, it’s unlikely to change the prospects of Nokia or WP7 in the smartphone department. Nevertheless, Nokia needs to raise its profile in the US, and this would be a step in the right direction, but it will need step-changes in distribution and subsidies. But for the most part, it’s going to be just another partnership for Microsoft and Nokia – you’re only as strong as your weakest link. - Bonny Joy

June 4, 2010 19:06 Neil Shah
The global handset industry continues to grow and fragment. Due to platform facilitators like MediaTek, manufacturing a 2G cellphone is easier than ever. These trends have led to the emergence of a long tail of dozens of microvendors, mostly from China and India. Numerous microvendors have benefitted from the surging demand for low-cost 2G phones in rural and suburban markets. According to our Handset Country Share Tracker (HCST) report for Asia, leading microvendors Micromax and Tianyu are ranked among the top 6 brands in their domestic markets of India and China. What have been the main reasons for the microvendors' growth? • OEM-partnered low-cost handset solutions; • Strong ultra-low- and entry-level portfolios at very competitive price-points; • Innovative features for local needs and tastes, such as 30-day standby battery (important feature for regular electricity deprived rural markets), torch-light, theft tracker, multimedia player, video call, AM/FM Radio and dual-SIM; • Extensive retail distribution footprints; • Aggressive advertising and brand promotions; The microvendors have gone after first-time and second-time buyers and emerged with some success. However, key questions that arise are -- how many microvendors are successfully selling and how have they originated? Is there any major differentiation between their offerings? How are the microvendors positioning their brands? What are the microvendors doing in order to compete at the next level, such as 3G smartphones? Thus, starting in Q1 2010, we are now actively tracking an additional 25 emerging microvendors every quarter. These top 25 microvendors have captured a combined 4% global marketshare. Micromax and Spice top our rankings, which include other vendors from diverse industries such as consumer electronics and personal computing. We expect the long tail of Asian vendors will remain active for the foreseeable future, as they focus their efforts on a next wave of emerging 3G handset growth in 2011. Our published Microvendors report for Q1 2010 is available to download for clients here.

May 28, 2010 02:05 tkang
Nokia has started a new market sizing exercise from the beginning of this year. With refreshing candor, they have increased the base market size over 10% for 2009 shrinking their own market share to 34% from the previous 38%.
  • Nokia announced their market share in Q1 2010 was 33%, which is probably the lowest number they’ve had in 5 years. Why would they play themselves down?
I think Nokia is accepting the hard truth that the market is bigger than we all were willing to admit. However, I don’t think that the Shanzhai (Chinese Grey Market) impact has been fully baked into many estimates.
  • Since 2007, numerous unknown small assembly factories have been springing up in China and rapidly growing. There are more than 500 companies now.
  • As urban areas in the Emerging Markets reached saturation the rural users were the next frontier but distribution, after sales support and driving down cost was a challenge. This market was successfully addressed by the so-called Shanzhai or Chinese Grey Market handsets as they evaded tax, regulatory requirements, IPR and any brand related issues giving them an advantage to the ‘I-don’t-care-about-quality-I-just-want-a-phone-that-doesn’t-look-too-cheap’ audience in the Emerging Markets.
If we look at the Chinese market it seems that foreign brands like Nokia killed the Local brands but in reality if we include the Chinese Grey Market, Local vendors have started to come back since 2007.
  • Nokia hunted down Local vendors between 2004 and 2005 but they’ve come back and without admitting that the Chinese grey market exists there’s no way you can compete with them.
clip_image002[6] Looking at the situation, I think history repeats itself. Starting from 2000, Local Chinese vendors rapidly took share from Motorola and at that time the R&D was provided by R&D houses in Korea packaging Texas Instrument basebands into modules.
  • Companies like Bellwave once exported $400M worth of GSM modules to China a year, this was the time TCL, Bird, Amoi were on the top 10 vendor list.
  • Now it’s Mediatek providing R&D expertise: the baseband and also assistance with the module packaging.
Our Wireless Device Strategies Team is preparing a report that explores the Chinese Grey Market in more depth as it is now more than 12% of the market, a market to keep track of. I think the handset market is bigger than Nokia thinks. Their market share in Q1 2010 should’ve been 31% including the total grey market.

March 17, 2010 23:03 bjoy
High-end mobile handsets have more in common with the consumer electronics industry than they used to. Music, camera and GPS segments are some of the early examples that have lost increasing ground to the mobile industry. As the industry converges further, more use-cases and functions will be bundled on high-end handsets and crimp the growth of other consumer-electronic segments such as portable gaming. Retailers are closely watching the evolution of cellular devices and treading the waters carefully. Connectivity will of course be common across multiple device categories, whether it is your 65-inch Plasma TV or internet-enabled table clock – and for the most part, this is a new learning experience for major main-street retailers. Connectivity adds another dimension and requires additional training for their customer representatives – initial set up, configuration, billing, activation, rebates and contract obligations are areas where retailers need to climb up the experience ladder. Some interesting trends from the buoyant US market: Best Buy is betting its future growth on high-end smartphones and emerging connected devices such as 3G laptops. Smartphones are just the launch pad for Best Buy’s broader strategy in taking an early position in the evolving connected terminals space. Wal-Mart is embracing a different route that is aligned with their low-cost mass-market philosophy. The no-frills service plan StraightTalk, developed in conjunction with TracFone, was a big success during the last holiday season. The business is changing in the online channels as well; Amazon launched is beta program last year and connected devices are often sold at significant discounts than through carrier-direct channels. On one hand, third-party specialist retail channels will expand operators' addressable markets to new segments. Operators do not have all the necessary assets to tap the long tail of emerging 3G device segments or new service plans that are aligned more with the consumer electronics industry. In this scenario, retailers are the operators' friend. On the other hand, dilution of operators' direct channels will be a threat for operators' control, and without proper checks in place, the thousands of existing operator stores in the US will soon become much less important. In this scenario, retailers will gain more distribution power and become the operators' foe. - Bonny Joy

February 11, 2010 15:02 Alex Spektor
…Continued from part 1 PC vendors should be worried. It will be impossible to recreate the iPhone’s success. Furthermore the engineering-centric technology and design resources they currently rely on for their legacy products put them at a distinct disadvantage in today’s smartphone market, which is largely driven by engaging user experiences and a complementary set of compelling applications and services. Still, the operator smartphone craze means there is still plenty of room for good devices. Specialists like Dell and Acer can succeed if they prioritize the following issues.image · User Experience – The importance of a top-notch user experience cannot be overemphasized. Be it stock Android with top-shelf hardware, highly customized Android with decent hardware, or something in-between, handsets that provide an engaging experience will eventually make their way into consumers’ hands. · Content and Services – Technology and design will get you noticed, but content and services will get you used by consumers. This is where PC vendors are weakest. They should be proactively forging relationships with content/service providers. Working directly with carriers on on-portal offerings should not be ruled out. In fact, as operators look to drive on-portal usage, PC maker’s willingness to play is a potential differentiator from traditional handset vendors. · Platform Selection – Small vendors should focus on winning platforms. Samsung, with a huge distribution network, strong R&D resources, deep pockets, and dozens of SKUs can afford to support multiple open platforms and develop their own. Inexperienced vendors do not have this luxury. Indeed, platform selection is at the core of the PC-smartphone vendor’s issues, as it dictates the user experience and services capability. The experiences of HP, Asus, Palm and Motorola have shown that Windows Mobile has not been driving vendor success in the consumer smartphone market. Like its European rival Symbian, WinMo failed to evolve to address consumer demands for touchscreen-driven, Web-oriented user experiences. WinMo 7 and Symbian^4 will address these issues, though handsets based on these platforms won’t hit en masse until 2011. If PC vendors want to see meaningful smartphone sales, they need to expand beyond their familiar relationship with Microsoft and consider Android as their primary alternative. Dell has recently re-focused on Android to have a better shot at being consumer-relevant in the broad global market. This focus is necessary to allow PC vendors to concentrate on building the resources and relationships for content and services that are so critical in the mobile world. -Alex Spektor

February 10, 2010 17:02 Alex Spektor
When Apple launched the iPhone, it was the first PC maker to successfully cross the threshold into the handset space – a largely unfamiliar territory, dominated by veteran players and guarded by all-powerful carriers. Eyeing their rival’s success and fueled by early accomplishments in the emerging netbook segment, PC vendors have recently ramped up their interest in the smartphone space. So, is another rising star on the horizon?
  • HP was making Windows Mobile-powered PDA-phones under its iPAQ brand more than five years ago, and it continues to make iPAQ smartphones today. HP has been successful with iPAQ in the enterprise, where they can subsidize the device to their customers on lucrative services contracts. The iPAQ Glisten, a late-2009 release, looks fine in terms of specs, but is largely indistinguishable to consumers in the sea of WinMo QWERTY candybars.
  • clip_image002Asus, like HP, has been making WinMo phones for some time. Unlike HP, though, Asus tried to “think outside the box,” and recently teamed up with navigation giant Garmin. The pair put out the Linux-powered Nüvifone G60, which has been available via AT&T since early Q4 2009. But the device has been a disappointment, and we found that a poor user experience was one of the reasons for the weak sales.
  • Acer, who also launched about half a dozen WinMo phones in 2009, recently released the Android-powered Liquid smartphone. The Liquid’s Q1 2010 volume expectation is around one quarter of a million units, driven by quality hardware (Snapdragon, 3.5” display) at a reasonable price.
  • Dell, who previously played in the PDA space with WinMo-powered Axim devices, revealed the Android-powered Mini 3 smartphone, launched in China in late 2009 and due for release with AT&T sometime in the first half of 2010, just in time to boost the carrier’s portfolio after its pending iPhone exclusivity loss.
Let’s recall what has made the iPhone so successful: user experience, apps, industrial design, marketing, distribution, hype … the list goes on. Each of these factors has supported the others to propel the iPhone to stardom. The iPhone was a game-changer, and to repeat what Apple has done would be a feat. Given what it takes to be a star, can other PC makers still succeed in the consumer smartphone space? To be continued -Alex Spektor

February 2, 2010 19:02 cambrosio
In a recent meeting I attended, Henry Ford’s quote was used to remind us that consumers are rarely the source of innovation. I would suggest that this maxim also applies to the philosophy of mobile technology professionals developing new, emerging devices. The wireless industry is still driven by the engineering-driven belief that giving users “faster horses” (read mobile broadband) will be the fundamental driver of future non-traditional devices.   To be fair, we should note that early efforts are progressing - the Amazon Kindle ignited e-book developments; rabid press coverage of the Apple iPad continues; recently, even AT&T reported that it had added 1 million new “emerging” devices in Q4 2009.  Hold your horses, though – the future appears bright for e-books, but the iPad is largely unproven and pricey. At AT&T, the majority of these are sensors adding little incremental revenue, a sign that AT&T and Jasper are making progress and less a sign of consumer device innovation. During 2010 we will continue to hear many companies heralding their new emerging devices as “innovative” offerings that will drive consumer wireless penetration into the stratosphere.So how can device OEMs define emerging device innovation? The worrisome truth is that they will have to go far beyond their staple expertise in industrial design. While this will continue to be important, I would offer a framework including five important elements of innovative emerging devices (which we'll dissect in more detail in coming weeks): 1)      Branding – Innovative device brands will partner with compelling service, content, or application brands to dominate headlines and also realized profits; 2)      Use Case - Emerging devices designed or optimized for one or a select few applications as the “primary” use will be easily understood by consumers, and more easily valued for service delivery by operators; 3)      The user experience – The UX will continue to be the most important factor driving innovative emerging devices. This will be the most formidable hurdle for traditional OEMs; 4)      The wireless business model - A transparent business model where the wireless costs are embedded in the device price will ultimately be the most consumer friendly option; 5)     Distribution - Big brands will innovate by leverage existing resources and strong consumer awareness, directly and via partnerships with content and service players, to drive sell-through in traditional and online consumer channels. Chris Ambrosio

February 1, 2010 19:02 nmawston

February is here. And that can only mean one thing: Mobile World Congress (MWC). The world's largest wireless trade show takes place in Barcelona, Spain, from Sunday 14th to Thursday 18th. In between eating, drinking and sitting in the sun, I might even do a little work. Which handset players will be important and who should I go visit?

Nokia is a good place to start. Nokia will stage an off-site event called Connecting People. Connecting People is its longstanding theme to connect people and places with devices and contextual services. Nokia will no doubt unveil a new handset model or two, but we don’t expect anything seismic because Nokia will not want its products to get overshadowed by the noise of MWC.

Samsung will be about Bada, the vendor’s new platform which sits on top of a proprietary or Linux kernel. We recommend demoing its new Bada phone, to see if it matches up with Android, Apple and Symbian devices for usability and richness.

LG, like Samsung, will have a big stand at the show. LG is keen to reposition as a credible smartphone player for 2010 and there will be heavy promotion of its Android and Microsoft portfolios. LG is expanding (belatedly) into content and there should be a display of its 3-Screen 3-Way Sync converged-application service for smartphones, netbooks and TVs.

Qualcomm will be found in several smartphones and smartbooks using its high-speed 1GHz Snapdragon processor. The chipmaker will show its roadmap for the next wave of 1.3GHz (8X50A) and 1.5GHz (8X72) Snapdragons, available for commercial launches of devices over the next 6 to 18 months.

The much-hyped Google Android HTC Nexus One will be on show. However, the handset will be of less interest than the business model. I’ll do some discreet research and see if we can get more color on Google’s underlying plans for its direct-to-consumer online distribution strategy.

We will see a few HSPA+ and LTE demos this year. The dongle players, such as Huawei and ZTE, should have such devices on their stands. This will be a double opportunity to see how next-generation technologies are progressing, while examining how the emerging Chinese brands are performing.

That is a partial snapshot of who I will be visiting. How about you? Let me know by clicking on the Comments link.


January 6, 2010 14:01 nmawston

The Google HTC Nexus One smartphone with Android 2.1 was unveiled in the US on Tuesday 5 January, 2010. It will initially ship in the US, UK, Germany, Hong Kong and Singapore. The HSUPA handset ticks most of the right technology boxes, including a 4-inch touchscreen, multi-tasking and a powerful 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor. The phone has a handy voice-recognition feature, which can be used for controlling text fields, and it will be a key differentiator. A user can quickly write SMS and email messages simply by speaking to the handset. Only time will tell just how accurate and reliable the voice-control solution actually is. Why has Google gotten into the handset business? Google wants to champion a flagship user-experience and limit fragmentation for Android, while simultaneously driving up its global user-base for future mobile advertising revenues.


Exhibit 1: Google Nexus One


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Some downsides: first, the Nexus One lacks a hard QWERTY and multi-touch, which may be an issue for some segments. Second, the handset's style and design are a little ho-hum and me-too. Third, the retail pricing, at US$179 postpaid and US$529 prepaid unlocked, is not as competitive as some might have expected from a company that is often associated with super-low-cost business models. And fourth, the Nexus One is initially being launched with T Mobile, which may lack the marketing clout of its bigger US rivals such as AT&T.

An interesting development is the opening of a Google-hosted online store, at www.google.com/phone, which will offer an online retail channel through which consumers in the US can buy a prepaid or postpaid Nexus One. A customer must register on the site (useful for Google to control the end-user), choose a phone model, pick a data-plan from T Mobile, then Google will deliver the phone directly to their home. In effect, Google has become a handset distributor and retailer. This is unchartered territory, and it remains to be seen whether Google can compete effectively with the likes of Apple and Amazon. The announcement is certainly good news for the online handset distribution industry. Online handset distribution, via firms such as Amazon, currently accounts for 1 in 12 of all shipments worldwide. With Google's huge marketing clout and its heavily visited PC search engine, online handset distribution is going to see a major uplift in activity this year. Google just made online distribution a hotter topic for 2010.