Now that Nokia’s taken the lid off its touchscreen “5800 XpressMusic” smartphone, the rosters are pretty much set for this Christmas shopping season’s smartphone wars. Who’s going to come out on top?
Unlike last year, when Apple’s iPhone caught the mobile industry with their pants down, pretty much every major gadget maker has a touchscreen smartphone to sell this year. But Apple didn’t spend the year standing still: Its phone now costs half what it did a year ago, will be available in 10 times more countries than it was last year, and comes with access to the best widget marketplace in the business. For those reasons, we think Apple will easily clobber the competition this holiday season, selling at least the 5 million iPhones this quarter that Wall Street has been projecting.
Who’s going to come in second? Tough to tell, given that the rest of the phones we’re looking at will be available in different markets at different prices. But we have a hunch that Research In Motion’s touchscreen BlackBerry Storm, coming to Verizon Wireless and Vodafone this fall, could be a big winner: RIM has comitted to spending a lot of money subsidizing and marketing their phones this holiday season, the BlackBerry brand carries a lot of weight, and Verizon will aggressively promote the phone.
What’s the lineup look like?
Apple iPhone 3G. Device cost: $199 (8GB), $299 (16GB). Service: AT&T (U.S.; varies abroad). Service cost: Minimum $70/month in the U.S., plus SMS fees.
The iPhone won’t be the cheapest smartphone in the bunch, but we think it’ll sell the best, especially now that its price has been chopped in half and its international distribution has been expanded. Its app platform is a winner — more than 100 million apps downloaded so far — and its multimedia player is still the best.
RIM BlackBerry Storm. Device cost: Unannounced; $199 rumoured. Service: Verizon Wireless (U.S.), Vodafone (abroad). Service cost: Unannounced; we’re guessing $70-75/month minimum, plus SMS fees.
As rival AT&T has an exclusive deal to sell Apple’s iPhone, we’re betting Verizon Wireless is going to make RIM’s first touchscreen smartphone one of the main phones they push this holiday season — meaning promotional pricing, lots of advertising, etc. Because the Storm doesn’t have a full keyboard, it might not delight RIM’s enterprise customers. But the BlackBerry brand is catching on with consumers — 60% of its new customers last quarter — and unless this machine is complete garbage, we think they have a chance to sell a lot.
RIM BlackBerry Bold. Device cost: Unannounced; $299 rumoured. Service: AT&T (U.S.), varies abroad. Service cost: Unannounced; we’re guessing $70-75/month minimum, plus SMS fees.
RIM says their first 3G phone for GSM-based carriers has been selling pretty well where it’s launched, with a 50/50 split between enterprise and consumer buyers. Most indications are that the Bold is a fine phone, but we think AT&T will favour Apple’s iPhone in its stores.
Google/HTC/T-Mobile G1. Device cost: $179. Service: T-Mobile. Service cost: ~$65-75/month.
Google’s first phone is a powerful gadget but lacks some of the elegance and simplicity that makes the iPhone so special. And if you thought AT&T’s 3G network was limited, stay clear of T-Mobile’s, which will only be available in a couple dozen major cities this year. When the GPhone launches this year, it won’t have nearly the app store that the iPhone will have — few, if any, commercial games, etc. So while we have high hopes for Google’s Android platform in the future, we think this phone will mostly be for programmers and hard-core Google fans.
Nokia 5800 XpressMusic. Device cost: Subsidized pricing unannounced; $391 unsubsidized; could sell as low as $149 after subsidy. Service: Unannounced; likely AT&T. Service cost: Unannounced; likely $70/month.
We haven’t had a chance to play with Nokia’s new touchscreen smartphone, but it looks nice, and has the benefit of Nokia’s massive worldwide distribution network. What we’re not sure about: How well popular software on the Symbian OS will work with a touchscreen for the first time. We’ve also read that the virtual keyboard leaves a lot to be desired. We’re not sure when or where the phone will go on sale in the U.S., but we think it has a decent chance to sell well in Europe, where Nokia has a lot of support.
Samsung/Sprint Instinct. Device cost: $129. Service: Sprint Nextel. Service cost: $70-99/month.
Unlike the other phones we’ve mentioned, Sprint’s Instinct doesn’t have much of an app platform behind it. But it looks like an iPhone, which is apparently enough for some people — it has supposedly sold pretty well, thanks to its low price tag. As long as Sprint keeps promoting it — and not some of its other smartphones, like the Windows Mobile-powered HTC Touch Diamond — it should stay popular, especially with current Sprint subscribers. But we don’t think it’ll do iPhone numbers.
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