3GSM: Handsets & operating systems

Handset launches at next week’s 3GSM will likely suffer from the iPhone effect. Most handsets will disappoint attendees because of the recent unveiling of Apple’s handset, which enjoyed two years of rumors before its official debut last month. Compete analyst Miro Kazakoff believes the iPhone news is going to hang over the heads of handset launches for the next four months. “Given the two years of buzz that preceded the iPhone, it’ll be hard for anything to top that level of buzz in the near future,” Kazakoff says.

Since LG is launching its Prada phone next week--and will sport a design seemingly identical to the iPhone--this will probably be the phone that everyone will be talking about. But Kazakoff says he doesn’t expect any radical departures from form factors in the handsets launched next week--they’ll mostly follow the current trend--a shared focus on functionality and fashion.

But with the growing importance of the emerging markets and handset makers’ goals of scooping up a greater percentage of market share, expect to see a handful of stripped down phones targeting these markets. These phones, however, will prove forgettable for obvious reasons. The recent popularity of consumer-priced Smartphones late last year (Q, BlackJack, Pearl, Dash) will impact how some handset makers cater to the rise of mobile television services: Some will create mobile TV-enabled, consumer-priced smartphones, while others will orient handsets around the mobile TV watching experience specifically. Here’s a quick list of some of the handsets rumored or scheduled to make their debut next week:

  • BlackBerry 880 (rumored)
  • Sony Ericsson W880, K200, K220, J110, J120 (scheduled)
  • Nokia E65 (scheduled)
  • Motorola W215 (scheduled)
  • Nokia’s second N-Gage platform (rumored)
  • Samsung’s Ultra Edition 10.9 (scheduled)
  • LG Prada Phone (scheduled)
  • Neonode “buttonless” handset (scheduled)

On the operating system side, Microsoft’s Windows Mobile 6, which some analysts are referring to as “mini-Vista” will likely draw a lot of attention. The company gave the industry a sneak peek yesterday with the release of screenshots and some of the OS' features. Highlights include Microsoft's Direct Push Technology with automatic synchronization of Outlook calendars, tasks and contacts using Exchange Server; mobile versions of the .Net Compact Framework and SQL Server to access a company's standard line of business applications remotely; and easier email viewing with formatting, tables and pictures viewable as originally generated. Devices running on the OS are set to ship in second quarter. 

You may want to keep an eye on Access, the owner of Palm OS, which announced that the branding agreement with Palm has ended and the OS is going to be rebranded Garnet OS. The OS maker may announce some agreements to usher in the new era of branding. Also, Mobile Complete CEO Faraz Syed says the iPhone announcement will  bring a new OS into this sector: some form of Mac OS X. That means that developers should sharpen their skills in case they get access to that operating system. -Brian