Thursday, October 15, 2009

Smartphone capability tracker 3Q08–2Q09: key platforms in transition

Tim Renowden, Analyst, Ovum

UK: The most immediate point of interest in this quarter’s tracker is the decrease in the total number of handsets launched during the rolling 12-month tracking period. Accounting for the seasonality of the handset market, we counted just 13 new models launched during 2Q09, compared with 26 for the same period in 2008.

Fewer models in this tracker as manufacturers undergo a transition
The most immediate point of interest in this quarter’s tracker is the decrease in the total number of handsets launched during the rolling 12-month tracking period. Accounting for the seasonality of the handset market, we counted just 13 new models launched during 2Q09, compared with 26 for the same period in 2008.

This is counterintuitive given the increased prominence of smartphones and the growth in smartphone shipments, but much of that growth has come from manufacturers such as Apple and RIM, which have relatively few models on the market at a given time. The big declines in number of models have been on the Symbian and Windows Mobile platforms.

There are two key reasons for the reduced number of Windows Mobile handsets (from 40 to 33) in this version of the tracker: firstly, several vendors have held off launching new models until the arrival of Windows Mobile 6.5 in October; and secondly, certain key Windows Mobile vendors are shifting their focus towards Android handsets, which have taken time to bring to market (HTC, Motorola, LG, Samsung and Acer all fall into this group). Motorola did not launch any new Windows Mobile devices in 2Q09 as it continues consolidating its smartphone business around Android.

The reason for the decline in the number of Symbian handsets launched is less obvious: Nokia launched three new handsets in 2Q09, compared with six in 2Q08. Nokia is still shipping Symbian devices in high volumes across a range of form factors and price points, but seems to be consolidating its smartphone portfolio around fewer individual models and replacing older handsets more slowly. However, it is too early to draw strong inferences here -– the picture will become clearer in future trackers.

GPS and Wi-Fi are now ubiquitous on new smartphones
The proportion of handsets with GPS rose from 77 percent in the last tracker to 87 percent in this revision. In fact, every new smartphone launched in 2Q09 featured GPS, indicating that this is now a standard feature even on mid-range smartphone models. Wi-Fi is seeing a similar trend, rising from 64 percent to 82 percent penetration and with all new models supporting it.

Mobile RIA frameworks need a boost, and Flash 10.1 may be it
There has been no significant change in the penetration of any RIA frameworks presented in the tracker. The announcement last week that Adobe is preparing versions of Flash 10.1 for all key smartphone platforms except the iPhone (Symbian, Windows Mobile, Android, Web OS and BlackBerry) will improve the situation, but it will take some time for handset manufacturers and platform owners to implement the technology on new devices (such as integrating Flash into browsers).

Full support for Flash is an important milestone in bringing rich web experiences to mobile devices, but widespread adoption of Flash 10.1 will rely on more powerful processors based on Qualcomm’s Cortex A8 and A9 architectures, or chipsets with dedicated hardware graphics acceleration (such as NVIDIA’s Tegra and TI’s OMAP4 platforms). Cortex A8 is already available in devices (three models launched in 2Q09), and Cortex A9 handsets will appear in the first half of 2010

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