A Round-Up of All the Important News from the Show
This is the first of our daily reports from Mobile World Congress 2013 in Barcelona.
Divided into seven research areas, it contains a brief summary of the show’s notable announcements, followed by initial comment by our team of analysts.
Mozilla announces Firefox OS 1.0
Geoff Blaber: Considerable operator support underlines the desire for an HTML5-based alternative to Android and iOS but depth of commitment is unclear. Previous operator-backed initiatives have a poor track record. Success hinges on apps, attractive devices and operator subsidies.
LG announces six new phones
Ben Wood: New range is one of the surprises of the show after the weak product line-up at Mobile World Congress 2012. Optimus G Pro is giant leap from ill-conceived Optimus Vu seen in 2012 and looks like a credible flagship that can complete in growing “phablet” category. F5 and F7 show LG’s determination to capitalise on LTE as a foundation for recovery. Partnering with MediaTek for some of its entry level products underlines intensity of low-cost Android competition, especially from Chinese players.
Nokia unveils new Lumia models and feature phones
Ben Wood: Lumia 520 delivers lower price point to boost sales and compete with Android. It will help extend range but may still be too dear for some markets. Lumia 720 has impressive camera but enters tricky mid-tier. Nokia 105 replaces products that sold over 100 million units and will be cornerstone product for Nokia entry-level segment.
Orange announces three Android phones, including its first 4G model
Ben Wood: Orange shipped over 3 million own-brand devices in 2012, of which 800,000 were smartphones. These new devices underline its determination to have own-brand devices for certain segments of its customers. The low-cost LTE device is of particular interest and is likely to form a key part of Orange’s 4G portfolio in 2013.
Alcatel One Touch announces new phones
Ben Wood: TCL has made tremendous progress over the past 18 months. From being synonymous with very low-cost feature phones and cheap Android smartphone it now has a huge portfolio of brightly coloured devices. There has been a significant improvement in the quality and range at the high end. This is further evidence of Chinese phone-makers such as Huawei, Lenovo, TCL and ZTE asserting their ambitions.
Huawei unveils Ascend P2
Ben Wood: A flagship device for 2013 with very similar design to the well-received Ascend P1. A punchy price will help inclusion in operator ranges. Brand awareness and credibility are still challenges for Huawei but price leadership is its most obvious strength.
HP unveils Slate 7 Android tablet
Ben Wood: At $169 the quality and specification of this product is extremely impressive, especially as it came to market in less than six months. Expect further tablet products from HP but with continued enterprise focus. Biggest challenge will be improving enterprise credentials of Android.
Lenovo announces three new Android tablets
Ben Wood: With a recognised brand, Lenovo stands a better chance than some of the many white-label Android tablet makers in this already crowded market. Its existing distribution network will also help but we suspect it will face significant pressure to reduce prices.
Asus reveals five-inch/10.1-inch PadFone Infinity combination device
Ben Wood: Asus continues to persevere with this combo product, but at €999 the price is likely to be its biggest hurdle. We remain unconvinced by the quirky design and predict most consumers will purchase separate smartphones and tablets.
Asus announces seven-inch Fonepad
Ben Wood: This is definitely at tablet rather that a phone despite its ability to make phone calls. It appears to be closely linked to the Nexus 7 which was also manufactured by Asus; it is slightly more expensive at $249. This provides further evidence that Google may have provided some funding toward the Nexus 7.
Sony announces global availability of Xperia Tablet Z
Ben Wood: Beautifully designed product with consistent look and feel to already announced Xperia Z phone. This provides Sony with compelling headline products in both smartphones and tablets. At $499 it is competitively priced given brand, features and specifications. Sony appears willing to invest significant funds to promote Sony Mobile products, which will help it compete with Samsung.
Samsung Note 8 tablet launched
Ben Wood: Underlines Samsung’s determination to have comprehensive tablet line-up as it seeks to compete with Apple and others. It needs to rapidly consolidate its position in the tablet market given the business model being adopted by Amazon and Google, which seem happy to offer products at cost and recoup returns from content and services.
Emporia launches its first touch-screen product
Ben Wood: The senior market is a growing segment and there has been year-on-year improvement in the products from Emporia. Touch is a significant challenge for older users and we predict this will remain a niche part of Emporia’s portfolio in the near term.
Facebook launches discounted data rates for access to messaging with 18 operators
Kester Mann: Facebook has agreed discounted or free rates for users to access Facebook messaging services with 18 operators in Asia, India, Portugal, Italy and Ireland. This is a significant move by Facebook to work more closely with operators to encourage Facebook usage on mobile. It is likely to be only the beginning of a new working relationship between Facebook and mobile operators.
Alcatel-Lucent and China Mobile accelerate deployment of 4G TD-LTE across China with lightRadio
Kester Mann: Announcement reflects big focus on TD-LTE from China Mobile at the show. Chairman Xi Guohua outlined ambitious roll-out plans in China this year. Such momentum could kick-start strong development of the technology outside China.
WIT Software and BroadSoft complete RCS interoperability testing
Kester Mann: Agreement aims to speed up time to market for RCS-e services as operators fight back against third-party communications providers. However, these companies already have a significant head start and CCS Insight remains sceptical about the collaborative nature of the Joyn initiative.
TeamSpirit Mobile 4.0 Engine brings voice and video to RCS
Kester Mann: Move enables rapid development of high quality voice and voice-over-IP apps. It underlines the continued threat to traditional operator revenue as highlighted by CEOs in Monday’s keynote speeches at Mobile World Congress. Operators need to respond through partnerships, tariff innovation and delivering a high-quality user experience.
Apps and Media
Ford announces Spotify and other partners for Sync AppLink in Europe
Paolo Pescatore: Spotify seeks early advantage by being first music service to work with Ford in Europe. Move is similar to Pandora deal with Ford in US. Ford is Spotify’s first automotive partner; we expect Spotify and other providers to unveil more deals with car-makers in 2013.
Yandex opens Yandex.Store and releases new version of Yandex.Shell interface
Paolo Pescatore: Yandex is targeting Android users in emerging markets who do not have access to an app store. This move serves a need but adds another option in what is already a fragmented market. It may prove disruptive in selected markets but will struggle to be hugely successful.
BT acquires ESPN’s TV channels in UK and Ireland
Paolo Pescatore: Move comes on the back of BT’s acquisition of football broadcasting rights. It indicates the strength of BT’s desire to build up content around its IPTV offering. BT now must be considered a credible competitor to rivals in pay-TV, certainly for sports content.
SPB TV brings new UI and second-screen app to its multi-screen TV solution
Paolo Pescatore: Companies like SPB must offer these features as they are fast becoming the norm. Users now demand a simple and easy-to-use interface across all screens. And the second screen app will help deepen engagement, thus increasing user loyalty.
Mobile Money and NFC
MasterCard introduces MasterPass digital payment service
Digantam Gurung: This is a promising step forward for MasterCard as it finally makes its bid to enter the mobile payment space following a long trial of PayPass. However, the similarity of wallet features and payment functions to Visa’s already launched V.me wallet means it will face difficulty in trying to differentiate itself. MasterCard’s approach to banks and merchants will also be important.
Samsung unveils HomeSync Android-based home hub device
Martin Garner: This is the first step by Samsung to centralize home media. Adoption may be hampered by the app only being available for Samsung phones.
Orange and Morpho unveil healthcare data system
Martin Garner: This is an early move in a potentially large, but difficult area. In our view, revenue will not be fast to build.
Airbiquity partners with China Unicom to provide connected vehicle services in China
Martin Garner: Important move for China Unicom to broaden its range of services and make a significant move into serving the automotive industry.
M2M multi-operator alliance announces single worldwide SIM card trials
Martin Garner: In our view, this is a partial and limited attempt to reduce barriers for multinational companies investing in M2M. We believe it is a triumph of operator interests over those of users.
Telit Wireless Solutions introduces LTE M2M module
Martin Garner: This early LTE module for M2M will remain a niche opportunity in the short term because few projects would bear the additional cost of LTE connectivity.
Geeksphone showcases new Firefox OS devices for developers
Geoff Blaber: These are development platforms rather than commercial consumer products that are designed in partnership with Geeksphone, Telefonica and Mozilla. Mozilla and Telefonica will hope that commercially available development units will spur application development and help platform testing and debugging following the launch of Firefox OS 1.0 on 24 February and prior to the availability of commercial devices.
Qualcomm demonstrates LTE carrier aggregation and Cat 4 data rates
Geoff Blaber: LTE Cat 4 and carrier aggregation were among the key themes of CES. With few operators holding more than 20 MHz of continuous spectrum, we believe carrier aggregation will be essential to deliver the speed promise of LTE Cat 4 at 150 Mbps. While devices such as the Huawei Ascend P2 cite LTE Cat 4 in the specifications, this is unlikely to have a meaningful impact without carrier aggregation.
MediaTek announces MiraVision HD display technology for mobile devices
Geoff Blaber: This underlines MediaTek’s relentless focus on the smartphone market and its commitment to improving the capability, feature set, efficiency and performance of its chipsets beyond raw processing power and modem performance. This growing focus on system efficiency and the multimedia experience will be crucial as Qualcomm sharpens its focus and capability with its Qualcomm Reference Designs program.
Intel steps up mobile computing push
Geoff Blaber: The launch of an LTE modem begins to address a key shortcoming and echoes Infineon’s late-entry, fast-follower approach to WCDMA (Infineon was acquired by Intel in 2010). However, despite the launch of Clover Trail+ for premium smartphones, we believe progress will be modest before Intel delivers a single chip that combines modem, CPU, graphics and other connectivity.
Metaio brings first augmented reality accelerated chipset to market
Geoff Blaber: This underlines the intensive hardware and processing requirements of applications such as augmented reality. ST-Ericsson is by no means the first silicon provider to optimise chipsets for augmented reality: Qualcomm is investing heavily in this area with Vuforia. Nonetheless, it is a clear example of how semiconductor suppliers are following Qualcomm’s lead by funding end-point applications and consumer experiences to drive demand for chips.
PowerVR G6100 Series6 enables mass-market OpenGL ES3.0
Geoff Blaber: The PowerVR GPU architecture has been a huge success story for Imagination Technologies and has maintained its position despite growing competitive pressure from Qualcomm, ARM (Mali ), Nvidia and others. The launch of PowerVR G6100 Series6 promises to spur the adoption of OpenGL ES3.0 to enable the next generation of rich 3D graphic experiences on mobile and embedded devices at mass-market prices. This reinforces our belief that the GPU is becoming increasingly important as a means to share the workload with the CPU, reduce power and increase performance.
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