BlackBerry, HTC, Nokia: Which will be around at the end of your two-year contract?

BlackBerry, HTC, Nokia: Which will be around at the end of your two-year contract?

Summary: Apple and Samsung dominate the smartphone market and have other businesses to support them. BlackBerry, HTC, and Nokia are phone companies that have all been trying to achieve success for the last couple of years.

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As a smartphone enthusiast, I buy and use most of the latest and greatest smartphones. Thus, I am often asked by family, friends, and readers what device they should buy. While each of us has different needs and desires, it is easy and safe to recommend an Apple iPhone or Samsung Galaxy device. What about other companies who specialize in just making phones?

BlackBerry, HTC, and Nokia: Who may be around at the end of your two-year contract?
(Image: BlackBerry)

Many consumers upgrade when subsidies become available to them, and are looking for a device to be supported for at least the two-year length of the contract. Apple and Samsung currently dominate the smartphone market and have other profitable businesses other than smartphones, so you can rest assured they will be around for years to come. LG and Sony are significant electronics companies, so it's also a safe bet to buy their smartphones. They both have some unique offerings and new products that are solid choices.

When I look at BlackBerry, HTC, and Nokia, three companies that only make smartphones, I have confidence in a couple being around at the end of 2015, but am concerned about the other. They all have the potential to succeed, and in my opinion, none are guaranteed success in today's highly competitive market. I personally would love for all to be around years from now because I think we benefit from better products with competition.

BlackBerry

RIM, now named BlackBerry, took most of 2012 off to focus on developing its new BlackBerry 10 OS, and I had serious doubts about its ability to survive in the smartphone market. BB10 is out, the Z10 is available around the world (including on three US carriers), and the Q10 hardware QWERTY device is coming soon. BlackBerry has made leadership changes, i streamlined operations, and released a fresh and powerful new mobile operating system.

BlackBerry has a focused strategy, and its success rests solely upon itself. It has a solid marketing campaign in effect, a wide range of carriers signed up and selling its devices, and is bringing good applications to BB10 on a regular basis. I personally enjoy using the Z10, and as long as a person is open to a new user experience, the Z10 is a solid purchase. I am most confident in BlackBerry continuing to turn the tide and be a successful smartphone company for years.

HTC

There is no doubt in any reviewer's mind that the HTC One is an amazing piece of hardware that many have stated is the best smartphone they have ever used. Making great hardware has never really been HTC's problem, but getting those devices into people's hands and continuing to offer timely support have been issues.

htcone
(Image: HTC)

HTC continues to suffer losses in revenue, and despite still showing a small profit, my confidence in its long-term success has waned. I have been a fan of HTC products and actually like its Sense UI, for the most part. It now has a fantastic piece of hardware that is launching next week on US carriers, and even has a plan for some marketing in a few major cities.

Despite the HTC One and planned Live Experience Tour, it is going to take more than a single device to regain its past success. Apple has shown success with a single device, but it also dictates the experience to the carriers, provides regular updates to devices around the world and across carrier boundaries, has a local retail presence to promote devices and support them, and has a marketing strategy that can't be matched.

HTC also makes Windows Phone devices, but they seem more like an afterthought than a focused effort, and Microsoft's mobile platform hasn't gained much smartphone market share. Microsoft wiped the slate clean going from Windows Mobile to Windows Phone 7, and then did a partial reboot again with Windows Phone 8. It is possible that Windows Phone Blue or whatever the next version is will again prevent existing owners from updating, and this kind of control by Microsoft makes HTC and other manufacturers subject to its whims.

At this point in time, I honestly don't know if there is anything HTC can do to turn the tide and am interested in hearing what you readers think it can do. Samsung is getting ready to roll out its Galaxy S4 and will sell millions of the device. Apple is likely to also soon release another iPhone that will sell millions in the opening weekend. I have a tough time recommending that family and friends buy a new HTC device, despite its leading hardware design, because I don't know if it will be supported in a year or two and "normal" consumers use their devices longer than enthusiasts like me and most of my readers.

Nokia

Lumia920collection
(Image: Nokia)

Nokia is now focused on Windows Phone for its high-end smartphones and its Asha S40 line for global, low-cost devices. Like I mentioned above for HTC, Nokia is reliant on Microsoft and Windows Phone for success in the smartphone market. It is clearly the leading Windows Phone company and provides excellent value to the consumer in terms of solid hardware, software, and value-added services.

Nokia could have controlled its own smartphone OS if it had continued to develop MeeGo, which functions a lot like BlackBerry 10, but it put everything behind Microsoft and Windows Phone. I personally enjoy the Windows Phone experience, but want to see a better defined long-term strategy and plan from Microsoft.

Nokia posted its first profit after six quarters of losses in its January financial report, and indications are that it is finally seeing some success with Windows Phone. The rumored Nokia Lumia 928 may be launching on Verizon soon, and if US carriers would get out of the way and stop limiting Nokia Windows Phone devices with exclusivity deals (can you tell I am bitter that AT&T still refuses to unlock my Lumia 920 I paid full price for?) we may see even more success for Nokia.

Its Asha line continues to do well, and it could probably survive as a small company just supporting this global platform. I think Asha provides a serious value to people around the world and is likely to continue for years.

Nokia is covering a broad price range with Lumia devices, and as long as it stays focused on Windows Phone, I think this strategy will pay off.

Looking at these three companies in terms of my confidence in long-term viability, I would give the nod to BlackBerry, then Nokia, and lastly HTC. This will be a defining year for all three of these companies, and we will have a much clearer understanding at the end of 2013.

Topics: Mobility, Android, HTC, Nokia, BlackBerry, Smartphones, Windows Phone

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25 comments
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  • I hope

    I hope Blackberry makes it, but unlike Nokia, Blackberry doesn't have a sugar daddy(Microsoft) to support them when times get tough.
    rwalrond
    • More than that though

      You are right but also its got to do with what people know and see... For the most part Nokia is THE windows phone maker and used to be the definitive phone maker, people know them for phones.... Samsung is THE Android phone with people trusting Sony and lg because they make other household products people buy, ps3, tvs, pcs, tablets, dvd/blu players... Motorola is in the same boat as nokia (a different boat of the same type) Known for their phones, has a sugar daddy, and has a fan base WAITING for a good phone.
      Blackberry is also known for security and business also has a loyal fan base but as you said no sugar daddy...
      Htc is an after thought... or an unknown to the non smartphone initiated... And I think HTC out did themselves with the One... such a nice piece of hardware I wish it was Nexus (the only way i'm swapping my wp for android is to some form of nexus... if it happens)

      Also this is pie in the sky idea.... Nokia with a second big OS... but not android... licence BB10 with the same type of strickly controlled hardware that MS requires (or more due to BB) It would help both out.... Nokia sell more phones with nokia services and BB's ecosystem grows along with userbase and licencing fees... people also benefit from the fact if they don't like the z10 they could pick up a Nokia z10/Lumia 10/so on so forth... I think it could actually work.... pie in the sky but...
      Skunkwurx
  • Nokia and WP

    Nokia is miles ahead in camera technology and the sales of Lumia 920 is a perfect example.
    With Rock solid apps from MS and Nokia, Nokia seems to have a bright future.
    Owllll1net
    • Rock Solid Apps

      You're not referring to third party apps I hope. MS Office is great, and the Nokia apps are really good. I actually like Nokia Drive/Maps. But Metro apps need work. It's wide open for talented developers. But just as in Windows development, there are a lot of horrible developers, and it shows in the Windows Phone Store.
      NickA55
    • ah ha

      you are loverock's alter ego I bet. You can't possibly look at things today and have the view that there's a bright future. Posts like this can't change reality.
      drwong
      • Reality

        Um, what? HTC is on their way out, look at the numbers. The One may be a great phone, but it's not going to be able to compete with the SG4. And the largest carrier isn't going to have that phone for months, and it will be branded something else. And when vZW does get it, it will be competing with the iPhone 5s, good luck.

        BlackBerry will hang around just as a nuisance. The Z10 is a nice phone, but not nice enough for people to jump ship from Android or iOS, or even Windows Phone for that matter. It offers nothing special over the competition, just value to existing BB users.

        Windows Phone growth is slow, but steady. They knew this going in. Big name apps are starting to warm up to WP8. And as mentioned in other comments, Nokia has the M$ factor going for them.
        NickA55
        • "not nice enough for people to jump ship"?

          Z10 is "not nice enough for people to jump ship"? More than 50% of Z10 sales to Android or iOS seem to disagree with you.
          gwalachmai
    • ooops

      "Nokia seems to have a bright future."

      Seems being the operative word until you realise they own 80% of 2.4% of the smartphone market

      Rough calculation........................... thats about 6 phones.

      Suddenly doesn't look so good !
      DejaVu2
    • lol

      Rock sold apps...................looooooooooooooool

      and this is from a windows fan site

      http://wmpoweruser.com/instagraph-windows-phone-instagram-uploader-launches-with-massive-teething-problems/

      Owllll1net stop it please I am lolling so hard it hurts man !!!!!!!!!!!!!

      WP apps are made in mommas basement :D
      DejaVu2
  • BlackBerry, HTC, and Nokia: Who may be around at the end of your two-year c

    Definitely Nokia. They are the only ones doing any real innovation in smart phones and they are giving their users apps they actually want like the Nokia Here suite and Nokia Music.
    Loverock-Davidson
    • How much is MS paying you for these posts

      Nokia is going to have to embrace android eventually as it fights for survival and so will be around for that reason.
      drwong
  • BlackBerry actually does have other business interests...

    While BlackBerry's primary business is smartphones, they do have other things going on like NFC payment infrastructure (already authorized by Visa & Mastercard), QNX Automotive software (which is currently in millions of vehicles around the world and works with the Z10 voice control) and server based MDM. Personally, I hope consumers continue to have a choice between Android / iOS / BlackBerry / Windows so no one provider ends up with a monopoly which would stifle innovation and privacy.
    Buzz88
  • Its all about the ecosystem...

    Unfortunately for Blackberry, They don't have much of an option for a robust ecosystem. MS, Google, and Apple all have deep pockets to flesh out and improve their various services in meaningful ways.

    Nokia recognized this fact with the Meego OS and while it had its pros, the effort and resources it would have take to flesh out and support the growth and development of that ecosystem to be competitive with the big 3 was a Mount Everest sized endeavor.

    Kudos to Stephen Elop for recognizing this and partnering with MS where they would have a chance at survival. They've had to make a lot of hard choices, but as an impressed owner of a Lumia 920, I think their future is full of possibilities unlike Blackberry.
    Drewidian
    • Totally Agree

      There are only 3 powerful software companies; Microsoft, Google, Apple. Each has ecosystems far greater than people realize (including backend enterprise systems, data centers, and billion dollar research facilities). Nokia and HTC will be fine because the software companies play nice with them. I dont see how blackberry can make it on its own. Its also my opinion that the software companies will over take the cell phone carrier middle some day as well.
      Sean Foley
  • All 3, maybe somebody get purchased

    like a Blackberry by Cisco or something nuts
    everss02
  • Update

    "It is possible that Windows Phone Blue or whatever the next version is will again prevent existing owners from updating..."
    Microsoft already stated multiple times that all Windows Phone8 devices will be able to update to any further updates moving forward so why would you put this in the article?
    MSmanJosh
    • We'll see what happens when Blue is released

      After the WP8 update and lack of updates within WP8 by some companies (HTC) I am not counting on this until I see it happen. While it may be theoretically possible, if carriers and manufacturers don't update their devices then it doesn't matter.
      palmsolo (aka Matthew Miller)
  • Pathetic Journalism

    Didn't we hear enough of the Blackberry going out of business articles in 2012? Give it a rest you morons....try doing some real research next time.
    pfezziwig
    • Did you read the same article I did?

      I read "I am most confident in BlackBerry continuing to turn the tide and be a successful smartphone company for years". I thought it was refreshing to read. Which article did you read?
      gwalachmai
  • what ecosystem?

    ecosystem? here is no ecosystem yet...everyone who keeps blathering about the app ecosystem should look at it this way....apple and android is actually at a disadvantage because of the huge ecosystem built on old outdated operating systems...new machine to machine to machine apps will be coming now that QNX (blackberry) is here and those clunky Operating systems will not be able to function (due to processor and battery life strain) unless they write a whole new OS (5 years minimum to integrate it with the current ecosystem). Hardware advancement to fit into small devices and run multiple apps on these old OS's are at least 5 years away. They can't write a whole new OS because of the immense size of the current ecosystem, it will take too long...And they can't join the coming ecosystem (machine to machine and multiple live apps running simultaneously) because they need an new OS...see the conundrum

    http://video.foxbusiness.com/v/2264140895001/android-phones-face-biggest-risk-from-cyber-attack/?playlist_id=933116624001
    Mark Priest