Wireless Smartphone Strategies

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

June 11, 2010 18:06 Alex Spektor
Bluetooth profile implementation in handsets is a pretty dry subject. But with Bluetooth capability available in six out of every ten handsets sold worldwide this year, the subject is an important one for product planners. clip_image002Even the savviest consumers likely only know to look for a few key profiles when buying a phone. A2DP is one that has received some attention, as it allow the delivery of stereo music to Bluetooth headphones or Bluetooth-capable vehicles. According to our latest forecast, A2DP support will be found in three-quarters of all Bluetooth phones sold this year. Another profile, AVRCP, was designed to allow Bluetooth devices to remotely control each other. The Bluetooth SIG’s example is an outdated scenario, where a PC controls a supposedly Bluetooth-capable VCR. However, where AVRCP really shines is as a companion to A2DP. A common usage scenario is in the vehicle, where a consumer can listen to music through the speakers (A2DP) and change tracks via the car’s controls (AVRCP). I can say from personal experience that at least one user was delighted to learn that he could advance tracks streaming to his BlackBerry’s Pandora client via the car’s steering wheel. The potential impact on stickiness is quite powerful when a handset feature can delight a user. PBAP is a profile that still has fairly low penetration around the globe (the highest is in Western Europe, by the way), but it will experience strong growth in the coming years. The profile allows the transfer of phonebook data to other devices (e.g., to an in-vehicle display). Carmakers, such as BMW, Ford, and Nissan, are increasingly supporting PBAP in their vehicles, and this trend should give long-term uplift to the profile’s penetration in handsets. Not all profile implementations were “created equal,” however, and simply having a profile does not necessarily mean that it will work as expected. Apple, for example, supports AVRCP on its iPhone, but it does not support audio track advancement, which is surprising for such a media-capable device. The inconsistency of implementation among vendors can be a disappointment and a point of frustration to users. The lack of consumer awareness of Bluetooth profiles and their benefits remains an issue for the technology, largely because of cryptic, unmarketable names. Perhaps key industry players could rally toward using more intuitive names (e.g., “In-Car Audio Control”) to help illustrate use cases and engage consumers. Ultimately, we expect handset vendors to prioritize the profiles that drive stickiness and can be directly associated with carrier ARPU. This can mean simply enabling in-vehicle calling with profiles like HFP or even, ultimately, helping to link the phone to a multi-platform connected device framework. Bluetooth Phone Sales by Profile -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.


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