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 The Bluetooth SIG’s example is an outdated scenario, where a PC controls a supposedly Bluetooth-capable VCR.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
sa photo dk

 

 

 

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.


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.

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


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

May 7, 2010 17:05 nmawston

The big two Chinese vendors, Huawei and ZTE, have initially focused their handset activities on emerging markets, such as ChIndia, Africa and Latin America. Enabled by MediaTek, Qualcomm and Via chipsets, the two handset brands have achieved solid shipment growth in GSM and CDMA since 2007. Both vendors will ship tens of millions of units in emerging markets this year, mostly for low-end prepaid users, giving them a base for scale and buying power. This is phase 1.

Phase 2 of their growth targets mature regions, such as Western Europe and the US. ZTE and Huawei are using their success in emerging markets as a springboard to attack developed markets. The Chinese rightly believe carriers are king in developed countries, and they are quietly partnering with a growing number of the biggest players to deliver carrier-branded hardware. Vodafone recently unveiled 8 new Vodafone-branded models across low-, mid- and high-tiers for its European markets, 6 of which are manufactured by ZTE and Huawei. For example, the Vodafone 845 3G touch-smartphone with Android 2.1 is built by Huawei. The Vodafone 547 EDGE touchphone is made by ZTE. In the US, Huawei made the popular mid-tier Tap touchphone for T Mobile. Carriers like the cost-competitiveness and flexible customization offered by the Chinese brands, and they are useful alternatives to the European, American and Asian vendors such as HTC.

Phase 3 will eventually require a more-complex five-pronged strategy to defend against existing or potential new competitors in the operator-branded handset industry such as Sagem or  Foxconn. Huawei and ZTE will need to upgrade their companies’ competences in:

1. branding;

2. industrial design;

3. portfolio management for build-to-plan products;

4. software usability;

5. content and services.

For now, both Chinese vendors are happy to provide 3G handsets mostly as a delivery tool for operator services. For example, the Vodafone 845 from Huawei is optimized for Vodafone 360 services. But ZTE and Huawei will arguably struggle to sustainably differentiate their own brands on pricing and hardware alone. Developing a software and services (S&S) strategy beyond hardware will therefore become an important value-add for Chinese vendors to attract and retain affluent users in mature regions. An S&S strategy will subsequently open up opportunities for Chinese services brands to partner with ZTE and Huawei to showcase their products in new markets abroad. We have a Google phone and a Microsoft phone; how about a Baidu phone?


April 29, 2010 06:04 tkang
Apple’s profit hit a spectacular 30% operating profit margin and this is probably one of the highest levels a hardware manufacturer has ever or will ever achieve. We’ve seen these ratios in the services and software industries but not in hardware. Below are Apple’s operating profit margins by quarter. Q1.2009 : 26% Q2.2009 : 27% Q3, Q4.2009, Q1.2010 : 30% (Revenues are growing 20~40% year on year) How did Apple pull this off and how can this be getting better every quarter now? Apple is an innovation company and they concentrate on delivering high quality products. This is the case of the Mac PC and many other products. The big disconnect is the price of these machines, they are good quality products but they also come with a high price tag which is a big obstacle for consumers. Without huge volumes there is less scale of economy and the cost can’t be driven down. But when it comes to mobile handsets there’s a different factor called operator subsidies. This is where the magic starts for Apple. The typical handset in the US cost about $150 in wholesale price and with the typical $50~$150 subsidy the handset was sold to end-users at about $90. The most expensive phones were around $350 at the time and these were sold at $199. Apple first introduced its iPhone at this price range but gradually raised the price of each new device. With the help of operator subsidy, the iPhone could be continuously sold at an acceptable price: $99~$199. As the iPhone broke the ceiling price of high end phones each year, operator subsidies increased. Apple is enjoying the fact they can deliver products with superior quality to more people at a moderate price point, at the expense of some one else. They didn’t have to push the price down to create demand. They even did the opposite: raise (wholesale) price, improve quality, increase profit. If your local car dealer starts giving away BMW 7 series at the price of a Honda, it’s hard to resist. Of course you have to buy gas at the designated gas station for the next 2 or 3 years but I’d do it. Steve Jobs said in 2004: “Apple's market share is bigger than BMW's or Mercedes' or Porsche's in the automotive market. What's wrong with being BMW or Mercedes”? Steve Jobs must be very happy now. He has finally found a way to sell his BMW like a Toyota or Ford without comprising quality, (wholesale) price, or even any profit. “Our belief was that if we kept putting great products in front of customers, they would continue to open their wallets.” - Steve Jobs, 2003Congratulations Mr. Jobs you’ve proven yourself right but you wouldn’t have made it without the operator subsidies.(Related report: Is Apple iPhone a Panacea for Operators? )

April 29, 2010 06:04 tkang
Apple’s profit hit a spectacular 30% operating profit margin and this is probably one of the highest levels a hardware manufacturer has ever or will ever achieve. We’ve seen these ratios in the services and software industries but not in hardware. Below are Apple’s operating profit margins by quarter. Q1.2009 : 26% Q2.2009 : 27% Q3, Q4.2009, Q1.2010 : 30% (Revenues are growing 20~40% year on year) How did Apple pull this off and how can this be getting better every quarter now? Apple is an innovation company and they concentrate on delivering high quality products. This is the case of the Mac PC and many other products. The big disconnect is the price of these machines, they are good quality products but they also come with a high price tag which is a big obstacle for consumers. Without huge volumes there is less scale of economy and the cost can’t be driven down. But when it comes to mobile handsets there’s a different factor called operator subsidies. This is where the magic starts for Apple. The typical handset in the US cost about $150 in wholesale price and with the typical $50~$150 subsidy the handset was sold to end-users at about $90. The most expensive phones were around $350 at the time and these were sold at $199. Apple first introduced its iPhone at this price range but gradually raised the price of each new device. With the help of operator subsidy, the iPhone could be continuously sold at an acceptable price: $99~$199. As the iPhone broke the ceiling price of high end phones each year, operator subsidies increased. Apple is enjoying the fact they can deliver products with superior quality to more people at a moderate price point, at the expense of some one else. They didn’t have to push the price down to create demand. They even did the opposite: raise (wholesale) price, improve quality, increase profit. If your local car dealer starts giving away BMW 7 series at the price of a Honda, it’s hard to resist. Of course you have to buy gas at the designated gas station for the next 2 or 3 years but I’d do it. Steve Jobs said in 2004: “Apple's market share is bigger than BMW's or Mercedes' or Porsche's in the automotive market. What's wrong with being BMW or Mercedes”? Steve Jobs must be very happy now. He has finally found a way to sell his BMW like a Toyota or Ford without comprising quality, (wholesale) price, or even any profit. “Our belief was that if we kept putting great products in front of customers, they would continue to open their wallets.” - Steve Jobs, 2003Congratulations Mr. Jobs you’ve proven yourself right but you wouldn’t have made it without the operator subsidies.(Related report: Is Apple iPhone a Panacea for Operators? )

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