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January 25, 2018

Comments

Jim Glue

Congrats to all of you Nokia fans. That's pretty good results. I wonder if we will see HMD/Foxconn do even better in the countries where iPhone is not #1. Will the strength of the Nokia brand make it a stand out amongst the "me too, cheap cheap" low end Android competition.

I look forward to HMD/Foxconn stepping back into the photo arena. Competition is great for all, and I love seeing the march of progress in smartphone camera tech.

Jim Glue

We can add LG to the list of mobile makers circling the drain (with HTC, Motorola and Sony). LG's mobile division, losing a half billion over the last 2 qtrs, so much that it made LG itself lose money - is going to change strategy again. Apparently it's costing them too much money to launch and market flagship phones on an annual schedule. Now they will focus on cheaper phones and put out the occasional flagship on their own timing. Doesn't sound like a "road to riches" strategy to me.

With the end of the torrid growth of the Android market at hand...it's time for the merging and purging to begin. There is just no reason to stay in the market that has very little rewards to divide among the winners anyway.

E.Casais

I am still reserved about HMD -- their current offering is just too much of a "me-too" lineup.

As for LG there is a very good reason why its mobile phone division is circling down the drain. That firm destroyed its own brand by releasing products with a major fault, consistently appearing in one model after another.

Ever heard of the LG bootloop? The fault that bricks phones after some months of usage?

It affected the G4, the V10, the Nexus 5X. The G5 too. And also the V20. And the G Flex2...

What happens when a manufacturer releases that kind of trash _in succession_?

1) Faithful customers get annoyed, then wary, then furious. They swear never to buy LG again. Worse: they will exhort family, friends and colleagues not to buy LG. It has been marketing knowledge for a long time that a thoroughly dissatisfied customers can kill at least 5 further sales. Easily.

2) Retailers do not like to handle warranties (it is work without profit). They do not enjoy pissed off customers. They look at the RMA and, soon, they stop _actively_ promoting LG. They still sell LG products -- to those who absolutely want one. Later, they reduce the LG lineup on offer. Later still, they start actively suggesting alternatives to people interested in LG.

3) Geeks carry out LG reputation on the Internet. If you read forums, you may have noticed that, in the past year or so, announcements of new LG smartphone models were invariably followed by some snarky comments of the kind "Do they still have that wonderful bootloop feature?"

And then, steadily, customers refuse to buy LG, retailers refuse to sell LG, and LG market share plummets.

A similar effect destroyed HTC, but there the issue was overheating. Anything from "so hot it is uncomfortable to have in one's hand", through "that super-CPU is always throttled to lame-level", to "can only work on a bag of ice".

Think I am exaggerating? Here: https://androidforums.com/threads/droid-incredible-random-restart-reboot-problem.70203/page-31#post-2557733

There even was a video on YouTube years ago showing that problem.

Again, model after model after model was affected by overheating. The One X, the Thunderbolt, the HD2, the Desire. The Sensation, the Evo, the One S. The M7, the M8, the M9...

Clearly, HTC had a serious lack of competence in thermal design -- and customers and retailers ended up noticing it.

There are two things that are important to notice:

a) It is not a case of "you buy cheap junk, you get cheap junk". Expensive flagship models of LG and HTC were affected.

b) It is not a case of "mucked up their marketing". LG was releasing excellent models spec-wise, it had put emphasis on cameras which were competitive against whatever Samsung and others were offering. HTC was the first manufacturer fully committed to Android, was releasing cool products, was at the vanguard of the "super-thin" smartphone craze.

In those two cases, LG and HTC stealthily became synonyms of electronic crap. They are now in the throes of agony.

A last important remark: one, or perhaps even a couple of such missteps would not be enough to kill a brand.

Apple survived the "touch screen disease" -- which was similar to in severity and in origin to the LG bootloop issue (poor manufacturing design). It only affected the iPhone 6/6+ -- no models after, no models before.

Samsung reputation was not dented by the exploding batteries. It only affected the Note 7 model -- nothing before, nothing after.

But if Samsung had seriously troublesome batteries in 4, 5, 6 models, then the equation "Samsung = battery hell" would come into force, just as "LG = bootlooping brick" and "HTC = overheating junk".

Motorola and Sony have different problems. Nokia and Blackberry were yet other questions. Companies die for different reasons, but for HTC and LG, appalling workmanship did it.

John A

Good news for Nokia/HMD Global. No brand are in a position to threat Samsung, Apple and Huawei in top 3 for a long time. But Nokia are here to stay, and how big they will be only time will tell. But so far the plans seems to work for them. They also got the feature phones beside the android units.

Then about the issue with HTC, LG and Sony. Who will survive in the mobile market?
In my opinion I would bet at Sony. They still got many carrier partners in europe, even if they are not so known in the US market for phones. (but in 2018 the fingerprint sensors will work in the US market with Sony mobiles to) They make good smartphones but maybe kind of old fashion with big bezels. The rumors say Sony might implement a new design language for them in MWC 2018. Kaz Hirai the CEO of Sony recently also made a statement they will stay in mobile.

LG are big on TV so I suspect they maybe put more effort there than on mobile. HTC? They got some VR stuff but I am not sure how large that business are. In mobile they are kind of lost. They seems to have lost many retail and carrier partners and now sell mostly online.

But I suppose the HTC DNA will survive in the future Google Pixel models even if HTC as a independent company will be gone.

Abdul Muis

Canalys has issued its report on the Chinese smartphone market's performance in 2017 today. For the first time ever, there was a year-on-year decline in sales, with 4% less devices sold last year compared to 2016. 459 million smartphones were shipped in China in 2017.

https://www.canalys.com/newsroom/china%E2%80%99s-smartphone-market-suffers-first-ever-annual-decline-shipments-fall-4-2017

Huawei is the top dog in its home market, managing to ship 90 million handsets last year, followed by Oppo, vivo, Apple, and Xiaomi. In Q4 Huawei sold 24 million units, Oppo managed 19 million sales, and vivo shipped 17 million phones.

E.Casais

Let me shed light from another angle on what Abdul Muis is reporting -- and enhance the picture of the traditional Nokia markets that HMD is trying to re-enter.

Ever heard of Transsion? Yet another Chinese manufacturer (of multiple brands), that has become the largest vendor of mobile phones in Africa by units. It is a vendor both of dirt cheap basic phones and entry-level smartphones, and is estimated to sell 100m devices in Africa alone last year. It is now attacking India.

https://www.ft.com/content/58c4fad8-c394-11e7-a1d2-6786f39ef675

IDC claims it should reach nr. 4 worldwide by volume, but only nr. 13 by revenue.

Ever heard of Tinno Mobile? Yet another Chinese manufacturer (of multiple brands), that sells entry-level and mid-range smartphones, as well as feature phones, especially in Europe and emerging countries. You might know it as Wiko in Western Europe, Fly in Russia, Blu in the Americas, or Q-Smart in Vietnam.

To put it in perspective: several years ago, Wiko was just a curious success story in France (nr. 3 nationally). It has now established a solid presence in countries as diverse as Switzerland and Portugal. Every retailer offers Wiko products nowadays.

So while Huawei, Oppo, Vivo and some better known vendors dominate China and have entered Europe and the USA, Tinno and Transsion are the kind of unknown competitors that HMD will have to contend with in the traditional Nokia markets and market segments.

Their importance disappears behind the splintering in multiple brands. Something that purely brand-orientated statistics often fail to deal with.

Wayneborean


@E.Casais,

And the capabilities of the phones produced by Tinno and Transsion are miles ahead of the capabilities of Apple and Samsung phones of a few years ago. This could have an impact on Samsung, as there isn’t that much separating them. Could. A lot depends on reputation, and the main problem Tinno and Transsion have is reputation, because of brand division.

Maybe the Smartphone Wars aren’t over!

NobodyMakesMoneyWithAndroid

Apple first?

Oh dear.

Henrik Nergard

@E.Casais

I have bought some smaller brands. In my opinion it are often quality issues in the hardware or the software, you can not depend that you will get bug fixes or software updates on a regular basis. Yes you can get them at a good price. But its a big step before you get in the same level of quality like on Sony, Samsung, Huawei, Nokia and so on.

Especially some Chinese smaller brands lies about specs/looks in PR materials they put out, on papers they looks great but not in reality. The dual camera functions on them are mostly more or less fake.

I guess maybe OnePlus are one brand that might get in the carrier stores during 2018.

E.Casais

@Henrik Nergard

"are often quality issues in the hardware or the software"

Oh, absolutely. Those smaller brands are very much of the kind "you get what you pay for".

There are however two issues to consider:

1) It is a matter of available income. Many people just cannot afford a Samsung or a Sony, let alone an Apple device.

2) Big names are no guarantee. See my post above about LG and HTC -- two once top-10 players that basically committed suicide by relentlessly producing expensive flagships with device-killing faults.

"I guess maybe OnePlus are one brand that might get in the carrier stores during 2018."

Brands like Wiko are _already_ in the standard offering of European operators such as Swisscom, SFR or Telekom.

The point is not so much what happens in 1st world countries, but the fact that HMD, trying to re-enter the former Nokia markets, will face those Chinese manufacturers that have a very strong presence both on feature and basic phones, and on entry-level smartphones. I foresee quite a struggle for HMD.

Henrik Nergard

@E.Casais

Fair enough I get your point. Yes HMD Global will struggle on those markets. But I think HMD Global got a chance in Africa to. They still got the feature phone business fairly intact from the Micosoft days. And now they can add android to that mix to.

But we will see how it goes.

E.Casais

@Henrik Nergard

The difficulties for HMD will also be determined by what Wayneborean alluded to above. What is the reputation of those Tinno/Transsion brands? Has any of them managed to build brand loyalty? If so, dislodging them from an entrenched position will be harder for HMD.

Time will tell. At least, that front will be a welcome change from the endless speculations centering on the Pixel vs iPhone vs Note.

Wayneborean

The brand fragmentation will also impact Tinno/Transsion when they try to expand into further markets.

Then there’s the quality issue. Crappy hardware and software can be fixed. When I was in China visiting forklift and construction equipment manufacturers top management was well aware that quality would be a major sticking point in other markets. I spent a lot of time answering questions for CEOs and their management groups about this, while selling them catalytic converters (they wouldn’t have done the with anyone, but they knew my history, and I strongly suspect based on comments from an American customer that I got checked out very carefully).

Chinese auto manufacturers have had this problem, where cars that did well in China sold poorly in South Korea, Thailand, and other south-east Asian countries. There was a fantastic article covering those problems on CarBuzz about 3-4 years back.

Of course they could play stupid like Elop, HTC, etc. and wreak their reputation, but there’s enough information on those cases, and cases in other industries that if they mess up, it will be on them.

Wonder if anyone at those firms reads the comments here? I hope so.

The main problem in the smartphone segment at present is that two companies hold such a massive chunk of the market (34% according to Tomi’s Q3 numbers). In the automobile market the two largest firms, Toyota and Volkswagen hold a far healthier 21.41% combined.

Huber

@ E.Casais: While you are absolutely right in your analysis or the failure of HTC and LG, I would add marketing to the mix, which also affects Sony.

Samsung has huge billboards in most international airports. When the SGS9 will be released, I bet retailers will be flooded with promoters everywhere on the globe.

Then Samsung has lots of TV ads in almost every country. And so on.

Compare this to Sony, HTC and LG.

Sony had good compact versions of their phones, with fast SoCs and good cameras. Samsung had crappy Mini-versions with cheap components.
But the average customer did not know this!

LG had the G5, the last phone in its class with replaceable battery one one of the first with an additional wide angle camera.
Then LG was much faster than Samsung in releasing Android Nougat, ready for the x-mas sales in 2016.
But at retailers at this time, you had Samsung promoters and devices everywhere, while a single LG G5 was stored in some corner on the shelf. I wonder why most customers bought a Samsung!

It surely is tough to combat Samsung's marketing, but simply doing nothing at all also is no alternative.

John A

About marketing I think HMD Global/Nokia must take a leap in that during 2018. They have not same PR budget as a brand like Samsung of course.

But they can not do as LG, HTC or Sony with basicly almost no ads/commercial at all. The competition is stiff and even if Nokia are a brand with rich history I think that will not be enough going forward.

ピコ太郎

@Jim

You talk useless stuff too much

ピコ太郎

Brand value is earned
LG, HTC fail to keeping the value of their brand with past mistake
SONY fail to puting product value that the mass wanting
so they are declining

today nokia is like they were on the right track.
let hope they not making mistake.

Tomi T Ahonen

Hi Everybody

I've just posted an update to the 'Ten dollar iPhone' forecast. Enjoy

Tomi Ahonen :-)

Tomi T Ahonen

Hi everybody

On Nokia sales in its home market Finland. On the December month sales, it is a mixed bag. Some good, some bad news.

Good news, on one network (DNA) the only Nokia smartphone in the Top 10 has climbed from 9th rank to 7th. It is the Nokia 6.

But previously we had Nokia smartphones to consumers on another of the 3 networks. Now no more (suggests decline for Christmas).

But now both of the other networks (3 networks in Finland) do report one Nokia smartphone selling among their Top 15, to the enterprise customers. Elisa has Nokia 3 ranked 13th to enterprise customers. Telia has Nokia 6 ranked 6th for enterprise customers.

I interpret this that for the month of December, likely Nokia is ranked 5th, behind Apple, Samsung, Huawei & OnePlus.

Hopefully we'll get some real numbers from some sources too..

Tomi Ahonen :-)

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    Tomi Ahonen is a bestselling author whose twelve books on mobile have already been referenced in over 100 books by his peers. Rated the most influential expert in mobile by Forbes in December 2011, Tomi speaks regularly at conferences doing about 20 public speakerships annually. With over 250 public speaking engagements, Tomi been seen by a cumulative audience of over 100,000 people on all six inhabited continents. The former Nokia executive has run a consulting practise on digital convergence, interactive media, engagement marketing, high tech and next generation mobile. Tomi is currently based out of Hong Kong but supports Fortune 500 sized companies across the globe. His reference client list includes Axiata, Bank of America, BBC, BNP Paribas, China Mobile, Emap, Ericsson, Google, Hewlett-Packard, HSBC, IBM, Intel, LG, MTS, Nokia, NTT DoCoMo, Ogilvy, Orange, RIM, Sanomamedia, Telenor, TeliaSonera, Three, Tigo, Vodafone, etc. To see his full bio and his books, visit www.tomiahonen.com Tomi Ahonen lectures at Oxford University's short courses on next generation mobile and digital convergence. Follow him on Twitter as @tomiahonen. Tomi also has a Facebook and Linked In page under his own name. He is available for consulting, speaking engagements and as expert witness, please write to tomi (at) tomiahonen (dot) com

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