The smartphone market has had an interesting start to the year. In the past couple of weeks, Apple’s shares have plummeted, Samsung was declared the number one smartphone manufacturer, BlackBerry revealed it was ditching the name Research In Motion and creating a Super Bowl commercial for its new BlackBerry 10 smartphones, and Nokia recorded its first quarterly profit for 18 months. These announcements reflect a big change to the market, some of which are explored below.
You may have heard that Apple’s share price closed at the lowest in a year just last week. However, this mostly comes down to analyst expectations rather than actual results. Apple was expected to hit $54.88 billion revenue, but only reached $54.50 billion so naturally its share price dropped. The reality is that Apple is still growing but not as fast as analysts had hoped.
Apple’s recent results for its 2013 fiscal first quarter show a 29% increase year on year of iPhones sales – it sold a record 47.8 million iPhones during the quarter. If you look at our Australian InMobi Network Research for the same period, it even shows some of this growth. Between October and December last year Apple served a record 1.48 billion impressions.
Interestingly though, earlier this month the Wall Street Journal reported that Apple had cut component orders for the iPhone 5 due to ‘weaker-than-expected demand’. This isn’t the best news for Apple leading into its next quarter and poses big questions on whether it can maintain its growth rates.
For Apple to stay competitive, it now more than ever needs to release a new smartphone device. We anticipate that Apple will answer this call and release its next version of the iPhone, either an advanced high end handset or a cheaper one to compete with Android’s varying price-points, around June.
Samsung has been driving enormous growth and is now clearly leading the smartphone market. According to the latest IDC report, Samsung sold 63.7 million smartphones in Q4 2012, a manufacturer record for a single quarter. For all of 2012 it sold 215.8 million smartphones, a manufacturer record for the year. This left Samsung with a 30.3% market share in 2012 with its closest competitor, Apple, recording 19.1%.
Samsung is the new market leader for a few reasons; it has a handset for all price-points, it continues to introduce new technologies and its handset life cycle is rapid. In the past year Samsung has released 20 phones to Apple’s one and recently there have been rumours that Samsung’s upcoming Galaxy SIV will feature a new pixel layout offering the highest resolution display yet.
It’s a given that Samsung will continue to push the bounds of smartphone technology and look and feel to keep Apple at bay. As a result of this, we predict that Samsung will double Apple’s market share in the next year.
Newly rebranded BlackBerry (previously Research In Motion) has fallen far behind over the past few years. It has repeatedly delayed releasing a new smartphone and this has cost them dearly. The company’s stock reached a nine-year low in September last year and shipments of BlackBerry phones have dropped from 46% of the market in 2008 to only 2 per cent in 2012, according to IDC. Now BlackBerry’s time has finally come with the company announcing yesterday in New York that it will have one recognisable brand name and that it will be introducing two new BlackBerry 10 smartphones into the market, the Q10 and Z10.
Each device features a revamped operating system and design which bloggers and journalists have so far been quite positive about, but the jury is still out on whether it will be successful or not in bringing BlackBerry back in the game. This is really the last chance for BlackBerry and if the launch doesn’t go well then we may not see them in the smartphone future. To give its marketing campaign every chance of success, BlackBerry has even invested around $4 million in its first-ever Super Bowl commercial. Pinning a company’s future on an expensive 30-second Super Bowl spot is extremely brave but as we have seen it the past it can have a huge impact on sales and sentiment towards brands. However we’re still not convinced it will save BlackBerry.
Nokia’s situation is finally looking up with the company reporting last week that it made a net profit of 202 million euros (AUD $257 million) in Q4 2012, the first quarterly profit it has seen in 18 months. Nokia sold 6.6 million smartphones during this time, including 4.4 million of its flagship Lumina device.
Nokia has had good support from carriers in the past and provided affordable phones, but device costs are coming down across the board so they will need to start looking more towards innovation. Unlike Samsung and Apple which have both focused on developing the smartphone screen, Nokia has been revolutionising other smartphone components, such as wireless charging. It has yet to hit the sweet spot but it needs to keep its rate of innovation up to continue to change sentiment.
Globally, smartphones are becoming the Achilles' heel for mobile manufacturers. With smartphone competition heating up, now is the time for manufacturers to make a move otherwise they will meet their demise.
Francisco Cordero is general manager and regional director of InMobi Australia and New Zealand.
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