NEW YORK – New tablets, ruggedized smartphones, the first smartphone with wraparound screen, and a variety of new wearables — including fitness bands, smart watches, and GPS-tracking devices — are hitting the market in time to juice up fourth-quarter electronics sales.
Analysts forecast strong fourth-quarter growth in all segments but tablets, whose sales are taking a hit from growing smartphone-screen sizes, thinner and sharper priced convertible laptops, and market maturity.
Smartphones are catching an updraft, thanks to pent-up demand for larger-screen iPhones, more aggressive service-plan competition among carriers, and a rapid conversion from feature phones to smartphones at the low end of the market. Relatively new installment-payment plans, which let consumers upgrade their phones more frequently than every two years, are also kick-starting smartphone sales.
Wearables, however, will post the fastest percentage unit growth in the quarter, having posted thirdquarter U.S. shipment growth of 61 percent to 6.2 million units compared with the year-ago period, Futuresource Consulting said.
Here’s what suppliers are bringing to the disparate markets for holiday sales:
Bullitt Group: The Reading, England-based licensee of the Caterpillar brand for ruggedized cellphones is expanding its U.S. selection of smartphones.
The 3G HSPA+ B15Q, promoted as the first globally available rugged phone running Android’s 4.4 operating system, became available through HomeDepot.com at $349, and the LTE-equipped S50 will be available sometime in November at an unannounced price. Both access the Google Play store.
Filip Technologies: The second- generation Filip watch phone with GPS tracking launched on AT&T’s website and select AT&T stores at a $99 launch price available through Jan. 8, or$50 off the regular $149 retail.
Filip 2, like its predecessor, is designed for children ages 5 through 11. It also lets kids make and receive GSM voice calls to and from five numbers approved by parents. The new model adds a more natural wrist shape with more flexibility, optional spacers to adjust the size as kids grow, a more durable screen and additional colors. The tracking app features improved user interface and an easier setup process.
HTC: The company launched an Android phone through AT&T and a Windows phone through AT&T and T-Mobile.
The camera-focused LTE Android Desire EYE launched exclusively through AT&T at $149 with twoyear contract, $549 unsubsidized without contract, or unsubsidized with monthly installment payments.
The Desire Eye features 5.2-inch 1080p display, 13-megapixel front and rear cameras, 1080p video capture on both cameras, and BSI and HDR on both cameras. The front selfie camera boasts a wide-angle f/2 22mm lens.
The all-metal One (M8) for Windows is the Windows version of the company’s flagship Android phone. It became available on the AT&T network at $199 with contract and $669 without contract or subsidy. On the T-Mobile network, it costs $585, or 24 monthly payments of $24.40.
Huawei: The Chinese tablet and smartphone maker brought a fitness band to the U.S. for the first time. The $129-suggested TalkBand B1 features a display that detaches to become a hands-free Bluetooth earpiece. The device, which also notifies users of incoming smartphone calls, is available at GetHuawei.com and select retailers.
Kyocera: The LTE DuraForce became the first Kyocera ruggedized phone available on the AT&T network through att.com and AT&T business channels. It becomes available Nov. 21 in AT&T retail stores at $49 with two-year contract, $389 unsubsidized with no contract, and unsubsidized with installment-payment options.
LG: The G Watch R became available through AT&T and Sprint. AT&T’s web ite and stores began offering the Android-Wear device at $299. Sprint direct channels began offering it at $299 or for 12 monthly payments of $25.
Microsoft: The Nokia Lumia 830 phone with 5-inch HD display is the thinnest Lumia phone to date and became available through AT&T stores and AT&T’s website at $99 with two-year contract, $449 unsubsidized with no contract, and unsubsidized with installment-payment plans.
Motorola: Carriers have begun disclosing their plans for the industry’s first Android smartphone running the Android 5.0 Lollipop OS.
Sprint will make Google’s Motorola-made Nexus 6 phablet available Nov. 14, but only through its direct channels, at $696 without contract, or 24 monthly payments of $29. A contract price was unavailable.
AT&T said the phablet will be available for preorders Nov. 12 at att.com and in AT&T retail stores but didn’t disclose an availability date. The price is $249 with two-year contract, $682 up-front without contract, and without contract under three installment-payment/trade-up plans: $22.77 per month with the Next 12 plan, $28.46 per month with AT&T Next 18, and $34.15 per month with AT&T Next 12. Availability through indirect channels wasn’t disclosed.
Verizon, T-Mobile and U.S. Cellular also plans to offer the model but haven’t disclosed details.
The Nexus 6 features a 5.96-inch 16:9 quad-HD 1,440 by 2,560 display with 493 ppi. It also comes with 2.7GHz quad-core processor, 32GB or 64GB embedded memory, and a 3,220 mAh battery that runs up to 24 hours on a charge. The phone is also equipped with 13-megapixel front camera with f/2.0 lens, 4K video capture at 30 fps, optical image stabilization, and dual-LED flash.
Samsung: The Galaxy Note Edge smartphone became available Nov. 14 with 5.6-inch quad-HD Super AMOLED 2 display that wraps around the screen’s right edge. The edge display features icons to access email, the web, and apps, including dedicated music controls. It also displays notifications, news and the like without getting in the way of main-display content.
Sprint priced its version of the Android 4.4 phone at $0 down with 24 monthly payments of $35 for a total of $840. Sprint launched it only through its direct channels on Nov. 14.
T-Mobile launched it Nov. 14 with $36.25/month payments for 24 months through its web site and participating stores.
AT&T put Edge on display in select AT&T stores Nov. 7 and priced it at $399 with contract, $945 unsubsidized without contract, and unsubsidized with Next installment plans. AT&T didn’t specify an availability date at press time.
Verizon and U.S. Cellular will also offer it.
Separately, Samsung’s Gear S smart watch rolled out through all four national carriers. It features built-in 3G cellular calling and data capabilities.
The Gear S connects to a compatible Samsung smartphone via Bluetooth to make and receive calls, receive texts, and view social-media updates from the user’s wrist. But if the phone is out of Bluetooth range, cellular calls, text and data can be sent and received directly from the smart watch, which has its own phone number and built-in speaker and microphone. In addition, calls and texts made to a compatible Samsung phone can be forwarded to the watch via cellular.
AT&T priced it at $199.99 with two-year agreement. It can be added to a Mobile Share plan for $10/month. And Verizon priced it at $349 with two-year contract, with a $5/month charge to add it to a More Everything service pan.
Verizon Wireless: The second-gen Verizon-brand LTE-equipped Android tablet is the Ellipsis 8, replacing the Ellipsis 7 introduced a year ago. It’s priced at $249 without contract, $149 with two-year contract, and $10.41/month for 24 months without contract. It’s available on Verizon’s website and in Verizon stores.