MWC Scorecard: Handsets

Whose profile is rising: HTC and INQ. HTC had a busy week at Mobile World Congress 2009 that included product launches that were both new and flashy--Vodafone's launch of the Android-powered Magic--as well as revamps of two of its most popular handsets, the Touch Diamond and Touch Pro. The Magic news was the only major Android product announcement at the show and steered the spotlight back onto HTC in terms of the race to get phones based on Google's mobile platform to the market.

At HTC's press conference, the Taiwanese company unveiled the Touch Diamond 2 and Touch Pro 2, both running on customized versions of Windows Mobile 6.1 and featuring HTC innovations including Push Internet, giving users faster access to their favorite websites, as well as threaded communication technology and easy-access conference calling. The handset maker proved that while it may not have a huge market share, it was becoming a force to be reckoned with in terms of product differentiation.

The other big winner of the week was INQ, whose social networking-focused phone, the INQ1, won the GSMA award for best mobile handset. The phone beat out the T-Mobile G1, Research In Motion's BlackBerry Storm, the LG KS360 and the Nokia E71, and definitely put INQ on the map.

Whose profile is falling: Motorola. Motorola had no significant news at the show. And while it did have a large booth and a presence in Barcelona, the lack of specifics on how it would differentiate its Android offering, which is expected to launch in the fourth quarter, or news on what kind of devices the company would produce before then was noticeable. The lack of news was especially glaring because of what the other major vendors announced. Sony Ericsson unveiled their Idou concept phone. Samsung and LG created a little buzz around their user interfaces--Samsung's focus has been locked on touchscreens and LG's 3D S-Class UI offered a new way of looking at the traditional application-centric experience on smartphones.

Sony Ericsson, while not struggling at the levels of Motorola's handset division, is still dealing with weakening demand amid the economic recession. However, the company at least made the effort to show off a concept phone and give the impression that it was looking to turn around its strategy and strengthen its brand. In a market that is coming to be defined by what company can offer the widest array of services and most differentiated user experience, Motorola's lack of buzz has left it farther behind the competition.

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