Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Sony Ericsson is growing fast

iSuppli released its latest report on the handset market this week. The big news is that Nokia is still the worlds biggest handset maker, and Sony Ericsson its most successful when you look at the growth numbers.

"Sony Ericsson is targeting its entire product line at the mid-to-high range of the market and just recently has started entering the emerging low-cost handset market,” said Tina Teng, wireless communications analyst at iSuppli. “This has contributed to the company’s accelerated growth in 2006. Plus, Sony Ericsson’s products appeal to every regional market globally, because its camera- and music-enabled phones hit the sweet spot in terms of desirable handset features.”"

Now the interesting thing for me is that iSuppli looks at the electronic components supply chain to get its intelligence. The data they provide that does interest me is the reference points on how much individual handsets cost in terms of bill of materials. But how do they work out that a handset manufacturer is developing a stockpile for a new product rather than building its current models? I for one will await the updated numbers from M:Metrics to see what the gap is between the two reports before making too many claims about the fall of Motorola and Samsung for example.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Who you going to talk to?

Yesterday having attended the funeral of one of my extended family I was asked by a number of those in attendance to help with their mobile phones as I was someone who "knows about these things."

The interesting discovery for me was that very few had done the research that Ged did when he decided to leave Orange. Most of these "happy soles" are using Pay As You Go because they think it offers the best value for money because those that they know have usually been unable to use ALL of the minutes and texts on there tariff and so they see them as wasting money rather than saving on call costs. I just wonder if the Networks are hearing the same message but are happy to ignore it whilst they battle it out for the best churn numbers in this mature market.

In talking yesterday it became obvious that those in the room had started to not trust what they were told by the retailers after my outburst last year when One of them called to tell me that she had upgraded to Flext because that was what the man in the shop said was the best contract on offer. After I had gone through just what she does do with her phone she returned the handset and cancelled the contract. I wonder what those in the room would have made of Keith's excellent analysis of CPW's numbers? I am sure that he would have been interested in the way that the consumer is starting to wise up when it comes to buying mobile. I for one think that what I am hearing from Vodafone at present is the right idea I am just not confident that they can execute the strategy with the current team.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

My 2p worth on the iPhone

Rather than post this at the time of Steve Jobs announcement that Apple had joined the handset market I decided to wait and see what others had to say before adding to the noise.

What I know about the new phone has been gathered from the Internet and Press rather than me actually seeing the device at MacWorld. Carlo and Russell have done a good job looking at the launch of the phone and others comments. Ajit over at Open Gardens has done his usuall meta analysis of the situation. Ged at Renaissance Chambara says that like all Apple fan boys his thinks that the new phone is sexy it is not for him.

I think that what Jobs has done is disruptive but I do not think that Nokia and Sony Ericsson needs to worry too much about this first release. My hope is that the launch of the iPhone will effect the way that Mobile Networks deal with User Interfaces. I think that as a closed system rather than a smartphone what Apple have done is launch a niche handset for the US market. As such I do not think that the iPhone will get a market share much larger than either the Blackberry or WindowsMobile.

Working with Mobile Networks as I do I have to say that they have issues supporting all the formats and operating systems that they do at present adding another will increase the complexity by another factor. Just look at the number of people who have complained about the lack of support for Treo handsets and ask why would Apple be any different?

I think that in a months time we will see a number of new handsets that will make the iPhone look very dated and this will mean that the iPhone becomes something akin to the Mottorola Razr i.e. the Fashion Victims handset where form out does function. This being the point I fear that I might just be buying two when the launch so that my twins can fit in at their new school.

It looks like the the Independent has the same view as me. Hamish McRae says that Apple's entry into the phone industry will not change the market, its innovation might! The more I chat with others the more my opinion crystalises. I do not think that we can expect to see Apple replace Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Motorola and Samsung at the top of the tree after all we are talking about ONE handset. The fact that are in the market might however finally force Motorola to do something about its appalling user interface. Apple could force Sony Ericsson and Nokia to take their A Game to the networks and insist that customisation of the interface is no more than the placing of short cuts onto a phone. A word of caution for Apple has to be that the list of those who no longer make handsets is very long and if they are not careful they will join it.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Mobile Phone uptake is bigger than everything!

Over at Communities Dominate Brands Tomi Ahonen has started the year with an article on just how big 2.7B mobiles mean in terms of technology uptake. Tomi spells out just how big mobiles have become in terms of other technologies and time.

The best part is Tomi's evangelism of just what the adoption of mobile has achievied and how they are aspirational.

Mobile's as a tool of social change in Africa

This week is Geek Week on Newsnight and to start things off Paul Mason presented on how Kenyan's have adopted mobile on mass.

An informative film sees Mason travel along the main highway. We saw M-Pesa demonstrated by the Vodafone partner Safaricom which saw Mason being paid by text and him cashing it in. Mason was impressed and said that in a country that has few users of bank accounts it could revolutionise things.

On his travels Mason sees a farmer using his phone to check prices in Nairobi before selling his produce locally. The most impressive for me was when Mason went down into the Masai farmland. Talking to a teacher we discover that she has a phone and that she bought another for the tribesman that looks after her cattle so that she can check on her goats health. She went on to explain that in her region over half the men have phones and they are charged via solar panels. The upside is that thanks to text messages the Massi are starting to learn to read. The downside is that husbands and wifes now row over who has been calling the phone!

The headline is when someone from a University says that the success of mobile is showing people that Kenya is not a basket case. If the phones have been launched so quickly why is the road and water systems such failures after sixty years of aid funded development. Mason demonstrates this with a clip on how the people in the largest shantty town are using flash mob tactics to stop evictions.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Voice! It is all about Voice!

I have been looking at some of the projects that I undertook last year and some of the new ones for this and once again I have to say that everyone in the Mobile industry seems to forget that it's about VOICE .

I have now been using 3G for over two years and the biggest disappointment is not that the Web2.0 services are slow to take off, it is the fact that others ask if I am calling them whilst I am on the toilet as the call quality is so poor! I had hoped that the work I undertook at the time of the spectrum bids would see the light of day by now. Talking over coffee with others and it seems that the issue is once again one of legacy, what is the point of giving me a device with excellent voice if the person I am calling is still using a handset that is four years old?

I have to say that unlike the switch to colour displays the failings of voice are more urgent. When I next get the opportunity to talk with Senior Executives in the Operators it's my intention to raise the issue of call quality. The reason that people are not happy to substitute mobile minutes for fixed is not about price it is because having a conversation over 3 minutes on a Mobile can result in a headache. This has nothing to do with microwaves and everything to do with the quality of the network and bandwidth given to voice. Just as I have been prepared to invest in a better set of headphones for my MP3 player so that it is enjoyable to listen to music as I travel, I would invest in a handset that improves the voice quality.

Talking with people at Sony Ericsson it is not a question of poor technology in the handset. The issue is with the network where planning is at fault when it comes to voice.

Once Orange believed in a wirefree life which saw Voice at the centre of the offering. At this time they invested in a company called Wildfire and made a promotional video call "Adam and Eve" they sent out Evangelists to promote the view that we would soon have a relationship with them based on Voice. They had a vision that saw the mobile phone as a remote for our life, they said that one day soon we would be able to do this with something as small as a stud in your ear. Then they stopped believing and lost there way and decided that what we needed was not hope but training!

Why to I believe that Voice is the future? Well in looking at E-Plus in Germany you see a CEO who has put voice at the centre of his strategy. He does not believe that the future as mobile data services and as such has declined to invest in new equiupment. He says what is needed is to get the customer to buy and then use the phone in their hand. His idea has won him new customers and hurt his rivals so he might just have something right. I hope to be able to test his service in the next few months when I am working in Germany to see if he can make the voice quality issue that I have here go away.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Pulp Fiction on your phone

Wired reports on the craze for fiction written on phones for phone users. This is something that I think we could only see in Japan the thought that some blogger from England would write one novel in 14 months let alone the five authored by the profiled Chaco is something that I think is unlikely.

This is something that I intend to look at in more detail and hope to be able to develop with a few clients as I see such citizen publishing as one way of using Camera Phones and MMS. I think that such activities may well see the rise of peer-to-peer in mobile especially as some of the more widely read mobile novels are of the racy varrity. I just hope that some of the self help guru's don't see such an enterprise as an extension of the brand in a similar fashion as ebooks and blogs.