Weekly Wrap: China Syndrome Antidote
By Carlo Longino, Fri Sep 12 07:00:00 GMT 2003

China looks to limit handset overproduction, cameraphones are evidently popular, Wi-Fi phones get a little closer, and Nokia shakes the market.

It's been looking like a handset correction has been coming in China ever since SARS became a problem, with a distinct lack of customers causing a device glut for retailers and manufacturers. The Chinese government took steps this week to limit overproduction, and in turn, likely helping out foreign manufacturers with facilities in China. The government is looking to cut down on domestic companies importing and rebranding OEM handsets from places like Taiwan and Korea, potentially helping companies like Motorola and Nokia, who make devices in the country.

News also emerged this week that evidently cameraphones are popular and selling well. An analyst report (yes, people get paid to figure these things out) showed sales of devices with integrated cameras in the EMEA region grew 166% between the first and second quarters of the year, and also showed some interesting market share trends.

Nokia made waves this week when it gave its third-quarter update, showing more proof that it's not the news on the surface that drives investment markets. The company said its Q3 earnings would come it at or above previous estimates, though revenues would be flat or slightly lower thanks to the weak dollar. But some investors became worried after the company's conference call that its average handset prices were slipping, sending its shares tumbling.

Philips and Broadcom made separate announcements this week showing progress towards solving some of the obstacles to including Wi-Fi in mobile phones, revealing smaller chips that draw much less power than typical PC Wi-Fi components.

The CTIA, the wireless carrier trade body in the US, this week announced a "Consumer Code" of how carriers should treat their customers. While they'd like you to think their motives are totally altruistic, they're looking first to stave off government regulation as politicians look to capitalize on the anger that just about everybody has for their carrier, but also to beef up their customer service policies in light of forthcoming wireless number portability that goes into effect November 24. Along those lines, carrier Cingular this week also announced a new differentiating feature, allowing its subscribers that along have landline service from its parents SBC and BellSouth to use a special recharging cradle that forwards calls to a landline number (when the phone is resting in it) for free and without using a subscriber's wireless minutes.

Some other interesting tech developments emerged this week, first, context-sensitive devices that would know when to do things like go silent, and a Swiss man's proposal for an SMS- and MMS-based TV channel that goes far beyond current SMS TV shows.