The prepay 3G iPhone and mobile broadband are set to be the big hitters this Christmas as the industry starts finalising its plans.
The fourth quarter always produces a spike in sales for operators, manufacturers and retailers, with an additional 750,000 prepay, contract and Sim-free devices sold in December 2007 compared with November and January.
The big products lined up for this Christmas include the prepay 3G iPhone, a dongle from Virgin Mobile and new laptops from Phones 4u and Carphone Warehouse.
One senior manufacturer source said: ‘Everyone is making their commitments, finishing their ranges, signing terms and conditions, and trying to agree price points. Most will have their Christmas plans finalised within the next week or so.
‘Typically, Q4 sees products launched with slight variations, such as new colours. Last year a lot of new-borns were launched, in Q4. The same will happen this year.’
The biggest gains are traditionally made in prepay sales; by the end of the fourth quarter of 2007, Vodafone, T-Mobile, O2 and Orange added a total of 715,000 prepay customers to their networks – twice the number of prepay customers they added during the third quarter of 2007.
O2’s proposed Christmas launch for the prepay version of the 3G iPhone will ensure that high-spending prepay customers are catered for.
3 has another Skypephone up its sleeve, and the internet-call handset, which looks similar to the original, with a dedicated Skype button in the centre of the device, is anticipated to be aimed at the sub-£100 prepay market.
3 released its first handset dedicated to Skype in October 2007, and the second version is expected to be on shelves at a similar time this year to give it time to bed in before the Christmas rush.
Mobile broadband is expected to be huge in what will be its first mass-market Christmas, with further price reductions expected from the networks.
Virgin Mobile is looking to capitalise on the booming interest in laptops by releasing its own mobile broadband dongle in time for Christmas.
It will also be the first festive period where laptops will be bundled with dongles, and Carphone Warehouse is expected to attract a young laptop audience with its own-brand Webbook, which combines various colour options and a low price tag.
But Carphone will face competition from operators, as 3 begins bundling dongles and laptops and is certain to be followed by other players.
Phones 4u will also have a strong range after signing an additional four big-name brands to add to its Fujitsu range.
Festive megapixel race
This Christmas will see manufacturers engage in a megapixel race.
Sony Ericsson’s eight-megapixel camera phone, the C905, has been slated for a Q4 release. The device, which will come with a Xenon flash, auto-focus, smart contrast and image stabiliser, and a 2GB memory stick, will be aimed squarely at the mid-to-high-end contract market.
Samsung showcased the first eight-megapixel device in 2005, and is expected to have a handset released in time for Christmas.
Korean rival LG is also rumoured to have an eight-megapixel device in the pipeline, the KC910, but LG refused to confirm the speculation.
And the internet is rife with talk that Motorola will attempt to recapture some of the success it had with the RAZR, with its own eight-megapixel device, which according to reports has been codenamed ‘Alexander’.