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September 4, 2012
Acer said earlier today that it plans to launch six new mobile handsets in 2013, including a Windows Phone 8 device. Company CEO Jim Wong says that
the 6 new models would appeal to all segments of the market in Europe, south-east Asia and China.
The handsets will be Android-based, with the exception of the one Windows Phone 8 model. An entry-level model will also feature
chips from Taiwanese giant MediaTek while the higher-end designs will score dual-core CPUs from Qualcomm.
Acer’s smartphones will be made mainly by OEMs Qisda and Compal next year. In Europe, Acer will be looking to sell through
existing sales channels and strike new deals with a few wireless carriers, while in Asia it’s looking specifically at Indonesia,
Thailand, Malaysia and India-– some of the key growth markets in the region.
But when it comes to the world’s largest smartphone market-- China, Acer said that it would be targeting entry and mid-level
sales, but would steer clear of the ultra low price segment.
While it’s probably wise not to get too involved at the very bottom end of the Chinese smartphone market, Acer will still
face some very stiff competition in the entry and mid-level segment nevertheless, especially from home-grown competitors such
as ZTE, Huawei and the new smartphone kid on the block-- Lenovo.
Acer obviously thinks there’s enough room for everyone, and with 42 million devices shipped into the channel in China in Q2
– around 27 percent of the global figure – maybe the company does have a point.
But its brand is more commonly associated with laptops and tablets, despite the launch of the high-end CloudMobile S500
smartphone in Europe recently, following hot on the heels of the Liquid Galant and Liquid Glow.
Gartner analyst Tracy Tsai wouldn’t say whether she thought Acer’s gamble in the smartphone segment is likely to pay off,
but she did say that the expansion of this part of its business was to be expected soon. For her, 2013 is soon enough.
“The content, application, GUI and usage model is getting unified across different devices,” she added. “It is inevitable
for device makers to expand their product portfolio in response to this new market trend. This is the way they can provide
consumers with an overall unified user experience that the customer wants.”
In other mobile news
Wireless carrier AT&T said today that is opening up a new flagship retail store in Chicago that will focus on the consumer and not just
selling mobile products and services.
The new store is opening tomorrow and its 10,000 square-foot area is nestled in Chicago's famed Magnificent Mile.
The size and design of the store suggests a more user-focused feeling than that found at other AT&T retail outlets in
The 'product runway' offers AT&T subscribers a chance to check out the latest smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices.
An Explorer lounge lets customers try out different mobile apps based on their own needs and interests.
The various products are organized across the store according to specific categories. The AT&T Digital Life section shows
people how to control their homes with the company's mobile devices.
A 2012 Nissan Leaf is parked in the Street Smart area to demonstrate AT&T's efforts in automotive technology. Another section
lets consumers check out various products related to home security, entertainment, and music.
AT&T is also placing the store's overall layout to good use. Store visitors and people just passing by can interact with an
18-foot wall display showing information on different products. Art lovers can tour the store's gallery to see works by two
Chicago artists-- Cody Hudson and Patrick Dalek.
The company is also gearing the store to be more than just about products. AT&T has set up "quiet and comfortable consultation
areas" where consumers can pose questions to store reps about new purchases and other topics. An Apps Bar offers customers individual
and group product demos, which also appear on video monitors for others to observe.
"AT&T's current subscribers and potentially new customers will not only be able to interact with and purchase our products, but they will also experience the forefront
of evolving wireless technology and see how AT&T is leading it," said Paul Roth, president of AT&T retail sales and service.
"Customers can touch, feel and see how our latest devices and mobile apps will fit their lifestyles, whether they're interested
in fitness or music, entertainment or family," added Roth.
The Apple Store was designed with the "customer experience" in mind, offering a showcase of products for potential buyers
and support for existing users. Based on Apple's retail success, other companies haven't been shy about borrowing that theme.
Overall, Microsoft's retail stores showcase the company's products and try to help customers through hands-on demos, video
displays, and interactive tutorials.
Beyond AT&T, other mobile carriers have gotten into the act as well. In November 2011, both Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile
started launching workshops to teach prospective buyers about smartphones, tablets, and other devices. The aim is to help customers
become more comfortable with, and less overwhelmed by the array of technology choices.
In doing so, the companies hope to build relationships with those consumers, which then can lead to sustained product sales.
In other mobile news
According to mobile phone trade-in site Gazelle, Samsung smartphone users are dumping their devices in light of last
week's court victory to Apple. Samsung customers appear to be worried to hold on to their phones, and aren't pleased knowing
that their phone maker is about to have to pay Apple over $1 billion in damages.
"Samung smartphone owners aren't happy one bit," says Anthony Scarsella, Gazelle's tech editor. "We expect this trend to
continue and to even intensify, especially with this latest court verdict." Scarsella added that his company, which buys used mobile smartphones from consumers, has seen a 53 percent increase in
the number of people looking to rapidly unload their Samsung phones since Monday alone.
The sudden upsurge in supply has led Gazelle to drastically drop the prices it pays for Samsung devices by at least 10 to
15 percent, and Scarsella hints that prices could drop even further as the selling spree is rapidly accelerating.
And one of the main reason for all the dumping could be that Apple has requested court injunctions barring all U.S. sales
of at least eight of the Samsung phones named in its lawsuit. Some might think customers would be rushing to buy up the remaining
stock of Samsung devices while they're still on shelves, not unloading the ones they already have, but as Scarsella points out,
the exact reverse is actually what's happening since Monday.
Let's not forget that Samsung devices are running Google's Android operating system. Mobile makers aren't known for keeping
their older phones up to date with the latest Android OS as it stands, and customers might fear that Samsung will be even less
likely to issue updates for models that it isn't allowed to sell anymore.
And should Google worry about Apple's big victory against Samsung last week? Well, Google's stock was down almost $20 a share
when markets opened Monday morning, so it does appear that some shareholders are concerned. Time will tell.
Although Apple's injunctions will only affect U.S. sales, America is by far the largest market for smartphones. And the same
is true for the iPhone. Only China comes close, and while Samsung technically leads that market (for now at least), it does
so with only a 19 percent market share, compared to Apple's 31 percent share in the United States.
Luckily for Samsung, Judge Lucy Koh has put off ruling on Apple's injunctions until December 6, 2012, so customers still
have plenty of time to buy its product from U.S. retailers.
But if the court does approve Apple's injunction request, it's easy to see Samsung dropping its support for models that
no longer bring in any U.S. revenue.
Nevertheless, budget conscious consumers who don't mind using an older Android version might be wise to keep an eye on reseller
sites, which might soon have an abundant supply of used Samsung phones available. As of this writing, an eBay search for
'Samsung Galaxy S II' yielded 1,524 results as of yesterday.
It will be interesting to see how this whole thing unfolds itself in the next few weeks. One thing is for sure-- the impact
of this big legal victory for Apple will greatly impact the wireless industry for the next couple of years. And yes, it has
In other mobile and wireless news
MasterCard said yesterday that it has signed an exclusive agreement to develop a pay-by-wave platform for U.K. internet service provider
Everything Everywhere over the next five years.
The first product of this arrangement will be a co-branded payment platform, using Near Field Communications (NFC) to facilitate payments.
The plan is to then extend that platform into the usual mix of loyalty cards, money transfers and online payments, with the interesting addition of
Orange, one of Everything Everywhere's consumer brands, has had an NFC payment system since June 2011 when we managed to score some free cookies
using a Samsung mobile handset while testing the system.
Since then, the range of supported handsets expanded, and then contracted again, to the point where Orange isn't selling any compatible handsets
at all anymore.
Quick Tap worked, but was cumbersome and needed some fine tuning. The development deal is exclusive, but that won't stop MasterCard-branded
cards being used by other wireless carriers, and on other mobile handsets as well.
Google Wallet is based around a pre-paid card, and MasterCard's PayPass platform is already embedded in millions of plastic cards and an increasing
number of phones around the world.
But those platforms rely on specific deals with most banks or other financial institutions who buy into the PayPass network in order to have their
cards processed by PayPass terminals.
Those banks can equally go to Visa and buy into its PayWave network, as Barclays has done with its PayTag stickers in the United Kingdom.
And the duopoly which exists in the U.S. suits the payment card industry very well in deed. Most terminals accept both PayWave and PayPass,
and in the U.K., retailers are already accepting a million transactions a month.
Overall, Visa and Mastercard are generally competitive enough to keep costs down for everyone, although new challengers are seeking to upset
that delicate balance.
On average, processing credit cards on phones was only slightly new when Square splurged $10 million recently on a small plastic mag-stripe reader.
The problem is that oday, companies are falling over themselves trying to enable all the functionality. Dublin startup SumUp launched only
last week with $20 million or so in venture capital, and the biggest players are already getting in bed with VeriFone launching its 'Sail' service
in May 2013.
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