Mobile Market Wrap-Up, August 2

News was a bit slower last week on the mobile front. It seems as though the market took a little breather to digest all of the hot new summer phone releases. Speaking of which, we got our hands on the Samsung Galaxy S, or Vibrant as its known on T-mobile. The handset has not disappointed. The device is thin and light, lightning fast, and the Swype keyboard application is awesome. It’s worth a look if you’re in the market for a new phone. Look for the Captivate if you’re on AT&T, and later this year as the Fascinate on Verizon and Epic on Sprint.

With the hot summer handset releases behind us, who is the worldwide leader in the market? According to Strategy Analytics, Nokia (remember them?) sold the greatest share of the 308M handsets sold in Q2. Nokia’s share was 36.1%, follwed by Samsung at 20.7%, and LG at 10%. RIM, the only dedicated smartphone maker in the top 5, came in fourth at 3.6%. So while smartphones grab all of the media attention, the low-end of the market accounts for all the volume. If the market is largest at the low end, then why are all the manufacturers chasing the smartphone market? Because that’s where all the profits are. For example, Apple is nowhere to be seen on the market share list, yet they are far and away the most profitable mobile phone company.

Speaking of market share, a report on mobile search was released by StatCounter last week. At the top of the heap was Google, with a whopping 98.29% share of the market. I’m not sure how accurate the numbers are, but even if they are off by 20%, that’s still a dominant share of the market. If that doesn’t convince you that you should have a mobile presence that Google can index, then you’re losing lots of business to your competitors who do have one – without even knowing about it! Both Yahoo! and Bing, the two other big mobile search providers, account for just 1.25% of the market. On the bright side, I guess Yahoo! and Bing’s share can only get bigger, because it certainly can’t get any smaller!

Finally, just to kick start everyone’s favorite rumor mill, I am going to jump on the bandwagon and say that AT&T’s iPhone exclusivity may be coming to an end this year. Why? Well, AT&T made a statement that they are going to be the premier vendor for Microsoft’s latest mobile operating system, Windows Phone 7. I don’t understand why AT&T would back a competitor to the iPhone unless their exclusivity is coming to an end. It’s time to place your bets. I say that the iPhone is available on another carrier for the holidays, and I’ll predict T-mobile over Verizon since T-mobile’s GSM technology is the most compatible with AT&T and Apple, out of spite, wants to stick it to Verizon for their Android promoting, iPhone-bashing ads. What do you think? Feel free to sound off in the comments!

CTIA Wireless 2010

The CTIA Wireless 2010 show was recently held in Las Vegas. It is the biggest wireless trade show of the year in North America bringing together wireless hardware manufacturers, software developers,  service providers, industry experts, and pretty much anyone that is involved with wireless. A team from Aumnia, including myself, was there to preview the latest wireless handsets, gadgets, software and market trends. The conference was smaller than previous years highlighting the fact that the industry and the economy in general is still recovering but the activity on the show floor was busy which was a good sign.

Google’s Android OS had a huge presence at this show. Almost every handset manufacturer  showcased a phone running Android. Over 20 new Android handsets were announced during the course of the show. It seemed like Android was turning many handset manufacturers, who previously never had much success in the smartphone market, into serious contenders overnight.

The most impressive smartphone that I saw at the show this year was the Samsung Galaxy S running Android 2.1. In terms of usability, speed, and responsiveness there are not many smartphones that are better than the iPhone, in fact, I personally don’t think there are any at the moment. The Motorola Droid was good and the HTC Nexus One comes very close and if I was an iPhone user (which I am not) wanting to switch to Android, that would be the one to go with…until now. The Samsung Galaxy S is definitely the best Android phone that I have seen to date. The device is fast and super responsive. And the AMOLED screen is amazingly sharp allowing playback of 720p videos. If I were to get an Android phone, this would be the one and it should be available later this summer.

Samsung Galaxy S

Samsung Galaxy S

The other big take away from the show was that all the major carriers in North America were upgrading their networks to 4th generation technology allowing for faster data speeds. There are two competing 4G technologies: WiMAX and LTE. With theoretical speeds of greater than 100Mb/s, DSL and Cable internet providers will have some serious competition. Sprint is currently ahead of the game with 4G deployments in many cities across the USA using WiMAX because unlike LTE, WiMAX hardware is commercially available. WiMAX has already been deployed in many countries worldwide. LTE is newer but with Cisco recently announcing that it will not build WiMAX hardware and AT&T and Verizon both choosing LTE, it looks like LTE (at least in North America) will be the 4G technology of choice.

2010 will be an exciting year for wireless. It will be a big year for Android and I’m looking forward to seeing how Apple responds to this with their new iPhone. It’s great to see companies push each other to the limit in terms of innovation because as consumers, we all benefit from this, no matter what smartphone OS you prefer to use. With 4G networks becoming a reality, I see a trend for more devices that will allow you to share your data connection over WiFi across multiple devices (laptop, netbook, iPad, and even your phone). With 4G being an IP based network, voice usage will primarily be VoIP eliminating the need for voice minutes. It will be interesting to see how the service providers handle this and how data usage will be charged.