In Smartphones, Tough Times for All but the Top Three

Carl Weinschenk

The industry gets it: Samsung, Android and Apple are the top dogs of the smartphone world. It is no longer necessary to continually make the point.

However, it pays to make the point again when a particularly one-sided study is released. That’s precisely what happened this week: Canaccord Genuity, a British firm, found that the two hardware vendors in the trio above can count 100 percent of the profits in the smartphone game.

InformationWeek reported that the firm found that during the first quarter BlackBerry, HTC, Nokia and Sony had zero smartphone profits. LG does break into positive numbers, at 1 percent. Motorola balances that off by being at -1 percent, however. I guess that means that Motorola gave refunds to people who hadn’t bought their products or something like that. Finally, the story says that four other vendors’ (Huawei, Kyocera, Pantech and ZTE) “collective profits don’t even hit the scale.” How that differs from the vendors that are at zero is unclear.

The point of highlighting the study is to pose the question of whether the possibility of other handset makers – using Android or some of the multitude of new operating systems that are racing to market – is fading.

It’s an important question: There has been much discussion during the past few months about the fate of the Firefox OS, Ubuntu, Tizen and Jolla Sailfish. The question is whether where those operating systems – and the more established but extraordinarily marginalized ones mentioned in the story – will be able to find viable devices to call home.

The emerging OS provider with a bit less to worry about is Tizen. It is being used by Samsung, so it definitely has a leg up. Today, GSM Arena reported that two devices – the Samsung I8805 Redwood and I8800 Melius – appeared in the company’s developer documentation. Redwood, the story said, is a high device that supports LTE while Melius is a 3G-based mid-ranger phone. The story says that they both run on Tizen 2.1, which is called Magnolia.

The others are not standing still. For instance, Firefox has made available the Keon, a test phone using its mobile OS. Ewan Spence at Forbes has a take on the OS. Computing.co.uk reported last week that Jolla will announce the availability of its OS this month. The company has retail deals in place with D.Phone – which the story says is the largest mobile retailer in China – and Finnish carrier DNA. The company said that new CEO Tomi Pienimäki began work this week.

The VAR Guy – which favors Canonical Ubuntu – has some information on where the Firefox OS will launch. Besides Tizen’s Samsung launch, the handset makers likely to carry these OSes will have little or no market share. The key question: Are the OS providers doing the vendors a favor by trying to save their faltering smartphone initiatives or are the hardware vendors doing the software companies a favor by displaying their innovative code? It seems likely that it has to be one or the other.



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