The past week was an exciting one for the mobile companies, with some much anticipated product launches announced in Barcelona, Spain at the Mobile World Congress 2013. Nokia (NYSE:NOK) unveiled the 720 and 520 models of Lumia smartphones on the very first day of the event, bolstering its Windows Phone 8 portfolio with some more affordable options for the emerging markets. Samsung (PINK:SSNLF.PK) also launched its Knox suite of mobile security solutions as it looks to take advantage of BlackBerry’s waning popularity in the enterprise market. Meanwhile, one of Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) prepaid partners, Leap Wireless, said that demand for the iPhone has been lower-than-expected, and that it would therefore be able to meet only half its first-year commitment to the handset maker.
With the high-end Lumia smartphones (920 and 820) off to a good start, Nokia is now looking to push through lower tiers and gain a wider audience for Microsoft’s (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows Phone platform. The Finnish handset maker unveiled two new Lumias, Lumia 720 and Lumia 520, at the Mobile World Congress Monday, expanding the latest Windows Phone 8′s reach to new price points. While the Lumia 720 is a mid-range smartphone and fills the gap between the existing Lumia 820 and 620 models, the Lumia 520 is priced at less than $200 and positions Nokia well against the onslaught of cheap low-end Android smartphones in the emerging markets. (see Nokia Looks To Stem Market Share Decline With More Affordable Lumias, 620 And 520)
Both new Lumias will start rolling out in a few Asian markets in Q1 2013 before a broader expansion takes them to the key markets of China, India and Europe in Q2. In China, Nokia said that it will launch both the 720 and the 520 on China Mobile, further strengthening its relationship with the largest carrier in the world. That Nokia is launching its low- to mid-range Windows Phones before Samsung or LG do the same, and before BlackBerry gets to launch its entry-level BB10 handsets next year, gives it a significant head start over rivals in emerging economies. However, with cheap Android smartphones flooding the market and pushing prices down to sub-$150 levels, Nokia still has some way to go before Windows Phone 8 reaches the very low-end of the market.
Apple’s maiden attempt to test the prepaid waters in the U.S. seems to have not gone as expected. Last year, the iDevice maker had signed a couple of deals with Leap Wireless’ Cricket and Sprint’s (NYSE:S) Virgin Mobile prepaid brands, which saw the iPhone launch for the first time in the U.S. as a prepaid phone. Having largely penetrated the U.S. postpaid market, Apple was looking to carry the iPhone momentum into the prepaid market. However, a recent SEC filing by Cricket owner Leap Wireless, in which the carrier has revealed that it expects to meet only half its first year commitment to Apple, has put cold water to those plans.
Leap has a $900 million three-year contract with Apple, and if we assume the same to be equally spread over the entire period of contract, the carrier expects to sell only about 230k iPhones in the first year. It is not yet known how the iPhone has performed at Virgin Mobile but considering that the iPhone was costlier at Virgin than Cricket, sales at Virgin may have also been disappointing.
Having done really well in the consumer market, Samsung is now training its sights on enterprises and government agencies. The South Korean electronics giant announced the Samsung Knox, an enterprise mobile solution that will enable customers to use a single phone for both “work and play”, at the Mobile World Congress earlier this week [Samsung plans to conquer the workplace with KNOX mobile security suite, BGR, February 25th, 2012]. Samsung expects Knox to nicely complement its existing security suite for the enterprise, dubbed SAFE (Samsung for Enterprise), which it has been actively promoting lately. With SAFE and Knox, Samsung aims to make its Android smartphones more secure and take advantage of the ongoing BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) trend to directly challenge BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY) in the enterprise (see Samsung Puts BlackBerry In Its Crosshairs With Knox Launch).
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