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Handset Manufacturers Aim to Design Their Way Out of Recession

The global recession may have drastically slowed many forms of economic activity, but not the efforts of mobile device manufacturers to drive growth by design innovation, says analyst firm ABI Research. By ChannelPro

Handset Manufacturers Aim to Design Their Way Out of Recession

The global recession may have drastically slowed many forms of economic activity, but not the efforts of mobile device manufacturers to drive growth by design innovation, says analyst firm ABI Research.

“It is quite remarkable to see mobile handset trends in play,” says ABI Research Vice President Jake Saunders. “Despite the recession, there are some really exciting developments taking place right now. Mobile handset innovation is not going to wait for the recession to abate.”

In the last quarter, 35 percent of new handsets registered with ABI Research’s Global Mobile Device Tracking Database were smartphones, up from 6 percent just a year ago. While clamshell devices are still popular with manufacturers (25 percent of new devices released), slider-type handsets—in which a larger, hidden keyboard is revealed—are seen as an exciting design opportunity within the manufacturers’ design labs (35 percent).

Although GSM-based handsets still rule in shipment volumes to the tune of 713 million in 2008, handset manufacturers are boosting the number of WCDMA-capable handset models in their portfolios (85 percent vs. 35 percent year-over-year).

Manufacturers are also doing their best to give end users as much memory flexibility as possible. External memory ports have evolved from the mini to the micro format, and SD is a clear favorite at 55 percent. GPS is increasingly becoming a “must have” feature, not just for smartphones, but also for other phone categories—35 percent vs. 15 percent year-over-year.

Research practice director Kevin Burden adds, “While mobile operators are still struggling to find viable revenue models from mobile music downloads, handset manufacturers clearly see music playback as de rigueur—85 percent of handsets logged into our database had mp3 capabilities.”

They are also determined to undermine the standalone digital camera market. Of the handset models released in the current quarter, 50 percent are 4-megapixel or higher cameras. The Sony-Ericsson Idou will even support 12 megapixels.

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