By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
NEW YORK — U.S. smartphone sales will rise during the holiday season compared to the year-ago period, but despite a wealth of new products, growth will be slower than the year-ago period because of high market penetration, analysts said.
Canalsys forecasts fourth-quarter North American smartphone unit-shipment growth of 10 percent to almost 49 million, a rate lower than the year-ago 29 percent gain. Third-quarter shipments were up 17 percent compared with the year-ago gain of 22 percent, Canalys said.
The high percentage of subscribers using smartphones is a key indicator of market maturity, analysts said. In its third quarter ending September, for example, AT&T said 75 percent of its 50.6 million postpaid phone subscribers were using smartphones, up from the year’s ago 66 percent of 44.5 million postpaid phone subscribers.
For its part, Verizon said it ended its third quarter with more than 67 percent of retail postpaid phone subscribers using a smartphone, up from a second-quarter 64 percent.
The expansion of the T-Mobile and Sprint LTE networks will help motivate consumers to trade up older smartphones for LTE-equipped models during the season, as will a variety of new phones hitting the market this season.
New smartphones include:
• the first Windows Phone phablet, a Nokia model available through AT&T;
• the Google-brand Nexus 5;
• the first iPhone from prepaid brand Boost Mobile; and
• the first smartphone with 10x optical zoom, available from Samsung on the AT&T network.
Here are the details on these and other holiday developments:
Boost Mobile, a Sprint-owned prepaid brand, began offering the iPhone 5s, 5c, and 4S on Nov. 8 with the iPhone 5s priced at $549 for the 16GB model, $649 for the 32GB model, and $749 for the 64GB model. The iPhone 5c was priced at $449 for the 16GB model and $549 for the 32GB model. And the iPhone 4s is $299. The 5s and 5c are LTE-equipped.
Boost does not currently offer financing plans for its customers and does not plan to offer iPhone financing despite the phones’ high cost, a spokesperson said.
Initial distribution is through the company’s website and through select independent stores that sell only Boost service. At press time, the company hadn’t said whether the Sprint-owned no-contract brand would be rolled out to other distribution channels.
Google launched its next-generation Nexus smartphone through Sprint and T-Mobile channels and as unlocked model through its own online store. The unlocked model is designed for use on GSM/HSPA+/LTE networks around the world, including T-Mobile and AT&T in the U.S.
The LTE-equipped LG-made Nexus 5 is the first smartphone to incorporate Google’s Android 4.4 KitKat OS, and like its predecessors, features a pure Google experience. Android 4.4 features include optimized memory usage to run more apps simultaneously and switch among them faster.
The Nexus 5 incorporates all the bands and wireless technologies to run on the T-Mobile, Sprint and AT&T networks, including CDMA 1xRTT/EVDO, GSM/GPRS/ EDGE, WCDMA/HSPA+ and LTE.
The phone is available unlocked for GSM/LTE networks in the Google Play store at $349 for the 16GB version and $399 for the 32GB version.
Sprint began offering the phone Nov. 8 through direct and indirect channels at $149 for the 16GB version with two-year service agreement. The phone will cost $18.75 per month for 24 months under the Sprint One Up trade-up program.
On the Sprint network, the phone will operate in the carrier’s three LTE bands and will get a software update in early 2014 to add Sprint Spark advanced- LTE technology, which will deliver peak data speeds of 50Mbps to 60Mbps.
T-Mobile launched the Nexus 5 Nov. 14 in its online store and plans Nov. 20 availability through T-Mobile-owned stores and T-Mobile-branded stores operated by third parties. The carrier hadn’t announced plans for availability through CE stores at press time.
T-Mobile is pricing the phone at $41.99 down and 24 equal monthly device payments of $17 with the company’s no-contract Choice Plan.
Motorola launched a limited-time reduced price on its flagship Moto X, which is now $99 instead of $199 with two-year contract.
In another holiday-sales development, Motorola has begun offering customizable versions of its Moto X for T-Mobile, Verizon and Sprint, having offered customization exclusively for the AT&T version of the phone. Users can select front, back and accent colors, choose memory amounts, add accessories and more.
Soon, the Moto X will get an upgrade to the Android 4.4 KitKat OS, the company noted.
Samsung debuted the first smartphone with 10x optical zoom, the 4G LTE Galaxy S4 Zoom. Its positioned as offering the picture quality of highend compact digital cameras, thanks to the 10x optical zoom capability as well as to a 16-megapixel BSI CMOS sensor, optical image stabilizer, Xenon flash, 24-240mm zoom capability, F3.1 to F6.3 aperture, and 4 fps continuous shot with autofocus.
The Zoom became available Nov. 8 through AT&T at $199 with twoyear contract or for $25/month for 24 months on AT&T’s Next no-contract trade-up program.
Zact, a start-up MVNO, expanded into brick-and-mortar retail for the first time through more than 400 Best Buy Mobile specialty stores nationwide, having previously sold phone and service only through its website.
The low-cost MVNO offers multiple Zact-service phones through Best Buy Mobile, including the Samsung Galaxy S3 at a suggested $499 and the ZTE Awe at a suggested $199. They operate on the Sprint network.
Zact offers talk, text and data plans that start as low as $3.49 per month. Single subscribers on average spend $21.88 per month for a plan, the company said.
Zact offers customizable no-contract service plans in which consumers choose their own mix of voice minutes, number of texts and amount of data, each of which is independently selectable.
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.