Android's rise continues while Symbian shrinks

OvumThe latest update of Ovum’s Smartphone Capability Analyzer reveals some interesting developments in the smartphone market. In this quarter the rise of Android continues; Nokia announces a new high-end device, but delays it until 3Q10; widgets become more popular; and Intel is preparing to re-enter the smartphone market with its Moorestown hardware platform. HTC is now the manufacturer with the most individual models (20); Nokia is second with 17 and Samsung is third with 11.
 
The Android army marches onward
Android handsets are proliferating: from four handsets in 3Q09, to 13 in 4Q09, and now 21 in 1Q10 from eight manufacturers. Some of this growth in support seems to be at the expense of Windows Mobile (which has shrunk from 40 handsets in 1Q09 to 27 handsets in the current report) and Symbian (26 handsets in 1Q09; 19 in 1Q10) as the likes of Samsung, LG, and Motorola shift their focus.
 
The majority of current Android handsets are based on Qualcomm MSM7-series ARM11 chipsets, but newer handsets are a blend of Snapdragon and TI OMAP3 platforms – a trend that will continue for much of 2010. HTC, which produces the widest range of Android handsets, is migrating to Snapdragon for its higher-end devices (such as the Desire) while sticking with MSM7-series chipsets for mid-range devices such as the Legend. The main consequence of this is the capability gap between devices with hardware graphics acceleration and those without – potentially a problem as Adobe releases Flash 10 in the next few months.
 
Nokia’s Symbian troubles continue, but the N8 is the new hope
Last quarter Ovum commented on the processing power gap opening up between Nokia and its rivals at the high end, and Nokia still does not have a Symbian handset running on a next-generation chipset.
 
Nokia has this week announced its first Symbian^3 handset, the N8, due for release in 3Q10. Nokia desperately needs a high-end consumer device; the N8 focuses on camera and HD video performance, and is based on a 680MHz ARM11 CPU core with hardware graphics acceleration. This allows Nokia to achieve a lower price point than competitors - €370 - while including headline-grabbing camera and video capabilities. The big question for Symbian^3 is whether it can deliver a high-end user experience on ARM11 hardware.
 
The Maemo-based N900 is Nokia’s only Cortex A8 device in the market, and despite its obvious capability it remains a niche handset that even Nokia does not expect to be a big seller.
 
In 1Q09 there were 26 Symbian handsets; in 1Q10 there are 19. The number of new Symbian handsets is slowly falling as Nokia rationalizes its portfolio and other vendors (Motorola, LG, and Samsung) abandon the platform. This may be a good thing for Nokia and Symbian: focusing their efforts may free up resources for improving the platform and delivering timely updates – an issue that is vital for Nokia’s credibility in the smartphone market.
 
 
Widgets are in, but JIL has some work to do
 
Many more handsets are supporting widget frameworks than this time last year – up from 12% to 68%.
 
This quarter we have added Joint Innovation Lab (JIL) widget support as a specific category of widgets. JIL is an operator-led group comprising China Mobile, Softbank, Vodafone, and Verizon Wireless, which aims to provide a platform for Internet services on mobile. The first handsets supporting JIL-compliant widgets were the Samsung-manufactured Vodafone 360 H1 and M1, followed by China Mobile’s version of the Dell Mini 3i Android phone. RIM, Sharp, HTC, Huawei, Lenovo, and ZTE have also committed to supporting JIL widgets, but so far have not launched JIL-compliant smartphones. The initiative will need a serious push if it hopes to gain any traction over and above the widget/application strategies that individual manufacturers and platform owners are already deploying.
 
Keep an eye on Intel’s Moorestown
 
Moorestown is Intel’s forthcoming mobile system-on-a-chip platform, incorporating an Atom CPU core, optimized for power efficiency. Intel’s intent for Moorestown is in smartphones, tablets, and other devices that require strong battery life and multimedia performance while remaining compact. Moorestown will be a showcase for the MeeGo mobile Linux platform (a union of Nokia’s Maemo and Intel’s Moblin, with versions for x86 and ARM architectures).
 
Intel has also announced that it has a version of Android running on Moorestown, which should make ARM ecosystem players pay attention. However, Moorestown handsets are not expected to arrive until the third quarter of 2010 at the earliest, and of the major handset manufacturers only LG has committed so far.

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