Yesterday Nokia announced two new Lumia-Windows (8) Phones. Google’s Motorola division also announced three new RAZR smartphones. Today Amazon will announce new Kindle tablets and, probably, a new smartphone (Danny will be live blogging the event). Next week, on September 12, we’ll get the iPhone 5.
All this is happening in the space of one week. It’s something of a metaphor for how intense competition in the mobile market has become.
The specs on both the new Motorola handsets and the new Lumia devices are generally impressive. However in some sense yesterday’s announcements “cancel each other out.” While the preliminary “reviews” of the new Lumia handsets are positive, there was no firm release date announced, pricing or US carrier partners.
Overall the Nokia event was disappointing to investors (I was not present) and the company’s stock actually lost value. Shareholders obviously don’t believe these new devices (or Windows 8) are the answer to Nokia’s problems.
The company, however, did reveal some sales figures for the first time. Nokia said that globally it has sold 7 million Lumia phones to date. Not bad but not great either. In the US sales performance has been especially poor. These new handsets — unless they’re especially cheap — are unlikely to change that very much.
Compare Lumia’s performance to Samsung’s Android Galaxy III, which the company said has sold 20 million devices globally in three months. As part of its patent litigation against Samsung Apple is trying to “ban” the current version of the Galaxy III in the US.
Speaking of which, Apple has a tremendous amount at stake with next week’s announcement of the new iPhone (which may in fact be called “the new iPhone”). Sales of the 4S essentially ground to a halt in anticipation of the new handset, which is supposed to feature LTE and a larger screen.
If the iPhone 5 fails to please consumers, who now have more dazzling hardware choices than ever, it will create a major problem for Apple. It needs to get the new iPhone right.
By comparison, Amazon’s new handset (to be shown off later today) is a wild card. The Amazon brand, content arsenal and online sales distribution (and maybe pricing) could make the smartphone a success. However it could equally flop if it doesn’t stand out.
The bastardized Android handset — “forked” is perhaps a more generous way to put it — won’t feature all the Android apps (like Kindle Fire). Chief among them it won’t offer Google Maps. Instead it will offer a version of Nokia’s largely inferior maps and location services. This will prove to be a major problem for the device I predict.
We’ll wait and see what the specs, features and pricing are however.
The smartphone market is getting more “noisy” and probably more confusing for consumers, who may gravitate to familiar brands as a way of narrowing down their choices. To that extent, and to the extent that carrier salespeople don’t aggressively push certain phones over others, the iPhone and Samsung should benefit in the next handset replacement cycle.
Because the Nokia brand has weakened dramatically in the past 24 months and because Windows Phones remain unfamiliar to US consumers, these Lumia phones are unlikely to break through this holiday season. This will create another major PR and investor relations problem for Nokia (obviously).
Microsoft will also have a problem on its hands, though Samsung and HTC are bringing out new Windows Phone 8 devices later this year. However Windows Phone sales are likely to continue to disappoint — though I’m happy to be proven wrong.
Stay tuned as the “handset wars” continue to intensify. And stay tuned later today for Danny’s live blog from the Amazon event in LA.