HTC has reported a 98% drop in profits, leaving the top market tier to be dominated by Samsung androids and Apple iPhones
The divergent fortunes within the $200bn (£130bn) global smartphone market were laid bare this week when Taiwan’s HTC reported a 98% slump in profits, confirming Samsung and Apple’s seemingly unassailable lead over their rivals.
In 2010, HTC was the world’s biggest maker of smartphones that used Google’s Android operating system. Now it has joined two other former titans, Nokia and BlackBerry, in a desperate search for profit and growth.
As HTC reported a slump in first-quarter profits to £0.9m, Samsung Electronics, the world’s largest maker of mobile phones and smartphones, was basking in a forecast that its quarterly operating profit would be around 8.7trn (£5bn).
The market is splitting into three tiers that allow only for high-end products in developed markets, a bevy of barely profitable products in the middle, and a hugely competitive low-cost segment in developing markets such as China.
In the last quarter of 2012, the last period for which figures are available, Apple and Samsung together shipped 111.5m smartphones, according to researcher IDC. That’s more than 50% of a market that has tripled in volume over that time – and compares to a combined share of less than 20% back in the second quarter of 2010, when the once mighty Nokia had 37%.
The plight of HTC is even more stark when its market position is viewed through the prism of Google’s Android software. Android is the leading operating system thanks to Samsung, beating Apple’s iOS system and Microsoft’s Windows Phone, which is used by Nokia. If consumers are flocking to Android phones, they are choosing Samsung and not HTC.
Benedict Evans, technology and telecoms analyst at Enders Analysis, calls the Android smartphone market “Samsung and the seven dwarves” – a reference to the 1960s when IBM dominated the mainframe market, and its seven rivals fought for scraps. The modern equivalents are China’s Huawei, Lenovo and ZTE, Korea’s LG, Japan’s Sony, the now Google-owned Motorola, and HTC.
But Steve Brazier, chief executive of the research company Canalys, thinks that the HTC One phone, launched in February, offers a way back. “The HTC One is hot,” he said. “The problem is it’s not really shipping yet, which is why their first-quarter figures were bad. The product was delayed.” Nonetheless, it faces a significant challenge from the Samsung Galaxy S4 phones, which also hits retailers’ shelves this month.
Brazier adds that there is hope too for the other also-rans. For BlackBerry, he thinks it first needs to calm its US government clients, who have been eyeing the iPhone as an alternative. For Nokia, the solution is easier said than done: “It needs something radically different from what’s out there.”
HTC, BlackBerry and Nokia are fighting against a rapid decline. Since 2010, they have been squashed down from an aggregate market share of 61% to barely 10%. Now, none has more than 4% of the market. Samsung is at the top with 29%, ahead of Apple with nearly 22%.
HTC’s problems sum up the difficulties that competitors face when they are trying to overcome two players that dominate half the market. The One was delayed because, reports say, it couldn’t get enough cameras at the required specification to satisfy its needs.
Brazier said: “The big issue in the smartphone business is that Samsung and Apple are cornering the supply chain, so HTC can’t get ‘tier-one’ components.”
To be tier one you have to order in large enough volumes to demand quality and timeliness along with price discounts. Once you slip from that position, it’s hard to recover it.
A decade ago, Apple cornered the markets in small hard drives and then solid-state storage to build its iPod, and then iPod nano, and dominate the music player market. Now it uses its growing cash pile to hire factories and production well ahead of time – locking rivals out. “HTC has a real scale problem,” says Evans, the Enders analyst. “It’s a problem that Nokia is starting to face as well. It’s a problem of the reach and power that Apple and Samsung can bring to the market.”
Samsung, meanwhile, is completely vertically integrated, owning the factories that make everything from the memory chips to the screens, and writing its own apps and code to go on the only element of its smartphones that it doesn’t make – Google’s Android operating system. And even that is free. Buoyed by colossal advertising and marketing spend which dwarfs even the likes of Coca-Cola, and with worldwide distribution, it is determined to control the mobile phone market. It aims to ship 500m smartphones this year, more than the whole market in 2011.
Analysts argue that Apple needs to do something radical too to catch the growth in emerging markets as the west becomes saturated. A low-cost iPhone is widely expected. That could consolidate the Apple-Samsung duopoly more firmly.
Even, so Brazier thinks things can turn around. “The smartphone business is very dynamic. I don’t think it’s played out. HTC could bounce back.”
Does he think that bounceback will happen by the end of the year? He paused. “Well, no,” he said.
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Mobile trade show shows remote-controlled homes and glove-friendly touch screens among latest gadgets hitting the market
In the days before smartphones attracted the sort of media attention that previously only attached itself to film premieres and Hollywood stars, the annual Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona used to be the place to launch a new phone.
All that has changed, but the Barcelona show remains a favourite place to spot the coming technology trends. In a complex so large that travelator conveyor belts were installed to ferry visitors between the exhibition halls, the multitude of new gadgets on display can be bewildering. Cut through the noise and a few bright ideas emerge. Here are six of the best – and here are some of the best:
Whether they are left outside in the rain, put through the washing machine or dropped down the toilet, many phones meet soggy ends. Given that water damage is one of the most common reasons for mobile insurance claims, surprisingly few smartphones are sold as water resistant. That could be about to change. Motorola and Alcatel One Touch are manufacturing waterproof phones with the help of P2i – a business established to commercialise technologies developed by the UK government’s defence science & technology laboratory. In the US, phone owners are doing it themselves for $60 (£40). Liquipel installs booths in phone shops that use a vacuum chamber, gas and a bit of heat to coat the inside and outside of a phone with a protective layer 1,000 times thinner than a human hair.
With intelligent fridges, robot hover-vacuum cleaners and carpets that come complete with computer chips in the tufts send out a signal saying when they need cleaning, the remote-control home is beginning to move out of the realm of science fiction. The smartphone should soon allow us to remotely lock the front door, feed the pets while on holiday and check what food is in the fridge while at work. But the technology is not quite tiptop yet: LG’s flying saucer-shaped vacuum cleaner is more entertaining than it is functional, and there is no robot monitoring the contents of its smart fridge – a list still has to be laboriously updated by hand.
Glove-friendly touch screens
Answering a call or using a phone map outside on a cold winter’s day need no longer mean the hassle of removing gloves -or the purchase of touchscreen compatible mittens. Huawei’s flagship Ascend P2, launched this week, and Nokia’s Lumia 920 are both responsive to fabric as well as skin. Prodding the Huawei handset with an index finger covered by thick coat fabric proved this was not an empty claim – but begloved text typing probably remains a pipe dream for now.
3D printed phone cases
Described as the closest thing to teleportation, the most sophisticated 3D printers can copy an object in one location and reproduce it millimetre for millimetre in another.
These costly machines are rarely spotted outside design studios, but a company called Makerbot.com has made scaled-down versions designed for the home.
Nokia is using them to let customers design personalised phone cases. The material being used is a corn-based plastic that is also biodegradable. Those who don’t want to buy a 3D printer can select their case colour, texture and inscriptions online and have the finished product sent in the post.
Voice-controlled car radio
Shouting at the radio could soon be normal behaviour. Ford has teamed up with the world’s largest music-streaming library, Spotify, to create a voice-controlled radio for the car. The technology connects the phone to the dashboard and is activated by a button on the steering wheel. So far it only works with the iPhone and in one Ford model, but that could change if the idea catches on.
With Apple and Samsung selling most of the world’s expensive phones, Nokia’s flagship models have struggled to attract buyers. This year, it has set its sights firmly at the budget end of the market, but with phones that have many of the features found higher up the food chain.
Nokia used the Mobile World Congress to launch the €139 (£120) Lumia 520, which goes on sale in Europe in the second quarter of this year. There is just one camera, which is rear facing so no video Skype calls, but it does come with Nokia’s highly rated maps, which give spoken directions just like a satnav. For under £100, a panoply of Android handsets are now available too, which Google claims offer the full smartphone experience.
Alternative operating systems
Anyone wanting to buy a high-end smartphone is already spoilt for choice, with Apple Google Microsoft and Blackberry already promoting their own interfaces with matching app stores. But web content producers, mobile networks and handset companies are now backingFirefox and Tizen and their plan is to destroy the app store as we know it. Once bought by the user, the promise is these apps will work on any operating system, handing control of their content back to the customer.
Nokia is releasing design files that will let owners use 3D printers to make their own cases for its Lumia 820 handset
Read more from the original source: Nokia backs 3D printing for phones
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Chief executive promises a ‘new era’ for the world’s largest software company despite a 24% slump
Microsoft has suffered a worse than expected 24% fall in profits, but chief executive Steven Ballmer countered by promising a “new era” for the world’s largest software company as it prepares to fight for a share of the mobile computing goldrush with next week’s launch of Windows 8.
Wall Street was braced for a contraction after news that PC sales were down 8% in a quarter as consumer spending switches from the desktop to tablets and phones.
Microsoft obliged by announcing a year-on-year fall in first quarter profits before tax from $7.3bn (£4.5bn) to $5.5bn and revenues of $16 billion, the lowest reported since March 2010. Income from its Windows division fell to $3.2bn, the worst performance in three years.
The best selling software’s most radical redesign since Windows 95 has seen its interface reinvented for the touch screen, and its arrival today will be accompanied by the launch of the Surface tablet, Microsoft’s answer to the iPad.
“The launch of Windows 8 is the beginning of a new era at Microsoft,” said Ballmer. “Investments we’ve made over a number of years are now coming together to create a future of exceptional devices and services.”
On Monday 29 October, Microsoft will make a concerted push into the smartphone industry with the unveiling of Windows Phone 8. Its arrival will be followed in November by new handsets using the operating system from Finland’s Nokia and Taiwan’s HTC.
It is an alliance that spans three continents, and to which the fortunes of all three companies are closely tied. Admitting the PC market was “challenging”, Microsoft finance director Peter Klein said the company was preparing for the “largest launch wave in our history”.
Revenues from other divisions have held up, with sales of servers and tools rising 8% to $4.5bn, while the Xbox games console helped revenues from entertainment and devices hold firm at $1.9bn.
The number of calls on Skype, the online phonebox acquired by Microsoft last year, rocketed 58% to 120bn minutes.
“Investors were not expecting a home run,” said analyst Daniel Ives at FBR Capital Markets. “All expectations are on the launch of Windows 8 and the entrance into the tablet market. In light of the environment, the macro and PC situation, these are respectable numbers.”
Nokia will be hoping Microsoft’s Windows marketing push delivers an uplift for its beleaguered smartphone business. Announcing results for the three months to 30 September, the Finnish group revealed on Thursday it has burned through €633m (£514m) of cash in three months, with sales falling by 20% in a year, thanks to sluggish demand for its smartphones and a near €1bn collapse in takings from China.
Nokia has spent almost a third of its cash reserves in 12 months, and has €3.6bn left to fund its transformation into a smartphone maker capable of competing with Apple and Samsung. At its current rate of spending, those reserves will have vanished by March 2014.
“The big investor concern is that Nokia might run out of cash before Windows phone builds a successful following,” said analyst Mark Sue at RBC Capital markets.
Nokia has lost almost 90% of its value since Apple introduced the iPhone in 2007. Yesterday it reported its sixth straight quarter of losses since dumping its own Symbian phone software and adopting Microsoft’s Windows Phone.
Third quarter sales fell to €7.2bn, better than analysts were forecasting but down from nearly £9bn in the third quarter of 2011, as smartphone shipments withered by 10m to 6.3m units. Overall shipments fell 22% to 83m, with only 300,000 phones sold in North America.
Shipments of Lumia smartphones fell to 2.9m units from 4m in the second quarter.
Customers have stayed away because only the new Lumia models, which Elop confirmed would be released in a “select” number of markets in November, will be able to run Windows 8.
The decision to push Lumia in just a few markets before Christmas means Nokia can concentrate its marketing firepower, but the company warned fourth quarter smartphone volumes would not see the usual seasonal uplift.
There was a silver lining in the form of a turnaround at Nokia Siemens Networks. The telecoms equipment maker swung back into profit after making more than 14,000 job cuts to concentrate on mobile rather than fixed line networks.
Nokia will benefit from the fact that mobile networks are keen to see an alternative to Android and Apple emerge, Elop said. “We are seeing increasing concern among operators about the concentration of power that is landing with two particular ecosystems that are out there today,” he told analysts on a conference call. “You are going to see operators in the West beginning to say we need a third ecosystem.”