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Handset makers take catch-all approach to smartphones

19 июня 2009

Competition in the smartphone space is intensifying as the segment remains a rare growth spot in the handset industry even amid a global economic downturn.

A slew of cellphone makers are showcasing their latest smartphone line-up at the CommunicAsia conference in Singapore this week. But even as the industry incumbents such as Nokia Corp., Samsung Electronics Co. and LG Electronics Inc. churn out new products for the category, they say it's important to maintain a broad portfolio as opposed to pushing a star product aimed directly at Apple Inc.'s iPhone or Palm Inc.'s Pre.

Apple unveiled the iPhone 3G S, a new version of its popular touch-screen device that is faster than the older model and can capture video, in the U.S. on June 8. The Palm Pre, also a touch-screen device but with a slide-out QWERTY keyboard, began selling in the U.S. on June 6.

The emphasis on the smartphone space is not only because of higher margins but also due to the segment's growth potential in the years to come.

Research firm Ovum forecasts smartphone shipments this year to grow 23% to 171.9 million units compared with a 9.1% overall decline for the global handset market. It expects smartphones to account for 15% of the total handset sales for the year. The firm also expects smartphones to account for 29% of the global market by 2014.

"Smartphone is really a growing market generally," Hong Won-pyo, executive vice president of Samsung Electronics' global product strategy mobile communication division, told reporters earlier this week."So we certainly recognize our big opportunity in that particular segment."

On Tuesday, Samsung showcased four new models for its "Omnia" smartphone series, two of which featured physical QWERTY keyboards at CommunicAsia. Two of these four models also feature an AMOLED screen, a technology Samsung believes will give it an edge in the market with its thinner display, clearer images and reduced power consumption.

LG Electronics' Vice President of Marketing Strategy for Mobile Communications Chang Ma said in an interview that growth in the smartphone segment is considerably faster than other parts of the market. Balanced Portfolio Remains Key For Handset Makers

While Apple made a big splash with the iPhone 3G S, Macquarie said in a report that the device is not a "revolutionary product" and that Asian vendors can counter the device with a "more diversified portfolio and an operator-friendly business model."

Samsung and LG said they do not feel the need to react to individual products. Instead, they will continue to produce a wide range of phones to address different needs and will not slash prices for the sake of volume.

"For a company like LG...we have to consider how we're going to broadly appeal and there should not be any missing point in covering the market," LG's Ma said.

LG showcased the GM730 smartphone at CommunicAsia on Tuesday, which comes with a 3-inch touchscreen and a five-megapixel camera and will begin selling in July. The company also said it will launch three devices powered by Google Inc.'s Android operating system in the late third quarter or the fourth quarter.

Nokia Vice President of Sales for Southeast Asia Pacific Chris Carr told Dow Jones Newswires in an interview that he has seen differing form factor preferences from consumers, necessitating a multi-product approach.

He said some countries show a clear preference for a physical QWERTY keyboard while others want a touchscreen because the QWERTY keyboard doesn't work well with their language.

Nokia launched the E72 smartphone on Monday, which comes with a physical QWERTY keyboard and a five-megapixel camera. The device is expected to start shipping late third quarter of 2009.

But LG's Ma warned that the industry needs to be conscious on improving the efficiency in production and development in this relatively nascent product category.

"If the benefit (of the smartphones compared with other phones) is bigger, then we can charge more to the consumer, but if it's not then we have to severely worry about the cost increasing factors of the smartphone," he said."It's a higher cost structure than a regular phone."

Ovum Devices Principal Analyst Adam Leach said in a report that consumers will increasingly make buying decisions based on the vendor managing their data and services on the device instead of the device's technical capabilities.

"The ability to deliver a tightly integrated end-to-end service proposition including content and applications directly to consumers was pioneered by Apple," he said."However, the adoption of the (managed device platforms) model by Nokia, Google, Microsoft, Sony and other major vendors will drive the adoption of smartphones."


Источник: Total Telecom

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