Weekly Wrap: Camera Phones Boost Handset Sales
By Carlo Longino, Fri Nov 21 11:00:00 GMT 2003

Another set of third-quarter handset sales figures came out this week, showing a huge jump, alongside a report saying camera phones are becoming the fastest-selling electronic product of all time, US carriers beef up in preparation for number portability, and TV over mobiles continues to draw attention...

A second set of Q3 handset sales numbers, from Strategy Analytics, were released this week, echoing earlier IDC figures in showing a 23% leap in total shipments over last year's third quarter. Nokia remained top, but lost share along with Sony Ericsson in the quarter, while Motorola, Samsung, Siemens, and LG all gained points.

Camera phones seem to be playing a big part in those increased sales -- news emerged this week that the devices have replaced DVD players as the fastest-growing consumer electronics product ever, with 80 million sold in the first three years they were on the market, compared to just 30 million DVD players.

Symbian also released its quarterly results, showing a decrease in revenue, but a significant increase in the number of handsets it's shipped so far this year. Carriers Vodafone and mmO2 also announced earnings this week, with Vodafone posting increased profits, but more surprisingly, increased its dividend and announced a GBP 2.5 billion share buyback program. mmO2 eked out its first profit since being spun out of BT two years ago on a 21 percent increase in revenues.

With wireless number portability just on the other side of the weekend, US carriers are jockeying to retain their existing customers and attract new ones, with two carriers launching new services this week. Sprint announced its ReadyLink push-to-talk service, which uses the same underlying technology as rival Verizon's PTT service, but appears to be faster. Speaking of faster, AT&T Wireless launched its nationwide EDGE network, the first of its kind and the fastest network in the country, outside Verizon's EV-DO network that's still only available in two cities.

A new high-speed wireless network in Australia also looks set to launch soon. iBurst will offer DSL-type speeds, but what makes it unique is how the company behind it, Personal Broadband Australia, is pricing and marketing the service. It's offering a USB modem to fixed users, with the service priced to compete with wireline DSL. But mobile users must pay double that price for service via a PC card to their laptop. Smart -- and a bit daring. We'll be interested to see how this pans out.

There's not been a lot of mobile news coming out of PalmSource, the closest being the buzz around the Handspring Treo 600. But the company this week announced a new initiative to help developers write, test, and sell applications for mobile devices -- a step towards creating a cohesive strategy for the OS in regards to connected devices.

Elsewhere on the site this week, TV broadcasts over mobiles continued to churn the gears in people's heads -- with Douglas Rushkoff wondering what the point is, Steve Wallage arguing that it's got a good chance to succeed, and Mark Frauenfelder taking a look at the media phones that will support these and other new services.