Smartphone market gears up for year-end peak

Monday 3 September 2012 | 17:51 CET | Background

The run-up to the annual peak in mobile phone sales around the year-end holidays has started with the announcement of a slew of new smartphones and tablets at the annual Ifa consumer electronics show in Berlin.

First Windows Phone 8 device unveiled

Mobile devices (again) were one of the star attractions of the show. Apart from Apple, nearly every mobile manufacturer presented new products. Apple’s biggest rival Samsung unexpectedly launched the first phone running Microsoft's Windows Phone 8, the Ativ S, stealing Nokia's thunder. Samsung also unveiled a number of new Android models, including the Galaxy Note 2 with the latest version of the Google OS. 

Nokia is expected to announce next week its own first device running Windows Phone 8, at an event in New York. Rumours also point to more use of its high-end PureView photo technology; to date it's only been offered on one phone, the 808 PureView running the Nokia Belle system. The Finnish company is also reported to be planning two cheaper Windows handsets, including the successor to the Lumia 610, thought to be named Glory.

Nokia may also introduce a tablet, although the company has had little to say on the subject. Nokia's partner Microsoft already announced in June plans for its own Surface tablet running Windows RT/Windows 8, preferring its own hardware to Nokia. Other hardware producers reacted (in public at least) matter-of-fact over Microsoft's strategy, which is highly based on ensuring a large acceptance of Windows (Phone) 8. Samsung's latest setback in its patent dispute with Apple however may provide a small boost for Microsoft. 

Google, which recently acquired Motorola Mobility, adopted a similar strategy to Microsoft with the launch of the Nexus tablet under its own brand, passing up more prominent Android partners such as HTC and Samsung. Motorola meanwhile has said it's also taking a new hardware route, with the planned unveiling later this month of a smartphone running an Intel processor. 

Android still leading the pack

Apple's iOS and Google's Android now account for around 85 percent of all smartphones sold worldwide. In Q2, Android alone took a market share of 68.1 percent, while Samsung was responsible for 44 percent of those Android phones, according to IDC. This puts Samsung ahead of all the seven other Android partners.

During Ifa Sony launched three of its own new Android phones, the Xperia T, Xperia V and Xperia J. This is Sony's first year without Ericsson as a mobile partner, when the Japanese company will need to overcome the mobile handset maker's recent financial problems. Since February Sony has owned all of the mobile phone company.

The Chinese manufacturers Huawei and ZTE also launched new products at Ifa. Huawei came with no less than six new devices, including four Ascend smartphones and two tablets, all running Android. ZTE launched the Grand X IN, its flagship Android 4.0 phone for the European market. ZTE, which recently entered the top five of handset makers worldwide, expects to sell around 40 million smartphones and 1 million tablets this year. Huawei targets 60 million smartphones sold this year. 

The Chinese ambitions stand in stark contrast to Research In Motion. The BlackBerry maker suffered a worse-than-expected loss in the first fiscal quarter of its year and delayed its BlackBerry 10 platform again, to early 2013. RIM aims to attack the market fresh next year with multiple new models. 

HTC showed at Ifa the Desire X, an entry-level smartphone based on Android 4.0. Earlier this year it also launched the HTC One X, S and V models. While these were launched too late to help its results recover in Q2, the company warned it does not expect fantastic results in Q3 either. In April the company already replaced its financial director.

LG announced in August that it has already sold 5 million LTE smartphones worldwide, including 1 million in July alone. The Korean company produces more than ten models for various markets where LTE is available, including South Korea, the US, Japan and a few European countries. The Optimus LTE is the most successful model with 2 million units sold. LG is looking to further expand its Optimus range, based on Android, in Europe. While overall its mobile division has been under pressure, its smartphones are doing better than average. LG aims to sell a total 35 million smartphones this year. 

Apple will not be absent either. The company is expected to launch the fifth version of the iPhone at an event scheduled for 12 September. 

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