Against the tide - TechCentral

Against the tide

With hype building once again ahead of the launch of the next iPhone, it’s sometimes easy to forget that the world doesn’t revolve around the fruity company in California. The new iPhone — or whatever it’s eventually called — is guaranteed saturation coverage in the next few weeks leading up to a rumoured 12 September address by Apple CEO Tim Cook.

Apple’s share price is moving up ahead of the announcement, flirting once again with the record valuation levels north of US$600bn it reached earlier this year. One must surely pity its long-suffering rivals, Nokia and RIM, whose shares have been battered over the past five years as they have tried to regain lost ground in the high-end smartphones.

Except it’s not all doom and gloom for the companies that missed the touch-screen smartphone bus. In SA, at least, Nokia and RIM are doing just fine, thank you very much. RIM has sold nearly 5m BlackBerrys in SA compared to Apple’s 400 000 iPhones, a drop in the ocean.

New research released this week by World Wide Worx shows Nokia and BlackBerry are “thriving” in SA, despite both brands facing worldwide decline in market share. Nokia remains by far the most popular cellphone brand among South Africans aged 16 and older and living in cities and towns. Not only this, but the company has maintained its market share over the past 18 months, with 50% of this market, down just one percentage point.

“Nokia is expected to remain the number one cellphone brand in SA through to the end of 2013, but with a slightly diminished market share,” World Wide Worx says.

The other brand that continues to perform well is BlackBerry, despite doom and gloom internationally about its prospects and rumours that RIM may soon be an acquisition target, perhaps of Samsung’s or IBM’s.

In the past 18 months, BlackBerry’s market share has shot up from 4% to 18%, drawing level with Samsung, whose share, surprisingly given the apparent popularity of its smartphones, has fallen from 28% to 18%. Among 16-25-year-olds, BlackBerry has 28% market share, helped, no doubt, by the cheap and unlimited on-device Internet access plans offered by the mobile operators. Youngsters can send BBM messages to each other all day without worrying about themselves or their parents incurring additional charges.

World Wide Worx says a further 16% of cellphone users say they intend to buy a BlackBerry next, suggesting strong brand momentum, in spite of all the negative publicity around RIM, especially in the US. Remarkably, nearly half of the 10m smartphones sold in SA are BlackBerrys. Nokia is second, with 4m units sold, though few of these are its new Windows Phone-powered Lumia handsets.

Top-end devices such as the iPhone and Samsung’s new Galaxy S3 don’t have much market share, mainly because of their price.

Surprisingly, Google Android-powered smartphones have not gained much market share, with only 800 000 units sold, mainly by Samsung and HTC. This may change in the years ahead as Chinese handset manufacturers such as Huawei, ZTE and even PC maker Lenovo begin pushing cheap Android handsets in Africa. Already, ZTE has claimed 2% market share, according to World Wide Worx.

For now, though, SA and some other emerging markets remain strongholds for Nokia and RIM. It must provide them with some consolation as they battle to regain ground lost to Apple and Samsung in developed markets.  — (c) 2012 NewsCentral Media

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