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2009 Wrap-Up. 2010 Predictions, Part I.
27th December 2009
We've been trying to predict the future of the mobile phone industry for the past five years, sometimes we get it spot on, sometimes we don't. But, for what it's worth, this is our view of what happened during 2009 and what might happen during 2010.
Smartphone sales beat all expectations during 2009, in particular there was a huge growth in black slabby touchscreen devices, all trying to emulate the iPhone in some way. The battle for the high-end shows no sign of abating, all manufacturers are keen to establish themselves as being "sexy" when it comes to hardware.. and they are also keen to chase the high margins that these phones bring.
Away from the top end of the market, smartphone features will be found increasingly in mid-market devices, and two key products here will be Samsung's Bada platform and Symbian S60. However, Symbian will start to die out as an operating system for high-end devices, but it is still ideal for more run-of-the-mill handsets. By the end of 2010 we also expect to be getting close to the €100 price for the cheapest S60 touchscreen phone.
GPS is everywhere these days, and with the €110 Nokia 2710 due next year, it is likely to be standard on all but the cheapest phones by the end of 2010, although basic GPS functionality will remain pretty limited for most users. However, at the high end of the market Google's free turn-by-turn navigation (as found the on the Motorola DROID) and other similar products will really start to eat into the market for standalone devices. Companies such as TomTom are looking increasingly vulnerable, and we might see some interesting strategic moves in this area.
The emphasis on cameras is shifting from still photos to video capabilities, especially as many phones can now upload clips directly to YouTube. There are still only a surprisingly small number of handsets about that can boast an 8 megapixel camera or better and although some manufacturer is bound to breach the 12 megapixel barrier, consumers will be more interested in getting HD video from their phones instead.
When it comes to displays, the growth of the smartphone market is driving bigger and high-resolution panels in mobile devices. Given price sensitivities in the midrange market, it is unlikely that we will see anything greater than QVGA resolution screens for the time being, but expect QVGA displays to be the standard in all but the very cheapest phones.
Almost all 3G phones now support HSDPA high-speed downloads and a lot support HSUPA uploads as well, this growth will continue. Most people can forget about 4G technologies at the moment, but expect a few small-scale launches of LTE networks in a few areas, leading up to a push for 4G in 2012 and beyond. WiFi hasn't featured in as many phones as we expected this year, and this seems to be a deliberate attempt to steer users who want it to higher margin (i.e more profitable) handsets.
2009 saw a growth in applets designed to support social networking, and this will continue through 2010. As a result, we expect to see a rapid growth in mobile blogging and video sharing. "Cloud services" such as MOTOBLUR (found on the Motorola DEXT) will enable consumers to keep connected with their data seamlessly, but events like the SideKick Disaster will make users wary.
2010 will not be the year of mobile TV, despite Nokia and others producing DVB-H devices like the Nokia 5330 Mobile TV Edition, mostly down to a combination of consumer indifference and high infrastructure costs. We also do not expect to see much take-up of NFC, as found on the Nokia 6216 Classic, however we think that 2012 will be a big growth year for NFC as it can be used with Oyster cards and might well appeal to visitors to the London Olympics.
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