2005 Wrap Up. 2006 Predictions. (Part
29th December 2005
2005 was the best year ever for smartphone
manufacturer HTC, selling a wide variety of Windows-based
devices that are sold under a huge range of brand names
including i-mate and Qtek, and also rebadged under the
network's own name (such as the HTC
Universal branded as the O2 XDA Exec).
HTC are completely dominant in this
market sector, and although there are a number of other
manufacturers making Windows smartphones, none of them
appears to have the market clout of HTC. In addition,
there's not a huge amount of competition to HTC
in the high end PDA-style smartphone market.
The danger for HTC during 2006 is this
- hardly anybody knows who they are. Despite some considerable
success in their market segment they are still unknown
as a brand because all their products are rebadged.
There's already some evidence that networks are shopping
around more for their Windows devices. Despite that,
we expect HTC to remain the most significant player
in Windows-based handsets during 2006, although we feel
that it is just possible that they may become the target
of a takeover bid by another manufacturer.
By the end of 2004, things were looking
great for Sagem with some sexy looking handsets coming
into their range. However, Sagem appeared to run out
of steam at the point where they merged with fellow
French company Snecma to create the Safran Group. Post
merger, there have been pitifully few new handsets announced,
although they have partnered with Vodafone to create
the dull but competent myV8-5
plus the Vodafone Simply
Sagem badly need to find their form
again during 2006 if they want to to realise their full
potential, although judging from the effects of the
new merged company, we doubt that they will manage to
be anything other than a small player.
Sharp have been mainly concentrating
on 3G phones during 2006, including the Sharp
903 with a 3.2 megapixel camera. Although at the
end of 2004 Sharp were the clear class leader in the
3G market, other companies have started to catch up
in terms of specifications, and Sharp no longer leads
Last year we said to expect the GX40
during 2005, but it never happened. However, the GX40
has been spotted
recently and it should be with us during 2006, but from
what we understand of the specification, it really is
12 months out of date.
However, we expect to see some more
class leading 3G phones from Sharp during 2006, with
the bulk of the new handsets being released exclusively
on the Vodafone network.
LG have said that they intend to be
seen as an innovator during 2006, a marked shift from
being a producer of dull but practical handsets as they
are at the moment (think of all those endless U-series
To this end we've seen the widescreen
and the smart LG
P7200 which have shown promise. Unfortunately, they
also produced the LG
S5200 which we regard as a poor quality attempt
at the Samsung D500. Despite this, there seems to be
some good potential for LG to come up with some interesting
products during 2006, but we doubt that they can match
the innovation shown by the likes of Nokia and Sony
Ericsson. Our prediction is that LG will make some progress
during 2006, but not much.
Until this year, VK Mobile were pretty
much unknown outside of the Far East, but during 2005
they have pushed aggressively into other markets, primarily
by selling ultra-compact fashion handsets, such as the
and a range of clamshells marketed through Vodafone.
We think that VK has the right combination
of technology and styling to make a big impact during
2006, especially if their new European marketing team
gets things right.
New kid on the block Emblaze Mobile
looks interesting, originally an Israeli company but
now with a significant UK presence. At the moment, Emblaze
is concentrating on the lower to mid-end of the market.
Will it succeed in a blaze of glory or be shot down
in flames? It's hard to tell, but Emblaze are one to
Grundig Mobile is the new name
for Spanish manufacturer Vitelcom - we looked
at the Grundig
M240 and didn't like it much, but their product
range is pretty diverse and has some attractive handsets
in it. It might be that networks will take the Grudig
handsets and rebrand them (as O2 did with the M240),
but we expect to see much more of this manufacturer
Panasonic is pulling out
of selling GSM handsets, Philips is pulling out
of Europe. Sendo went bust. Alcatel is
actually producing some interesting handsets, but there's
very little interest in them.. so it's probably only
a matter of time before they pull out of the market
(although we said that last year too).
NEC and Sanyo failed to
live up to their promise during 2005. Haier never
made its big push into Europe despite our predicitions
that it would, nor did Mitac.
Other ones to watch
HP failed to make much of an
inroad into the smartphone market during 2005 either,
but since standalone PDAs are a declining market, success
in this market is vital. The same goes for Palm,
who are pitching for an increased market share with
the Windows-based Treo
700w. BlackBerry manufacturer RIM is
still slogging it out in the US courts over an alleged
patent violation, a case which is full of twists and
turns - we expect this to be resolved in the next few
So.. what's next?
2006 will see phones with Hard Disks
for internal storage, but we believe this will be a
short-lived thing as memory card capacities continue
to improve. We expect to see 4 megapixel phones
by the end of 2006. We also think that 2006 will be
the year that 3G phone releases will outstrip
GSM handsets, at least for the big manufacturers. Music
phones will continue to be popular, althouth we
can expect to see much more emphasis on over-the-air
downloads via 3G and other high-speed networks.
2006 will also see the beginnings of DVB-H TV
transmissions for devices such as the Nokia
N92 although it won't be until 2007 that we really
know if DVB-H is a commercial success.
Linux will make slow inroads
into the smartphone market, although Symbian
and Windows Mobile will still dominate.
Expect to see some moves to counter the dominance of
Windows in very high-end smartphones too.
Screen resolutions will continue
to go up in 2006, but expect to see a great drive towards
high-density displays (such as the Nokia
770's) rather than just bigger screens. QVGA
(240x320 pixel) resolution displays will be
pretty much the standard on everything other than low-cost
phones by the end of 2006, in our opinion.
However, 2005 was full of surprises,
so expect some more in 2006. And remember to subscribe
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