Smartphone storm may climax with iPhone 5
SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) -- The next few weeks will feature an array of announcements for new smartphone devices, as manufacturers work to get their latest and best devices in place to compete with the juggernaut expected from
The new devices are expected to boost smartphone sales to a record quarter in the final three months of the year, though analysts wonder if upstarts like
"At this point, we're looking at iPhone as the big volume mover," said Ramon Llamas of IDC, who added "it's hard to bet against that."
The December quarter will feature a wide variety of new devices that are being previewed over the next few weeks.
Next week, Nokia Corp. (NOK) and Motorola Mobility will host their own events to showcase new phones.
But the culmination to these announcements may come on Sept. 12, when Apple is expected to unveil what many believe will be the iPhone 5. While not officially confirmed, several media outlets have reported that the company has set that date for an event in San Francisco, with a market launch for the device expected later in the month.
Whenever the next iPhone actually launches, analysts widely expect it to be the top-selling smartphone device for the period. Samsung is expected to continue selling its Galaxy SIII and Galaxy Note products in high numbers -- despite losing a high-profile patent dispute with Apple last week. Read more about Apple-Samsung verdict.
James Faucette of Pacific Crest predicts that global smartphone sales will come in around 165 million units in the December quarter -- up 18% from the broker's estimates for the same period last year.
"We'll see lots of new products, but most of the sequential increase we expect to come from the new iPhone," Faucette said in an interview.
Other products will likely battle for niche market share, though some may benefit from the continued weakening of the BlackBerry line from
"It's going to get worse before it gets better," IDC's Llamas said of the BlackBerry's prospects.
Faucette views devices from manufacturers other than Apple or Samsung as a "distant third." These companies are also benefitting from a trend among consumers to match their smartphone devices with their tablets -- a market currently ruled by Apple's iPad, but where Samsung has also been picking up market share.
Samsung launched the Galaxy SIII over the summer, and the company said on July 22 that sales had already exceeded the 10 million mark. The company also lifted the wraps Wednesday on a new version of its Galaxy Note -- a smartphone with a 5-inch screen and stylus that first hit the market last year and has also passed the 10 million mark in unit sales.
At the IFA trade show in Berlin, Sony announced Wednesday a new line of Xperia HD smartphones that will launch in the fourth quarter. Read more about Sony's latest phones and tablets.
On Sept. 5, Microsoft is hosting an event in New York to showcase new devices for its Windows Phone 8 mobile operating system. While Samsung and HTC have built devices for an earlier version of the platform, the main draw will likely be Nokia, which has placed its bets exclusively on Windows Phone to rejuvenate its smartphone business.
Nokia launched its Lumia Windows Phone device earlier this year. Gadget blogs have cited unnamed sources that at least two new devices will be unveiled at next week's event, including one with a curved-glass display that would be exclusive to
Later the same day -- also in New York -- Google's Motorola unit will host an event expected to feature a new line of Android phones, likely under the Razr brand name, that will likely be co-marketed with
On Sept. 6, Amazon.com is hosting an event in Los Angeles. The e-commerce giant has shared no details, but is widely expected to unveil a new version of its Kindle Fire tablet. There has also been heavy speculation that Amazon will enter the smartphone category to broaden out its offering of mobile devices.
"It makes sense for them to look at this," said Faucette of Amazon considering the smartphone space. He cited research by his firm showing that consumers are looking more frequently at tying together their smartphone and tablet devices.
One constraint on smartphone sales in the fall quarter could come from a shortage of components. Chip-maker
"We know the demand is there, but it may be constrained by supply. Who's going to be able to lay their hands on it?" Llamas said, adding: "Apple seems to be at the front of that line."