MWC Previews 2015 Smartphone Trends

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Barcelona, Spain — Some smartphone makers took the high-end road, others the mid-end road. And all roads led into different directions that the smartphone market will take in 2015.

More phones added the Android Lollipop 5.0 OS, including high- and midtier models. At the premium level, more phones sported 64-bit processors, octa-core processors, and 3GB RAM to improve performance. Top-tier models from Samsung debuted with quad-HD displays, and HTC brought 4K video capture to its smartphone line for the first time. (See story at right.)

Samsung also came to the show to upset the Apple cart with the launch of two premium phones that it hopes will reverse its market-share slide. One is the industry’s first dual-curve phone with curved displays running along the edge of both sides of the main display. BlackBerry also previewed a dual-curve smartphone but didn’t say when it would be available.

Suppliers, however, devoted more resources to the midtier to gain market share and capture the emerging prepaid 4G segment in the U.S., analysts said. LG, Microsoft and Black- Berry launched affordable midtier models even as HTC and Samsung concentrated on the premium tier.

The show also ignited a mobile-payment war with Samsung’s launch of Samsung Pay and Google’s second attempt to drive mobile payments with the launch of Android Pay. Both will compete with Apple Pay.

“As vendors flocked to Mobile World Congress this week to showcase their latest products, it is noticeable how many have decided to focus on the midtier as success at the highend appears more and more unattainable.” said Carolina Milanesi, chief of research at Kantar Worldpanel Com- Tech. “However, while midtier consumers might be more accessible than high-end ones, manufacturers will have to work harder than ever to stand out in an increasingly crowded marketplace.”

For her part, Gartner research director Annette Zimmermann said the midrange market “is where vendors will try more to compete to get more traction.” The high end is still dominated by Samsung and Apple, and vendors such as Microsoft need to get more affordable devices into the market to succeed, she said.

To regain market share, Samsung focused on reinvigorating its premium lineup with the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge, the latter with curved display running along both edges of the main display.

“The new S6 and S6 Edge models will help Samsung stabilize its U.S. smartphone shipments,” said Strategy Analytics executive director Neil Mawston. “But Samsung will need at least another two or three ‘killer’ smartphone models across the low, mid and high tiers to foster sustainable regrowth throughout 2015.”

Samsung’s dual-curve smartphones pack two small side screens plus one main display into one device, but “hardware costs and limited apps for the side-screens mean dual-curved phones will be growing fast but [remain] relatively niche for now,” he added


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