Cool mobile phone vendor infographics

Just a quick post today. There are very nice infographics on Asymco.com demonstrating lively with animation how operation profits, revenues and volumes of mobile phone vendors have changed from 2007 to the summer of 2011. You can select which vendors to follow, and the most dramatic changes can be visualised by selecting Apple, Nokia and Samsung.  You can also choose which data you want to see on X and Y axis. I hope they continue updating this with new data. It would nice to see smartphone volumes / market share on the chart too. (Thanks for the tip to Jarmo Lahti.)

SA: Samsung overtakes Nokia in smartphones, but not yet Apple

Already before we learnt Apple overtook Nokia in smartphone sales during Q2 2011 (from April to June), with about 20 million shipments against Nokia’s a little less than 17 million. But it was not yet known how the South Korean vendor Samsung did. Samsung has just reported its Q2 2011 results. I won’t go into financial details which are in the latest news, but their mobile phone unit was the most profitable one, whereas LCD panels and memory chips made worse than expected.

As an unfortunate surprise Samsung did not announce the most anticipated detail in their Q2 2011 results, the numbers of feature phone and smartphone shipments. They only told to have sold somewhat over 10% more phones than on Q2 2010, when they sold 63,8 million devices. One could easily speculate those figures have been a disappoinment, as they chose not to report them this time.

Technology blog UnWiredView.com already speculated Samsung would have been behind Nokia in smartphone sales.  Later they updated their article and noticed there are not specific details.

The research company Strategy Analytics reports in their Q2 2011 mobile phone markets press release that Samsung would have sold 19,2 million smartphones, compared to 20,3 of Apple and 16,7 million of Nokia. This would mean Samsung has become second in smartphones, and Apple would be the first one, as speculated already before.

Strategy Analytics comments the dramatic drop of Nokia. Their shipments decreased about 30%, when the overall market grew about 76%:

Having become the first ever vendor to ship 100 million smartphones in a single year during 2010, long-time leader Nokia has slipped two places in our rankings in Q2 2011. The vendor’s 15 percent global smartphone market share is less than half of what it was just one year earlier, as the industry awaits Nokia’s pending transition to Windows Phone 7″, says Tom Kang, Director at Strategy Analytics, in their press release.

Smartphone market shares / Q2 2011:

  1. Apple: 18,5%
  2. Samsung: 17,5%
  3. Nokia: 15,2%
  4. Others: 48,9%

Source: Strategy Analytics, July 29th  2011

As far as I understand, this 19,2 million Samsung phones also includes their Bada devices, not just more advsnced Android smartphones. I’m not sure about this anyway, because Srategy Analytics does not mention anything about it, and Samsung hasn’t released these details.

SA also notes Samsung is getting more and more competition from Chinese vendors, especially Huawei and ZTE which are bringing to market very affordable Android smartphones. This has forced Samsung to also introduce cheaper Android devices in addition to those high-end Galaxy S series models.

I got the press release from Strategy Analytics by e-mail, but I haven’t found it on their web site yet. I will add a link to it, if it becomes available.

Smartphones demolishing handheld consoles

Fresh news tell Nintendo has reported once again net losses (source: Wall Street Journal) and lower than expected sales of Nintendo 3DS, the handheld games console of the Japanese electronics company.  Nintendo hopes dropping the price of their console will boost sales.

I’m  very sure I’m not the only one who’s not surprised by this news. Who wants to pay 200 or even 300 euros (depending on market and sales channel) for a handheld console, and then 40 euros or more for games, when you can get very nice games for under under an euro for your Android, iOS or even Symbian smarphone?

I own a very old Nintendo GameBoy Advanced, but I stopped playing on it having bought Apple iPod touch (2nd generation) in 2008. I have downloaded tens of games for free or for a couple of euros.

The situation will only get worse for Nintendo and Sony when more affordable and still powerful Android and iOS tablets become available. Then you can often get the games which you bought for your smartphone for your 7- to 10-inch device, often without extra money.

In my opinion Nintendo and Sony have also made big mistakes by focusing on wrong types of games. None of my very tech-savvy frinds, who spend hundreds or even thousands euros a year in games, electronics and computer stuff seem to want 3D. The other big mistake is to assume people want the same kind of action games on handheld devices than big living-room consoles. What’s the idea of playing a 3D action games on a 3-inch screen, when you have 37-inch or even larger TV in your living-room? I guess marketing guys don’t play very much themselves.

The third big change is moving from physical media to online stores. It’s a lot easier to download and install games from Apple’s, Google’s, Microsoft’s or Nokia’s apps stores than walking to a limited numher of physical stores. Nintendo and Sony have launched some kind of online shops too, but I don’t know how well they work. My friend, who used to be a Nintendo fanboy (and proud of it), complained they’ve failed in this area.

Many Nokia followers may wonder what’s different now compared to what Nokia tried with their N-Gage. Well, they had pretty much all the problems with their initial launch: 1) Games trying to imitate big consoles, 2) too expensive games, 3) a difficult physical MMC media and to finish it all, 4) a device with a very small screen and bad useability. Of course, smartphone hardware was not as advanced as today.

It’s interesting to see if Nintendo and Sony come up with something that justifies buying a special handheld gaming device. After all, consumers, especially young people, only have a very limited amount of money. Already that Chinese Android smartphone (from Huawei or ZTE) costing less than 200 euros or under 7 euros a month with a subscription smoothly runs Angry Birds and other very fun games.

A mobile phone buying experience

I was visiting my mom on my summer vacation, and she needed a new phone to replace a broken one. Her phone was losing network connectivity all the time, so there’s was not too much time to look for alternatives. We ended up checking the closest local shops and department stores.

Even though we only got a small sampling of five shops, it was a very educating experience. I noticed it’s not that simple for an ordinary consumer to find a phone suiting your needs, because there’s often a very limited selection of devices. And you can’t take good service for granted.

In a couple of shops, they only had these wooden dumb samples which physically look and weigh about the same as the real phones. Except for they don’t work at all, so you can’t get any idea of the user interface, applications, performace, and so on. In two shops they had real working phones, but they were in closed cabinets and without battery power.

In one operator store, they had the model we had thought for her, Nokia E52; an easy to use basic candybar model with a large enough keypad buttons and screen. But they didn’t have this in white colour. The salesperson promised to send a text message afterwards to let us know when they would get new colours. Now three days have passed, and he hasn’t yet sent any message.

We ended up buying an affordable Nokia X3 at Sokos Wiklund department store in Turku, because they had many models and colours available, real working devices to try and when the battery was empty, the salesperson went to get a new one so we could try it.

I didn’t reveal what I do for work or that I have much knowledge of mobile phones. I wanted to see if the salesguy tries to sell my mom an expensive touch screen smartphone of which she would not learn to use, and almost all the advanced technical features would be useless for her. However, this didn’t happen, and he was very honest. The salesperson asked for the customer’s needs and understood that a basic device would be a good choice.

The looks, shape and buttons appealed to my mom, so she chose Nokia X3, even though this Series 40 device has a touch screen in addition to the normal keypad. The salesperson also said my mom should try the touch screen to try if it’s too difficult to use. I also tried it and noticed you can make phone calls, send SMS messages et cetera without needing the touch screen very often for basic functions.

This was a very good experience, since I have not bought a new phone since 1998. After that my phones have come from my work place or they have been temporary test devices couriers bring to my office from mobile phone vendors.

However, I have visited Nokia’s Flagship Store in Helsinki, and they have had an amazing, friendly and skilled service, even though you let them understand you are only looking. Although this was over a year ago, I don’t if things have lately changed for worse.

It would be nice to get some reader comments of your shopping experiences? Is there anyone out there? 🙂

Windows Phone Mango released to manufacturers

Microsoft has posted great news for Windows Phone developers and users confirming the Mango update has been released to manufacturers. However, Microsoft reveal exact details when the update is expected  to become available as an update for current devices. Microsoft has promised it will be released to all the current devices in addition to totally new devices coming with WP 7.5 pre-installed.

Some of most important improvements in Mango are:

  • Multi-tasking called ”Live Agents” for 3rd party apps.
  • A combined thread view for Facebook, IM and SMS messaging.
  • Internet Explorer 9 Mobile with HTML5 and 3D acceleration support.
  • Integrated Twitter support.
  • Support for more varied widgets in the Metro UI by using several ”tiles” for a single app.
  • New APIs for 3rd party app developers, such as support to take advantage of camera and sensors.
  • Support for gyroscope sensors.
  • Language and localization support during 2011 for at least 16 new cultures, such as Finnish.

Windows Phone Mango got quite an excited feedback from developers in beta testing. It is expected to become avsailable to operator testing in August.

Unfortunately I still haven’t got a chance to try Mango myself, and thus I’ve still had to rely on other sources.  The Geeks Club has reported about the hardware requirements and briefly explained how the Live Agents multi-tasking works.

As far as I understand, when switching between apps, inactive apps will be left in the background without their UI. Then other apps will be active. The platform will still have a strict control on device resources so that battery and CPU won’t be consumed too much.

Multi-tasking is not just geek stuff, because it should enable backgrond apps like listening to music from Spotify while doing other things at the same time. Spotify has already before promised WP7 support.

Until now Windows Phone 7 has been seen in mid- or high-end smartphones, but more affordable models are expected with the WP 7.5 Mango generation. The update does not raise the basic CPU and memory requirements, while at the same time the components that used to be high-end, have become affordable enough for mid- or even low-end devices.

With Mango, support has been added for the MSM7x30 chipset starting at 800 MHz. It is available for example in the Qualcomm Snapdragon CPU models, as MobileBurn reported. Initially Windows Phone required at minimum the Qualcomm snapdragon 1 GHz CPU.

More affordable devices should make Windows Phone more competitive against Android and iOS. However, there already are new Android smartphones available from the Chinese vendors Huawei and ZTE for under 200 euros in cash or under 7 euors a month with a 24-month operator plan in Europe. I ’d be surprised to see this cheap WP 7.5 Mango devices this year or maybe even next year.

How Elop did not kill Symbian

Since Nokia released its Q2 2011 results and figures of rapidly declining smartphone market share, there’s been fierce debate on mobile blogs whether Stephen Elop’s ”Burning Platform memo” and the February 11th announcement to move to Windows Phone are to be blamed. There’s an interesting argument against this on the personal blog of Stasys Bielinis (aka Staska), the editor-of-chief of the mobile technology site UnWiredView.com.

Staska basically argues the decline of Symbian smartphone sales had already started during Q4 2010, which is usually the best quarter for every mobile phone vendor, and last year the overall smartphone market was growing some 30%.

All About Symbian had a nice market share graph with history data  of Nokia and competitors which still showed growth for Nokia in Q4 2010. However, this indicates shipments to retailers, operators and other sales channels, not the actual end-user sales. It could be that the warehouses of Nokia clients were full of Symbian smartphones by the end of 2010, so they would not order more devices since the beginning of 2011.

It has also been said the decision to dump Symbian and move to Windows Phone is a such a big strategic move it has been accepted by Nokia’s board of directors, led by Chairman Jorma Ollila. It may have been decided already before Elop joined Nokia. However, the decision to discontinue the MeeGo smartphone product line was made in the beginning of January 2011, according to what Elop said in interview for BusinessWeek.

However, it’s obvious the harsh  way, from the perspective of the Symbian community, Nokia did the February announcement did not help the situation. Many loyal developers and users are now wondering how long there will be support from apps developers, Nokia’s (already slow) device software updates, or new Symbian devices.

Personally I’m pretty sure Nokia N8 will be my last Symbian smartphone. I want to use a device that first gets the nicest new apps and games, such as the Google+ client. And, Nokia’s firmware updates have been too slow. (I can’t blame those Nokia developers anyway. Who’s motivated to do your best when you’re possibly about to get sacked from your job?)

At the moment we know Apple iPhones passed Nokia in smartphone sales during Q2 2011 (abouut 20M versus about 17M). Soon Samsung will report its Q2 1011 results, and then we know if it has overtaken Nokia too. According to the latest news speculations, Samsung may have passed Apple too. Earlier analyst estimates suggested Samsung would have sold about 19,5M smartphones. If Samsung has done a lot better, it could have passed Apple too.

Mobile security software, still a waste of limited resources?

Mobile malware has become a hot topic again this summer. The first widely reported worms and other harmful apps appeared on mobile platforms in 2004. They were mainly very simple Bluetooth and MMS worms for Symbian OS which then was by far the most popular smartphone platform.

A trial version of F-Secure Mobile Security comes pre-installed with the latest Symbian 3 smartphones. Some sales packages come with the anti-theft features. Usually the full service costs about 2,5 euros a month from the mobile operator.
A trial version of F-Secure Mobile Security comes pre-installed with the latest Symbian 3 smartphones. Some sales packages come with the anti-theft features. Usually the full service costs about 2,5 euros a month from the mobile operator.

Lately mobile malware has hit the news again mainly due to some apps infringing the privacy of user information on Google Android platform. Google doesn’t have as tight security as Apple (App Store) or Nokia (Symbian Signed Ovi Store apps). One could argue with more freedom and openness comes more responsibility for the individual user too.

Security researchers and anti-virus companies are warning about more advanced mobile malware, and several new proof-of-concepts are expected to be shown next month in the Black Hat conference, as ComputerWorld reports.

Generally, mobile devices can be tempting for criminals, because they are usually connected to the Internet and there’s possibility to make money with operator billing, by making unwanted phone calls or sending text messages. The risks can increase as mobile device are expected to become a method for payments too.

There have been reports of at least 35 malware apps on Android Market, or as many as hundreds of apps that send user information to the developer or third parties without the users’ permission. However, in most cases Android Market notifies the users exactly which rights the app is requesting.

So should you install some kind of a mobile security software? They are available from AVG, F-Secure, Kaspersky, McAfee, Symantec, Trend Micro and others too.  Usually these cost some 3EUR or 3USD a month or 30EUR or 30USD a year. Security company LookOut specialised in Android has warned about Android threats in their blog for many times. They have a free basic version available too.

I used to have F-Secure Mobile Security running on my Symbian phone (Nokia E51) years ago. I had to uninstall it, because it was taking too much CPU and memory resources. Today the latest version is better optimised, and the devices have faster processors and more memory. But still, Nokia E7 and N8 feel a lot slower with the active mobile security activated in background. So my personal device is still without a mobile security app.

I still believe a careful user can avoid malware just by being minding where you download apps and what kind of apps you install. Android even warns if the apps wants to access Internet, send user data, etc.

For IT support of large organisations, the situation is a lot more complicated. Once you have handed out smartphones to your employees, it can very difficult to install any security software afterwards, unless the devices are in an advanced centralized device management. Thus many organisations many been cautious in advance and pre-installed some mobile security software on Android and Symbian devices.

You also have to consider what’s the largest risk. It could be that devices are lost or stolen all the time, and with them valuable company information or user acoounts and password can get to outsiders. Security companies have responded to this by adding anti-theft features to their software in addition to mobile anti-virus and firewall. Anti-theft features typically allow you to remotely wipe the device clean or at least lock it.

The most common way to protect devices with company e-mails, calendars etc is to enforce a compulsory pass code after the device has not been used for a while. Apple’s iOS and Nokia’s Symbian also have encrypted file systems by default. Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean criminals can’t even possibly get access to your files, as the security company Nixu reports in their blog post about encryption in iOS. http://www.nixu.fi/blogi/2011/toukokuu/iphone-file-system-encryption-does-not-protect-your-data/

On Android and Windows Phone the situation is even worse, because as fars security experts have reported, they don’t encypt all the files by default. Windows Phone Mango, shipping in devices later this year, will support some level of multi-tasking, and will probably enable mobile security software in the background too. However, as far as I know, it still won’t bring the same level of file encryption Windows Mobile 6.x used to support.

Apple has not allowed mobile security software for iOS yet, even though there have been public reports of malware. For example, there was the case of a ”jailbreak hack” just by visiting a web page taking advantage of a vulnerability in the iOS platform, and after the the device was open to more attacks and root access. Fortunately Apple quickly fixed this hole.

Having discussed this with many security experts, they seem to agree the best protected platform for business use seem to be Symbian and the old Windows Mobile 6.x. Too bad, these are not the most popular platforms anymore.