By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Samsung Telecommunications will diversify its U.S. product portfolio in the coming months with its first CDMA 1X EV-DO phones, its first push-to-talk (PTT) phones, and the industry's first phone with a pop-up LCD display.
The devices will be followed in short order in 2005 by multimegapixel camera phones, Wi-Fi/cellular phones, and Samsung's first U.S.-market quadband phones, Samsung executives said during a recent conference, here, for press and analysts. The company's first W-CDMA phone will hit U.S. shores later in 2005.
All launches will reinforce the company's position as a premium-priced innovator and will boost Samsung's unit and dollar market share, claimed senior VP Pete Skarzynski. “We are the No. 1 upgrade phone. We don't play in free phones.”
Samsung's average selling prices to carriers are about $40 over Nokia's and $30 over Motorola's, Skarzynski continued. “We and Motorola are close in worldwide unit share, but we already surpassed them in revenue,” he noted.
In the United States, Skarzynski said, Samsung expects its unit sales to double in calendar 2004 to more than 20 million, accounting for about 20 percent of U.S. sales to carriers and possibly enabling Samsung to move into the No. 2 position from number three. If Samsung falls short of the No. 2 spot, it will be “a very close No. 3,” he promised.
Because Samsung enjoyed “about a 25 percent [price] premium over the U.S. industry average in 2004,” Skarzynski continued, the company expects its U.S. dollar share to hit 25 percent for a first- or second-place showing.
Samsung's premium status and planned products position the company strongly for a historic shift in wireless technology, said Skarzynski, who expects a “new wave of technologies and applications to spur replacement sales.” The shift will occur in part to the aggressive Verizon rollout of EV-DO this year, Sprint's planned rollout starting in mid-2005, and Cingular's plans to launch W-CDMA “about a year from now” to complement AT&Ts' recent launch, he said.
“In the next 12 to 18 months, there will be a fundamental shift in technology to power our growth,” Skarzynski said. “The replacement rate will moderate then reaccelerate in 2005 and 2006.”
To tap into the replacement market, Samsung plans a first-half 2005 launch of its first PDA phone and first smartphone equipped with CDMA 1x EV-DO high-speed data technology. They will be the i730, based on Microsoft's Windows Mobile PocketPC platform, and the i640, based on Microsoft's Windows Mobile Smartphone platform.
Sometime before those handsets arrive, Samsung will deliver its first EV-DO phone, a multimedia/voice phone capable of streaming video at a higher quality that currently available on Sprint phones. All of the EV-DO phones will incorporate cameras.
Also in the first half of 2005, Samsung will offer its fourth-generation Palm-based PDA phone, the i550 with Palm 5.2 OS. It will be a CDMA 1x phone.
In the shorter term, Samsung plans a late-2004 or first-quarter 2005 launch of its first PTT phone, the industry's first phone with pop-up LCD display, and its first clamshell phone with a top half that twists and folds.
The PTT phone, which Sprint PCS will offer, features built-in speakerphone and speaker-independent voice recognition. The phone with pop-up screen is the candy-bar-style CDMA 1x n330, whose industry-first spring-loaded screen is partially concealed when closed but fully extends to reveal a larger display area when popped open. The phone, targeted to Verizon, also vibrates to the beat of a ringtone and during game play. The twist-and-fold design of the p735, to be sold through T-Mobile, will enable consumers to take self-portraits with the device's megapixel camera/camcorder. It features a 262K-color TFT-LCD main display and a 65K-color outside screen.
In outlining additional detailing of its product plans, Samsung said it plans 2005 availability of:
its first multimegapixel camera phone for the United States. It will also feature optical zoom. A 5-megapixel camera phone with 3x optical zoom is already available in Korea. Eighty percent of the company's U.S. SKUs are camera phones, and resolution currently maxes out at 1.3 megapixels.
its first EDGE-equipped GSM phone during the beginning of 2005.
its first EDGE/W-CDMA phone by the end of 2005.
its first phones with speech-to-text and text-to-speech conversion. Such phones could convert incoming SMS text messages to voice for subscribers who are driving. The technology could also let motorists send SMS messages by speaking the message rather than typing it while driving.
more CDMA 1x/GSM hybrid phones for international roamers. The first such phone recently became available through Verizon.
its first quadband 850/900/1,800/1,900MHz phone. Samsung offers triband 900/1,800/1,900MHz models, but a quadband would roam internationally in more networks.
its first cellular/Wi-Fi phones late in the first half or early in the second. Samsung will provide phones and home Wi-Fi access points to accelerate carriers' deployment of hybrid cellular/home-VoIP services. Second-generation Wi-Fi phones will use 802.11b and higher speed 802.11g to receive high-speed data through a home gateway. In the third generation, Samsung will incorporate 802.11g to provide videophone service via a home's broadband connection.
A phone equipped with hard disk drive (HDD) could be available in the United States in 2005, depending on carrier demand, said Dr. Muzibul Khan, product management and engineering VP. Samsung already offers an HDD phone in Korea.
In 2006, the company plans an EDGE/W-CDMA phone with High Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA), capable of downloading at theoretical peaks of 14.4Mbps.
Some of these products, said Khan, will hasten the day when “there will be no difference between computers, communications devices or content.”
Khan said he also foresees music and video phones designed to wirelessly download, store and play music or video files. Such functions require digital rights management technology, memory in the form of an HDD or flash cards, a high-resolution videoscreen and ability to navigate entertainment functions when the keypad is folded closed.
To reduce the load that advanced features place on cellphone batteries, Samsung programs phones to automatically switch off their backlight, which represents the “majority of power consumption,” Khan said. Longer term, “we're working on better viewing under ambient light without backlighting,” he said. In addition, as CDMA 1X networks matures, battery life grows, he said.
This TWICE webinar, hosted by senior editor Alan Wolf, will take a look at what may be the hottest CE products at retail that will be sold during the all-important fourth quarter. Top technologies, market strategies and industry trends will be discussed with industry analysts and executives.