Mobile World Congress round-up

Mobile World Congress round-up

Despite the cold and rain, there is a cautious optimism in the air at this year's Mobile World Congress, with over 49,000 people attending. But while there is plenty of interest on show, no one has unveiled a game changing device or strategy.

For handset manufacturers, the marketing emphasis has shifted to the quality of the end user experience. It's now about who provides the best user interface and services to give the consumer the information they want quickly and easily.

The other key differentiator is the speed with which the device can perform a task and how well it is displayed. Processing power and better screen technology is the name of the game here. The other notable handset development is the arrival of entry-level smartphones targeting the budget conscious consumer.

As smartphones get wider distribution, the choice of operating system is becoming increasingly important. Manufacturers need to choose the platforms and install the right user interfaces to entice customers to their brands. But they also need the right apps and, as developers can only afford to support a limited number of platforms - they are being much courted.


The world number one keeps its head down

Nokia is continuing its drive into the services sector in a bid to catch up with rivals Microsoft, Apple and Google.

There are signs the world's largest mobile phone manufacturer is finally getting its house in order. Strategy Analytics reports Nokia ending the year with a 38.1% share of the market and selling 431.8 million phones in 2009. But it is not out of the woods by a long mark, with handset sales still down 36.6 million on the previous year.

Its low key presence at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona drew contrasting responses from industry analysts. John Strand of Strand Consult says Nokia's lack of new products is 'embarrassing'. He adds: 'There is nothing wrong with Nokia's strategy.

They have understood the only way to beat Microsoft, Google and Apple is to do it through volume - get the platform to more devices.

'However, they have not realised that it's not about getting on many platforms, it's about making something the consumer likes. Bees don't head for the biggest garden; they head for the most beautiful flowers.'

Ben Wood of CCS Insight takes an opposing view. He says: 'Nokia is still in the regeneration phase of its restructuring with a very clear understanding of its shortcomings and it is still busy working away at fixing those problems; therefore, it has nothing to announce right now.'

Wood is confident the manufacturer will announce a host of new phones as part of its more targeted handset strategy. Wood predicts Nokia will come back strongly into the devices market later this year with a new flagship device running on Nokia's open platform Symbian 3, along with a welter of touch and QWERTY devices.

Wood says: 'They know they need to catch up with the Koreans in getting into that space of the poor man's smartphone. Nokia is by no means out of the game and does not need to prove itself at a trade congress.'

Nokia has announced a link-up with Intel to produce the MeeGo OS. Tim Shepherd, analyst at Canalys, says: 'It is clear Nokia is looking to use MeeGo at the top end of its portfolio, which is a very innovative feature, and use Symbian to drive the smartphone down into the portfolio, expanding its breadth.'

Samsung rides the Bada wave with 'smartphones for everyone'

Samsung has hit the ground running in 2010, launching its first Bada-enabled phone - the Wave S8500. It has announced its intention of becoming the fourth largest smartphone manufacturer in the world by the end of this year, knocking HTC into fifth place.

But its ambitions can only be realised if Samsung's Bada platform is accepted by developers. Ben Wood, analyst at CCS Insight, says: 'Samsung want to establish a bigger presence in the smartphone market and believes Bada is the vehicle to get them there, but they have a lot of convincing to do in the applications community and they have started behind rivals.'

However, Samsung has not put all its eggs in one Bada basket. Industry experts say its heavy promotion of its Bada phone portfolio at Mobile World Congress masked plans to launch a host of Android phones this year across all price ranges. 'Smartphones for everyone', is its motto.

Wood adds: 'We think they have many Android phones in development but they have not revealed those plans for fear of deflecting attention from its major promotion of Bada and the Wave.'

The company says it will be making its biggest marketing spend ever this year. In the UK, it has the channels and the retail relationships, which put it further down the road than rival HTC, for example.

HTC plans biggest marketing spend with four devices out in April

HTC has attracted a warm response from industry pundits after unveiling four new phones at MWC, all of which are due out on 1 April in the UK. It has revealed two Android 2.1 devices, the Legend (exclusive to Vodafone so far) and the Desire, the Smart (exclusive to O2) powered by Qualcomm's Brew Platform and the HD Mini on Mobile Windows 6.5.

HTC's phones have a good reputation for quality, but in the UK there is still a relatively low awareness of the brand among consumers. It needs to boost the profile of its brand with the public and further develop its retailer relationships to get them to enthuse about its products.

Jon French, HTC's executive director UK & Ireland, tellsMobile that the manufacturer is planning its biggest ever marketing spend with the Desire, which will be available from all operators and retailers, taking a big chunk of that. Despite this, it faces tough opposition from the likes of Samsung, which is more established in the UK and arguably has deeper pockets. That said, while Samsung is number two in the world for handset sales, HTC is ahead of Samsung in terms of smartphones sales and that might give it the edge.


The manufacturer has also announced at MWC that it will be bringing out Microsoft Windows Phone 7 Series devices later in 2010.

Sony Ericsson

Around 20 devices planned for 2010

Unlike some of its competitors, Sony Ericsson is a strong presence at MWC. It has unveiled five key handsets to be launched in the first half of 2010: three Android devices; the Xperia X10, X10 Mini and X10 Mini Pro; and two Symbian products, Vivaz and Vivaz Pro.

The manufacturer is seeking to differentiate itself through its proprietary OSE operating system and its signature communication and entertainment apps, Timescape and Mediascape.

The five handsets will be aimed at the mid to high-end contract range and will take up a bulk of Sony Ericsson's marketing budget. A further 14 to 16 devices are planned for the second half of the year. These will include products in the Walkman range and will be geared towards the prepay market.

Sony Ericsson's strategy this year is to cut the number of devices it releases and align itself more strongly with products from its Sony co-parent. With a narrower, more focused portfolio it is looking to range it

Written by Mobile Today
Mobile Today


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