The past week was an exciting one for the mobile sector with Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone 5 launch taking most of the spotlight. Apple launched the next generation of the iconic smartphone at a media event Wednesday, confirming many of the rumors that were circulating the web. However, no details about the much-rumored iPad mini were revealed. With no insight provided into Apple’s China expansion plans as well, it remains to be seen if Qualcomm’s (NASDAQ:QCOM) 28nm supply issues have delayed a potential deal with China Mobile. Nokia (NYSE:NOK), meanwhile, received some much needed support for its reinvigorated entry into the U.S. market with the country’s largest wireless carrier, Verizon (NYSE:VZ), revealing its plans to support Windows Phone 8.
Apple announced the much awaited launch of the iPhone 5 at a media event September 12th, confirming most design and specification related rumors that had circulated the web prior to the launch. The next-generation iPhone features a redesigned new look, sporting a larger 4-inch retina display and a form factor that is slimmer and lighter than the previous version, the iPhone 4S. On the inside, the phone has received some well-anticipated upgrades in the form of a faster A6 processor and a baseband chipset that supports 4G LTE speeds, as most had hoped for. The new phone will be available for pre-order starting September 14th and go on sale from September 21 onward.
While the event may not have thrown any positive surprise in terms of a new feature or an unexpected design change, with the media event proving to be a dampener of sorts for many, we see this having little near-term impact on iPhone sales which may in fact receive a boost from the pent-up demand going into the holiday season. Moreover, this is probably an indicator that the smartphone industry has reached a stage where little in terms of a revolution is possible, while immense scope still remains for incremental evolution of existing features. However, with the basic smartphone paradigm set, Apple will probably need to work harder in the coming years to differentiate itself from rivals such as Samsung, whose Galaxy S III is seeing strong demand, and Microsoft, which is making a reinvigorated assault on the mobile industry with its new Windows Phone 8 OS. (see iPhone 5′s Lack of ‘Wow’ Factor Levels The Smartphone Playing Field)
Prior to the media event, many had hoped that Apple would take the opportunity to introduce or give insights into its plans of launching a smaller 7-inch iPad, the much rumored iPad mini. The case being made for a smaller iPad is the growing competition in the low-end of the tablet market from Amazon’s (NASDAQ:AMZN) recently upgraded Kindle Fire line and the mid-year launch of Google’s (NASDAQ:GOOG) Nexus 7 tablet. With the tablet market still in a very nascent stage, many believe that Apple needs to stamp its authority as the creator of the market by introducing an iPad mini that will drive other competitors out of the market and make the market its own. But, as with most business strategies, there is a flip side to this story that makes us skeptical about Apple adopting such a strategy right now. (see Now Is Too Soon For An iPad Mini)
Nokia’s Lumia line could have a much bigger presence in the U.S. soon. Having announced the first Windows 8 Lumia devices on September 5th, Nokia and Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) are looking to increase their presence in the lucrative U.S. smartphone market by enlisting the services of Verizon, the country’s largest wireless carrier. Verizon, for its part, seems to have confirmed its Windows Phone plans in an interview with the Wall Street Journal last week. With AT&T and T-Mobile already offering the Lumia 900 and Lumia 710, respectively, adding Verizon seems like a logical next step that could increase Nokia’s addressable market in the U.S. by more than 80%.
However, Nokia faces an uphill task against the two well-entrenched ecosystems of Apple and Google to create a niche for itself and Microsoft. Nonetheless, more carrier partnerships and better app support to drive Lumia sales will be key to its resurgent hopes. (see Nokia Close To A Verizon Deal As Lumia WP8 Launch Nears)