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Samsung Focuses On Smartphones For The Masses

Samsung Telecommunications America (STA) will bring smartphones to the mass market in 2010, when voice-centric cellphones will account for less than 50 percent of U.S. cellular unit shipments for the first time, Samsung executives said during a press conference at International CES.

In 2008, voice-centric phones — which exclude smartphones and quick-messaging phones with hard or virtual QWERTY keyboards — accounted for 68 percent of unit shipments, said STA president Dale Sohn.

Samsung will contribute to the trend by bringing smartphone functionality to the mass market, chief strategy officer

Omar Khan said.

In its “smartphone for everyone” strategy, smartphone capabilities will no longer be limited to phones at premium prices, he said. Smartphones have been defined as high-end devices with an open operating system, but consumers consider a phone smart if it offers full Web access, ability to sync personal and corporate email and calendars, and customization via third-party apps and widgets, Khan said.

“In 2010, we will bring that to the mass market,” Khan said.

Samsung, for example, will participate in AT&T’s plans to use Qualcomm’s Brew MP OS in quick-messaging devices to deliver smartphone functions at a low price, he noted.

Underscoring the market’s shift away from voice-centric phones, Samsung said that more than half of its phones will ship in the U.S. in 2010 with Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) certification to share content with other devices, including PCs and TVs.

Low-price smartphones and DLNA certification are part of an overall strategy to capture a greater share of U.S. replacement sales, which account for more than 90 percent of all phones sold, said Sohn. The average phone is replaced every 21 months, he said.

In 2009, Samsung estimated industrywide U.S. cellphone shipments rose 1 percent to 2 percent despite the recession to more than 167 million units, Sohn said. In 2010, shipments will rise another percent to 4 percent, he said. Dollar volume estimates were unavailable.

In this environment, Samsung grew its sales by gaining market share, the company said. For the fifth consecutive quarter, ended in the third quarter of 2009, Samsung was on top in unit share, with shares ranging from 22.2 percent to 25.4 percent, the latest Strategy Analytics statistics show.

In other comments, Samsung said it expects Mobile DTV-equipped cellphones incorporating an ATSC M/H TV tuner will feature DVR capabilities. Kahn acknowledged that digital rights management issues must still be worked out.