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Smartphone Gain Brings Some Pain

New York

– Smartphone sales have soared to new heights this
year and might have gone higher if not for component shortages
that, according to one analyst, could keep supplies of select
models limited through early 2011.

Carriers have launched more new smartphones to date this year
than last year, mainly Android-based models, and more new models
are still in the works for later this year.

“There have been more [introductions] than usual, with Motorola
and HTC releasing some ‘hero’ devices, as well as some vendors
getting more serious in this space, LG and Samsung, or other
vendors just getting started, Kyocera and Dell,” said Ramon Llamas,
IDC senior research analyst.

“Add on top the usual releases from market leaders Apple
and RIM, and it’s quickly becoming a bigger market,” he noted.

Neil Shah of Strategy Analytics also noted the influx.
“2010 is the year where most vendors have looked forward
to refreshing their smartphone portfolio,” he said,
pointing to Apple’s launch of the iPhone 4, Samsung
entering the smartphone market with its new Android
powered Galaxy Series across four carriers, and HTC
increasing its shelf share across the Tier-1 US carriers.
In addition, he said, “the rising adoption of Android as
a preferred choice of smartphone operating system for
vendors such as Motorola, HTC and Samsung have led
to an increase in the number of smartphones across
carriers in the U.S.” The trend has been reinforced by
aggressive data plan pricing and data promotions by
carriers seeking to raise their average data revenue per
user, he noted.

New smartphones announced or shipped in recent
weeks include:

• BlackBerry’s first touchscreen slider, the $199
Torch 9800;

• Dell’s Android-based $299 Streak with 5-inch
screen and the $99 Android-based Aero;

• The $149 SonyEricsson Xperia X10, its first Android-
based smartphone for the U.S. market;

• Motorola’s $199 Droid 2, an upgrade to the original Droid
for Verizon and Charm, an Android 2.1-based phone that is
Motorola’s first smartphone to pair a touchscreen with a fixed
QWERTY keyboard. It’s available for T-Mobile at $74.99.

Previously, Motorola shipped its full-touchscreen Android
2.1 device, the Droid X at $199, for Verizon. And T-Mobile and
AT&T launched their versions of Samsung’s flagship Galaxy
class Android 2.1 phone, the Vibrant and Captivate, respectively,
at $199.

Still to come include: Sprint’s 4G version of the Galaxy; the
T-Mobile G2 with Google (see story below); RIM’s first 3G
smartphone in the affordable Curve series. The Curve 9300
will be available for T-Mobile’s 3G network; and Nokia’s N8,
the company’s first smartphone based on the company’s new
Symbian^3 OS. It’s due as an unlocked phone at the end of
September at $549.

The influx of Android smartphones, combined with carrier
eagerness to build up data revenues, boosted shipments of
smartphones to North America by
38 percent during the first half to
29 million. That compares to first half
2009 gains of 40 percent
to 21 million, Strategy Analytics
statistics show. The company expects
full-year 2010 shipments to
grow 33.4 percent to 65.1 million
compared to 2009’s 32.6 percent
gain to 48.8 million.

For its part, The NPD Group
found that smartphone sellthrough
to consumers, excluding enterprise
purchases, rose in the second
quarter to 42 percent of units
sold to consumers compared to a
year-ago 28 percent.

Rising demand, however, has
combined with parts shortages to
result in backorders for select models.

As of August 24, for example, Verizon’s website said that
if a customer ordered a Droid X that day, the unit wouldn’t
be shipped until Sept. 8. For the Droid Incredible, the shipping
date was Sept. 7. Also on August 24, Sprint’s web site
showed no expected availability date for the 4G EVO.

Shah of Strategy Analytics attributed smartphone shortages
in large part to component vendors that during the Great Recession
scaled back production and got caught off guard by
“the sudden surge in demand for smartphones post-recession.”

Smartphone shortages, however, have been experienced
mainly in markets such as North America “where the smartphones
have hit mainstream,” Shah said. He cited intense
competition among carriers that have raised their smartphone
subsidies to lower consumers’ barriers to entry.

Although many component suppliers are now aggressively
expanding the production capacity, Shah said he expects the
disparity between supply and demand to continue at least until
early 2011.