For anyone who follows the smartphone market year 2012 is going to be very interesting – maybe the most interesting yet. We will see big announcements such as iPhone 5 and Samsung Galaxy S III. Followed by new platforms such as Windows Phone 8, Blackberry 10 and Meltemi. Not forgetting the push for new technologies such as NFC. Patent wars are far from over and are likely to intensify next year. Whether the Motorola purchase is enough for Google to fight back the numerous law suits remains to be seen. 2012 is also the year when Nokia is finally ready to start its fight back (better late than never I guess), which is guaranteed to disrupt the status quo. Regardless of how accurate my predictions, or should I say educated guesses, turn out to be one thing is for sure; we will have one interesting year ahead of us.
Note: Star rating indicates how well I assume the company has succeeded of the year at the end of 2012. Yes, I do understand that the end of calendar year is not necessarily the end of Q4 for most companies but in this case it doesn’t really matter. My predictions are not based on financial analyses or figures of the company but rather my own perception and gut feeling. Don’t take my ramblings too personally. Happy reading!
RIM | *
RIM is in deep trouble whether they publicly acknowledge it or not. The smartphone market has practically divided into three and is now the shared playground of Android, iOS and increasingly also Windows Phone. RIM finds itself in a new position as an outsider and lives in utopia if it still believes that it can have a future without joining either the Android or Windows Phone camps. RIM should learn from Nokia and Palm and realise that a great OS (MeeGo-Harmattan or WebOS) is not enough by itself. I believe BlackBerry’s new BB10 OS might get delayed indefinitely. The first half of 2012 will be excruciating to the company as its market share and value keeps declining. RIM will eventually come to its senses and realise that the only way out is to adopt Windows Phone as its OS. I don’t think that Microsoft actively pursues to acquire RIM but if it’s the only way to avoid RIM slipping to competitors I’m sure Microsoft will bite.
Opportunities: Joining Android or Windows Phone ecosystems (or both) with beneficial terms. Create something new and groundbreaking e.g. BB10.
Threats: Putting too much expectation on BB10 and waiting for it, like a messiah, for too long. Becoming a target of endless takeover speculations.
HTC | ***
HTC is in a difficult spot. They have grown fast since 2006 but the growth has now apparently come to an end. The Taiwanese company released a profit warning in November and lowered its Q4 revenue forecast by 25%. HTC’s success has mostly been built on the success of Android. HTC has tried to differentiate itself from other Android manufacturers by developing its own graphical user interface called the HTC Sense. Other than that HTC has very little to offer compared to other Android handset manufacturers. Differentiation will remain a big challenge for HTC also in 2012. Overall, competition will get more fears in the Android camp especially now that Google has acquired Motorola and is in essence competing against the other manufacturers. Due to this I expect HTC to continue to increase its efforts in the Windows Phone camp. At the end of the year every third HTC device sold is running Windows Phone.
Opportunities: Lower price point good quality Android devices. Windows Phone ecosystem.
Threats: Google becoming too dominant inside the Android ecosystem with Motorola. Patent infringement suits against HTC or Android (Google).
Samsung | ****
Samsung has so far seemed pretty much incapable of coming up with any ideas of its own. Therefore it’s no wonder that the lawyers from Cupertino are constantly banging their door. I expect this trend to continue in 2012 as well. Samsung has experienced noticeable success with its Galaxy series of Android handsets. I believe that Samsung will continue on this road and keep investing heavily into the development of new Android phones and tablets (Internet TVs). Its investments will most likely pay of and the company will stay as the undeniable market leader of Android devices. I believe that the company will continue to play it light on the Windows Phone front mainly because using a different operating system makes it easier to compete with Apple and Nokia. Bada OS will remain more or less as a research project.
Opportunities: Android continuing its rapid growth. Galaxy S III overtaking iPhone in sales.
Threats: Google. Patent infringement suits against Samsung or Android (Google).
Apple | *****
Apple will continue to dominate the smartphone market as it has done so far. As can be expected Apple’s biggest product launch in history, the much awaited iPhone 5, will sell faster than any other iPhone before it. However, the year 2012 will mark a turning point also for Apple as it sees fierce competition from both the Android and Windows Phone camps. I expect iPhone fatigue among consumers to keep growing. Especially long-time iPhone users will come intrigued by other opportunities and seriously consider abandoning the fenced Apple garden in order to try something new. I expect iPhone’s overall market share to start to go down by the years end as the overall smartphone market keeps expanding. Despite its shrinking market share Apple continues to collect most of the profits. I don’t expect signs of post-Jobs Apple to become visible until 2013 the earliest.
Opportunities: New pioneering products e.g. iPhone mini. Ability to keep milking the existing products (iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S) as long as possible.
Threats: Resting on laurels. Any sort of problems with iPhone 5 or iPad 3 (e.g new antennagate). Loosing media’s poster child status.
Nokia | ***
Nokia is finally back! I expect Lumia to become a worldwide hit that will help the company to get rid of the curtain of negativity that it has been hiding behind since the iPhone launched in 2007. Windows Phone will finally start to show some signs of life in 2012. And due to the heavy investments made to the ecosystem by both, Nokia and Microsoft also the developers and media are starting to take notice. This will be supported by the launch of Windows 8, which will introduce the new Metro design language to millions of non-Windows Phone users. Nokia will release its first super phone with specifications that will finally rival those of the competitors. We will also see Nokia launch a number of affordable Lumia devices that will become hit products especially in Asia. By the end of 2012 Nokia has established itself as the leader of the third ecosystem. Symbian will finally be put to rest starting with its name. Nokia will introduce a line of new cheap smartphones running Nokia Carla but at the same time continue to encourage customers to buy Lumia devices instead.
Opportunities: New innovations e.g. in camera technology. Smartphones at lower price point. New services, especially ones that utilize NFC and navigation services (e.g Nokia Pulse and Nokia Maps on other platforms). Asian and North-American markets. Windows Phone.
Threats: Windows Phone. North-American market.
The other guys | **
I believe that from a technology perspective 2012 will be remembered as the year of a smartphone. The biggest battle in the history of smartphones will likely be fought in 2012. Apple, Google and Samsung are all gearing up for the big battle. It will be especially interesting to see what Microsoft and Nokia can accomplish now that Nokia finally has competitive products. There’s no fight without a black horse and in this fight there are three. Facebook, Amazon and Yahoo!. Facebook is for sure working on a mobile device of its own and if we are lucky it could be announced some time in 2012. Amazon has hinted that it might be interested in developing a smartphone, which would be a natural continuum to its Kindle line-up. Yahoo! on the other hand has not shown any interest but I don’t think it would be impossible to see them announce something in these lines that would surprise us all. After all they need to do something and sooner the better.
I believe Android to continue to be popular also in 2012. LG, Huawei and friends will keep flooding the market with non-inspiring mediocre Android devices, with mediocre quality and mediocre consumer interest. What will be interesting to see is what Google is going to do with Motorola and how that will affect the Android ecosystem, if at all. And how effective the new Google alliance will be in fighting Android fragmentation issues. Sony is also in a new position now that it has ditched its long time partner Ericsson. I expect Sony to continue on its Xperia path of nicely designed Android devices with decent specs, plasticy feel and confusing custom graphical user interface. New PlayStation phone is without a doubt also in the works. Mobile gaming will continue to be a big thing in 2012. The real question is what will Nintendo do? Mobile gaming is becoming ever more popular on iOS, Android or Windows Phone. Are the days of dedicated mobile gaming devices such as GameBoy already behind us? What ever Nintendo decides to do will have a big impact in the smartphone war for sure.
In 2012 the five most earth shattering things will be the RIM’s undecided fait, turbulence inside Android ecosystem, the continuing iPhone fatigue among consumers, Windows Phone’s moderate success and the Facebook Phone.
A year from now we’ll be a lot wiser. For my own credibility’s sake, the little that is left of it, I hope I got at least something right.
Happy New Year 2012 to all my readers!
What do you think? Please do share your views and predictions below.