In mature markets smartphone purchases are increasingly driven by considerations linked to Internet access experience, wealth of applications, content and services linked to a specific operating system (OS). Put simply, ecosystems have become more relevant than brands.
Providers with stronger ecosystems, like Apple and Android, have a clear advantage. Gartner analyst, Roberta Cozza, said users invest time and money when they choose a particular ecosystem which effectively locks them in and the chances of them switching to a new platform are greatly reduced.
“User commitment to a given platform will solidify even further if more targeted cloud services start to be aggressively linked to platforms by providers,” she added.
As well as taking into account the ecosystem and applications, the shopping checklist also covers pricing, contracts with telecommunications providers, connectivity and niche features.
Pricing Gartner expects the average selling price (ASP) for smartphones in the midrange open OS segment to experience considerable declines in 2012 and as white-box vendors enter the open OS market, price drops will be even more aggressive.
A number of recent developments have impacted pricing.
Vendors have introduced more affordable Android-based devices, paired with interesting features, such as double-SIM slots priced at $120 and below for price-sensitive users. Micromax, Alcatel, ZTE and Acer have also introduced open OS devices in this price segment during 2011.
Gartner expects Nokia to continue its aggressive pricing strategy to maintain 26 per cent market share in the Asia Pacific.
A large number of smartphone sales will continue to be linked to a communication service provider (CSP) contract.
Enterprises will continue to benefit from competitive subsidies for smartphones offered by CSPs. When negotiating these contracts enterprises need to take into account upgrade cycles and connectivity. Smartphones subsidised by a CSP are likely to be linked to 24 or 36 month contracts which means organisations will upgrade when the contract is up for renewal.
Although the productivity benefits of wireless connectivity for mobile workers attract enterprises, high subscription costs and data transfer charges limit the attractiveness of such offerings. The success of bundled offerings will depend on the cost per megabyte and the performance of business applications.
IT professionals need to keep abreast of emerging trends in connectivity such as 4G.
At present the main technology being used for 4G is Long Term Evolution (LTE). WiMAX is being deployed, but will eventually have a much smaller infrastructure footprint.
LTE is the predominant choice for fourth-generation systems. Some first generation LTE systems cannot be called 4G but are being marketed as such. Strictly speaking, though, only LTE-A is 4G. WiMax is based on the IEEE 802.16 standard and consists of two current revisions of the standard — 802.16-2004 and 802.16e-2005.
HSPA technologies provide speeds up to 42Mbps, depending on the generation of the technology. LTE should provide GSM subscribers with up to 100 Mbps of performance.
Network interface cards for these technologies are available. Smartphones offer the capability to simultaneously support high-speed data transport in addition to managing phone calls, and can be used in tethering applications.
Between 2010 and 2015, Gartner expects mobile broadband connections to grow at a compound annual rate of 36 per cent. This growth is the result of an ever increasing demand for 24x7 mobility.
As well as taking into account various smartphone features, Gartner said different verticals will need to consider niche applications and how they apply to their particular industry.
For example, Gartner said haptics is a technology that is still in early development but has potential for widespread smartphone adoption in particular industries such as the medical profession or industrial design. Users experience basic haptics whenever their smartphone vibrates.
Gartner said there are opportunities for haptics in mapping applications by providing landscape specific sensations such as dirt roads or bodies of water. Industrial applications such as product modelling will have a virtual hands-on experience to help detect nuances in the design by using haptics.
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