So the Mobile World Congress (MWC) has finally come to an end, and here are two stories that I thought were worthy of mention.
Firstly, very early on at the MWC, the once king of the mobile phone arena, Nokia, went on the offensive when its combative and outspoken CEO Stephen Elop trained the spotlight not on the Apple iOS ecosystem but on Google's Android, reported ZDNet Asia's sister site CNET.
"Our focus is on competing with Android," Elop said during his keynote address at the MWC. "We want to bring them to Lumia," he added.
The former Microsoft executive also noted that there was growing excitement for its products, particularly from the carriers that have seen its full road map. Elop said these carriers, had expressed confidence over the prospects for Windows Phone, noted CNET.
Nokia had said one year ago that it went into a partnership with Microsoft to create a "third force" in the mobile phone software ecosystem. Meanwhile, over the course of the year, Google and Apple both gained greater ground in their respective market shares.
Google's Android was driven by the aggressive push by South Korean mobile gear maker Samsung with its line of Galaxy phones. Apple surged in the last quarter of the year when it reported selling some 37 million smartphones led by its iPhone 4S.
Over here in Southeast Asia, sales of the Lumia series--the 800 and 710--have only taken off last month. Overall, Nokia has said it has sold more than a million Lumia smartphones, and Nokia SEA is quite bullish that it will do well in this region.
Also, the Finnish giant faces an uphill task not the least from rising Chinese players Huawei and ZTE, and to a lesser extent LG and Sony Mobile Communications (formerly known as Sony Ericsson), all of whom plan to make their foray into the mid-tier smartphone market this year in a big way, or are already doing so.
But greater still for Nokia is its battle against the perception that it has lost its edge as a company capable of making quality smartphones that people will desire, much like how Apple and Samsung have been able to do.
To be fair, it's still very early days for Nokia in SEA and the Lumia series of smartphones does show promise insofar as breaking away from its previous platform--Symbian--as its flagship product.
My cursory observation tells me that the Lumia's selling points include a solid body design, reasonable hardware specifications, vivid color choices, and an operating system that is way sleeker than previous Nokia smartphones.
While it's one thing to wax lyrical on stage and pronounce that Nokia has the goods to compete with a field that is already dominated by Google's Android and the Apple's iPhone, it's another thing to be able to actually convince consumers to part with their money and choose Nokia over the other options.
Perception is everything, and like the "proverbial chicken-and-egg, which comes first puzzle?", therein lies the problem: If no one believes that Nokia's Lumias are worthy smartphone alternatives, how will they ramp up sales?
Only time will, and can tell.
Quad-core galore Speaking of new smartphones launched, an old favorite from 2010, HTC, also made a big splash at the MWC. The early adopter of the Android platform was smoking hot in 2010 and early 2011 but has since fallen behind Samsung. In a bid to stop its sliding market share, Taiwanese giant introduced its HTC One X, its first foray into the quad core phone arena.
Sporting a 1.5GHz processor, a 4.7-inch display and a 8 megapixel camera, the firm's CEO Peter Chou said what differentiated HTC from the rest of the field was the way the One X would capture images--in just 0.7 seconds.
"Our goal is to give you a camera that's so good that it has the power of a true digital camera on your phone," he told newswire AFP, pointing out that the second most used function on a phone, after making calls, was the camera.
Again, it's unclear whether this strategy will work. Ovum believes it's a step in the right direction. In a note the analyst firm said: "HTC lacks the resources to easily differentiate itself from rivals such as Sony, Samsung, and Apple in terms of value-added services, so its decision to focus on perfecting core smartphone functionality around camera and music playback is an extremely pragmatic one."
However, this time around, HTC will have a higher mountain to climb as it faces a myriad of other players vying for dominance on the lower spectrum of the smartphone race. Names like LG with its Optimus 4X HD, and new entrants such as Huawei with its Ascend D, touted to be the "world's fastest phone," as well as ZTE Era and even the lesser know Fujitsu--all of which are equipped with quad-core chips--are coming to the fore.
While the battle for high-tech smartphones will continue as these players and new entrants fight for dominance, 2012 will see also the fight happening not only in the high-end market but also in the lower end.
As more people trade in their old feature mobile phones, there will be huge opportunities in this change-out cycle. This is why Nokia introduced the Lumia 610 at about US$250 at the MWC. This is where many of the handset vendors will be focusing their efforts on this year.
Let the battle begin!