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Entries in smartphones (5)


Ambitious TCL targets US, China with smartphones

TCL is yet another of those lesser-known Chinese firms edging its way up the global handset charts.

It shipped 8.52m devices in Q1, or 2.0% of the worldwide total, placing it seventh between Huawei and Sony in Gartner’s rankings.

These days Chinese vendors occupy five of the world top ten spots, admittedly with a combined market share below second-ranked Nokia.

And although smartphones is where the action is, TCL’s story at the top end of the market isn’t too shabby, either. After nearly doubling shipments in Q1, smartphones accounted for 17% of units shipped and nearly half of handset revenue. In the last three months it’s increased that to 27% of all devices sold.

The other TCL wrinkle - apart from its use of the old Alcatel brand - is that it tends to do most of its business outside China. In Q1 offshore sales totaled 80%, mostly to EMEA and Latin America.

But TCL is trying to change that. TCL Communication CMO Dan Dery says it’s targeting the US and China with its mid-range smartphones, such as the Idol X, which it launched in Hong Kong on Monday.  

He described China as “really a new market." Whereas Euope and Africa are TCL replacement markets, the massive China market is mostly virgin territory.

“Even though it takes more time, because of its structure, our intention is to get strong in China and strong in the US as well,” he said.

Both countries - the US in particular – require a presence in operator channels. Dery cites TCL’s sales to 180 markets globally and relationships “with some of the most demanding carriers in the world.”

While the company seems to have hit a sweet spot, with revenue tripling over the last four years, it’s still a small outfit.

Total sales last year topped HK$12.031 billion ($1.55b), with a gross margin of 17.4%. Despite that it came in at a HK$220,000 loss on higher R&D and sales costs.



Here comes Nubia, ZTE's new smartphone brand

Fresh from celebrating its elevation into the smartphone top four, ZTE next month plans to unveil a new smartphone brand.

Click to read more ...


Smartphones overtake feature phones in China

And 3G sales finally pass 2G

Click to read more ...


Nokia marries Microsoft, commits to WP7

As widely expected, Nokia has announced a “broad strategic partnership” with Microsoft, betting that the low-flying Windows Phone 7 platform can halt its slide.

It makes sense in that Microsoft is a software company, and Nokia desperately needs help in software. Indeed, the software development process is so beyond clearly its own competencies that Elop had no choice but to seek outside.

The financials of the deal have not been revealed, but reportedly both Microsoft and Google offered “hundreds of millions of dollars worth of engineering assistance and marketing support.”

Nokia’s statement asserts:

With Windows Phone as its primary smartphone platform, Nokia would help drive the future of the platform by leveraging its expertise on hardware optimization, software customization, language support and scale.

But Microsoft’s smartphone market share fell by more than half last year to just 4.2%, according to Gartner. Windows Phone 7, released in October, may have enjoyed an early bump in sales, but it is still well below the radar for consumers and developers.

Elop and Ballmer offer brave words about creating scale and disrupting “other mobile ecosystems,” but without specifying how this will come about.

Presumably the deal means Symbian has finally been put out to pasture, although Nokia camouflages this in dense corporate-speak:

With Nokia's planned move to Windows Phone as its primary smartphone platform, Symbian becomes a franchise platform, leveraging previous investments to harvest additional value.

MeeGo, the planned Nokia-Intel platform which is way behind schedule, will now become “an open-source, mobile operating system project” with “increased emphasis on longer-term market exploration of next-generation devices.”  The first MeeGo product is likely to ship this year.

As well as the partnership with MS, Elop also unveiled a company restructure – the fifth in five years.

In any case, both moves, announced at the start of Nokia’s capital markets day, left investors underwhelmed. Nokia’s NYSE stock fell 95c, or just under 10%, in after-hours trade.


The age of the smartphone

Yesterday I mentioned the arrival of the sub-$100 Android smartphone as just one more headache for Nokia.

Taiwan and mainland Chinese design houses are offering turnkey chip and OS solutions to OEMs at $100 and less, promising to jump-start demand for Web-friendly Android-based devices in developing markets, where Nokia now sells most of its phones.

Now Apple’s getting in on the act. Bloomberg reports that a smaller, low-cost version of the iPhone is in production inside the Cupertino hit machine. Apple is aiming to get the device – which would sell for around $200 – to the market by the mid-year.

The Bloomberg story also confirms GigaOm’s scoop three months ago that Apple is planning its own universal SIM card that would enable consumers to enjoy access to multiple mobile operators via iTunes. That’s a huge development for the mobile industry – will post more on that later.

It just remains to be pointed out that the age of the mass market smartphone is here; consumers actually bought more smartphones than PCs in the last quarter of 2010.

We’ll hear a lot more about low-cost smartphones at the annual mobile industry confab in Barcelona next week.