By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Wireless-handset unit-sales growth slowed dramatically this year, but suppliers and carriers hope an economic turnaround and the launch of 2.5 and 3G phones and services will accelerate replacement sales.
At CES, carriers Verizon and Sprint will put in an appearance for the first time to promote their CDMA 1x plans, and carriers such as Samsung, LG InfoComm, and Audiovox will be there with some of the industry's first CDMA 1x phones. Motorola will also put in an appearance.
Handset sales were hard-hit by the CTIA's first-ever reported drop (18.8 percent to 8,919,703) in first-half net new subscriber growth and a decrease in the percentage of replacement sales, analysts said. The growth in handset sales to end-users might have fallen to 5 percent to 10 percent in 2001, said analyst Herschel Shosteck. Strategy Analytics put the growth at a more robust 14 percent. But one supplier contended that sales may have been almost flat.
Although the economic slowdown contributed to the sluggishness, another important factor is that the migration from analog to digital is largely over. Shosteck said only about a quarter to a third of subscribers are still using analog.
Here's what select suppliers will show:
Audiovox: The company will show what could be the industry's first gpsOne-eqipped CDMA 1x phone (the trimode 9155GPX) and its first PocketPC-based phone (the CDMA 1x PDA-2032). The 2032 will complement the Maestro, a bundle consisting of a 2G CDMA phone and a separate PocketPC PDA. Verizon offers the bundle at $599.
The 2032 operates in digital mode on the 1.9GHz and 850MHz bands but lacks an analog mode.
The company will also show another new 1x phone, the clamshell CDMA 1x trimode with dual LCDs and voice dialing, and a pair of new 2G CDMA phones.
The company previously announced two other 1x phones. One is the trimode CDM-9150X due to ship this month and the trimode CDM-8150X, delayed until January.
Samsung: Its first 1x phones will be the trimode N350 flip phone and its nonflip N370 counterpart, each weighing 3.85 ounces. In trials, each has delivered an average throughput of 110kbps. One was due at the end of 2001 in limited quantities. The other is a dual-band, dual-mode A450 clamshell, weighing 3.4 ounces. They'll likely retail for about $200.
Samsung's first U.S. GSM/GPRS phone, the 2.9-ounce Q105, shipped late this year to Voicestream, which will likely retail for about $200. It features PIM functions, 128x128 screen, and maximum download speed of 57.6kbps.
The company's two phones with gpsOne location technology are 2G models: the CDMA trimode N300 phone, available through Sprint and the clamshell A400, which was to ship to Sprint at the end of December or early January.
LG InfoComm: In 1x products, the company planned shipments this month of the TP-5250 dual-band to Sprint PCS and fourth-quarter shipments of the LG-VX1 trimode to Verizon.
In the first quarter, the company plans shipment of a trimode PDA phone with touchscreen to Sprint and, for Verizon, the LG-VX10 with color LCD and Brew (Binary Runtime Environment for Wireless), which adds computing applications to phones and enables over-the-air downloads of applications.
The clamshell-style 5250 is the same size and weight as its 2G predecessor but, in a 1x network, it will deliver a small percentage boost in digital talk and standby times from the predecessor's 150 minutes/150 hours. The wholesale price will be only a very small percentage higher, the company said. Sprint retails the 2G version for $69 to $129.
Features include big-screen 7-line/16-character text display, exterior caller ID, voice dialing and recording, vibration alert, MIDI sound for more lifelike musical ringtones and game sounds, scheduler, and 200-name phone book with five numbers each.
Early next year, LG will make a running change to add Sun's J2ME, a BREW-like technology, to the 5250.
The LG-VX1 delivers slightly longer talk and standby times than the Sprint version at 180 minutes/200 hours. It will become the VX-10 in the first quarter, adding BREW, 32MB of flash memory, color LCD, and extended digital talk and standby times of 200 minutes/250 hours.
LG's first 1x PDA phone will be the TM-910 trimode, available to Verizon in the first quarter. The 910 uses a proprietary PDA OS.
In other show developments, Motient will demonstrate its $279-suggested Mobile Modem, a Palm radiomodem bundled with $49.95/month unlimited-messaging service. The sled will deliver a Blackberry-like wireless-email experience to Palm users.
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.