By Patricia Resende / Mobile Tech Today. Updated September 03, 2008.
The market for smartphones is heating up and forcing competitors to make smart choices. With lots of players, including Apple going global with its iPhone 3G and HTC's Google Android-based phone, companies like Nokia-owned Symbian are paying attention.
On Tuesday, Symbian said it shipped 19.6 million mobile phones in its second quarter and 225.9 million since it was formed in 1998. Symbian, based in London, has a strong lead with more than 150 models available through eight vendors, a 30 percent increase from last year. An additional 92 models are in development, according to the company.
Still, is that enough to compete with the 800,000 iPhone 3Gs Apple is selling per week, and the more than six million first-generation iPhones it has already sold since its launch in July 2007? Symbian executives think so.
"In 10 years we've achieved an enormous amount," said Nigel Clifford, Symbian's chief executive. "Together with our customers we have invented, built and continue to lead the smartphone market."
Nokia purchased all of Symbian's shares earlier this year and made Symbian's operating system free to others, so that alone may put Symbian and Nokia ahead of competitors. Carriers and device makers may choose Symbian over other operating systems such as LiMo, Windows Mobile, or Android.
"It is a very competitive market because there are so many players," said IDC analyst Ramon Llamas. "We are, however, at a point historically both in the U.S. and worldwide where there is a lot of space to play in. In 2007 there were 120 million smartphones sold worldwide, and if you paint that against 1.2 billion handsets, there is a lot of space for them to play."
New Smartphone Features
Shipments of mobile phones in North America increased from last quarter, with vendors introducing a number of features in advance of the release of the iPhone 3G.
In many cases, these offered touchscreen, music or GPS, according to IDC. During the same time, the converged mobile-device market saw faster growth than the overall mobile-phone market and accounted for nearly a fifth of total mobile-phone shipments.
Vendors have been wary of the decrease in demand for mobile phones, according to Llamas.
"That has not stopped vendors from experimenting with and releasing a host of midrange and high-end devices with GPS, touchscreens and multimedia," he said. "This also goes for hotly contested emerging markets, where vendors are introducing phones that offer features in addition to voice telephony."
Consumer reception toward the devices has been warm, adds Llamas, but demand for the devices will increase as the holiday season approaches.
"Basically what this means for the consumer is that there is a smartphone for everyone," Llamas added. "Smartphones are coming in all shapes sizes and colors. If you want something robust as the iPhone with touchscreen, you can have it; if you want something with a Qwerty keyboard they have something for that, too, and that is why RIM is doing well with its Blackberry and Palm with its Trio."
An Early Holiday Gift
The second half of this year is expected to push Symbian forward as Nokia and other vendors launch additional models. Even with more than 20 new devices announced during the first half of the year, more models are expected from Nokia in the second half, according to a July 2008 report by IDC.
"Smartphones are still seeing growth rates hovering around 40 percent year-over-year, while the rest of the industry is growing at roughly 10 percent," said Ryan Reith, an IDC senior research analyst. "The rise of the feature phone has created a battle at the high end of the market, with the main difference between smartphone and feature phone being the high-level operating system."