Apple, Android may soon be overshadowed by low-cost smartphones


Worldwide media tablet sales to end users are set to
total 63.6 million units, a 261.4 percent increase from 2010 sales of 17.6
million units, with sales forecast set to reach 326.3 million units by 2015,
according to Gartner.


Apple‘s iPad
is projected to account for 73.4 percent of worldwide media tablet sales in
2011, down from 83 percent share in 2010. However, Gartner still expects Apple
iOS to lead the tablet market share in 2011, despite ever-growing competition
from the Android OS.


We expect Apple to maintain a market share lead
throughout our forecast period by commanding more than 50 percent of the market
until 2014,” remarked Carolina Milanesi, research vice president, Gartner.
This is because Apple delivers a superior and unified user experience across
its hardware, software and services. Unless competitors can respond with a
similar approach, challenges to Apple’s position will be minimal. Apple had the
foresight to create this market and in doing that planned for it as far as
component supplies such as memory and screen. This allowed Apple to bring the
iPad out at a very competitive price and no compromise in experience among the
different models that offer storage and connectivity options.”


tablets are on pace to ship 11 million units in 2011, accounting for 17.3
percent of media tablet sales. This is up only slightly from Android’s 2010
market share of 14.3 percent. Gartner’s forecast for the Android OS has been
lowered by 28 percent from last quarter’s projection. The reduction would have
been greater had it not been for the success of lower-end tablets in Asia, and
the expectations around the launch of Amazon’s tablet.


In the Indian market for example, Samsung Galaxy tablet
has been leading the tablet race, and the recent slew of low-cost tablets from
Reliance Communications, Bharti (Beetel) and HTC, will no doubt provide heated
competition in the low-cost smartphone market. Google which recently launched
its Google wallet,
may also aid in the uptake of Android sales, though experts believe that the
Windows 7 phone may provide fair competition to the Android platform in the
near future, with its superior cloud offerings.  


So far, Android’s appeal in the tablet market has been
constrained by high prices, weak user interface and limited tablet
applications. Google will address the fragmentation of Android across
smartphone and tablet form factors within the next Android release, known as
-Ice Cream Sandwich,’ which we expect to see in the fourth quarter of 2011.
Android can count on strong support from key OEMs, has a sizeable developer
community, and its smartphones application ecosystem is second only to
Apple’s,” said Milanesi.


RIM’s QNX OS is a promising platform, but it is still in
the early stages of development, so it is yet to pose competition to the
established Android and iOS platforms. RIM’s main challenge will be to attract
more support from application developers as the company is going through a
tough period, with considerable pressure on its smartphone business. RIM‘s
revenues recently saw a 10 percent dip in Q2 2011, to stand at $4.2 billion,
from $4.6 billion in the same quarter last year. This is the third straight
quarter loss for the former number one smartphone giant that gave the world the


Struggling to compete with its smartphone and tablet
competitors and looking to recover falling profits, RIM is now on a spree of
upgraded BlackBerry launches. After the BlackBerry Playbook, RIM launched the
BlackBerry Bold 9900 in August and the BlackBerry Torch 9860,
a few days ago. The company also launched the BlackBerry App World 3.0,
enabling a more user-friendly and personalized app experience for BlackBerry
users. RIM has also revealed that it plans to launch its first QNX-powered
BlackBerry in the first quarter of 2012.


As more vendors will arrive in 2012, Gartner analysts
believe that it is important to concentrate on delivering a rich user
experience based on a strong tie between smartphones and tablets, a good set of
apps, an intuitive user interface, and the ability to share content easily
between devices.


Most of Apple’s competitors are struggling to meet
Apple’s prices without considerably sacrificing margins. Screen quality and
processing power are the two hardware features that vendors cannot afford to
compromise on,” said Roberta Cozza, principal analyst at Gartner.


Smartphone growth is set to reach half a billion in the
next four years, and 50-60 percent of all phones will be smartphones. Mobile
data traffic is set to go up by 60 percent in the next four years, doubling all
over the world in 12-24 months, in terms of data per subscriber per month.
Moreover, the APAC region is leading smartphone growth, with some of the highest number of shipments in the world. Looking to
cash in on this trend, service providers and vendors are actively trying to
outdo each other, vying for the end users attention. However, consistent
bandwidth – that is effective data traffic channeling and quality of service
will be key for players to stay ahead of the race. 


By Beryl M

[email protected]