Samsung continued a great year last night by picking up the smartphone of year award at the 2013 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona beating off the challenge of Apple and its iPhone, HTC Droid DNA, Nokia Lumia 920, and Samsung Galaxy Note II. It was one of four major awards for Samsung, compared with none for Apple.
The S2 beat the iPhone 4s at last year’s show.Samsung was device manufacturer of the year and Apple won the tablet category.
In the 2013 entry level/feature hone category Nokia’s Asha won out over three other Nokia phones and the Samsung C3312. Google’s Nexus 7 won the tablet race. You can see all the awards here.
For people interested in car sharing BMW Mini with partners Sixt and Vodafone, won the award for Best Mobile Product or Service for Automotive.
But it is the best smartphone award that carries most kudos. Samsung not only won that. They won best device manufacturer and best Best Mobile Enabled Consumer Electronics Device for the Galaxy camera, and Best Mobile Infrastructure for Smart LTE Networks (they also won the CTO Choice award for their LTE technology).
It rounds off a year in which Samsung has had to defend its reputation against copycat charges in the American courts. And it shows that outside of north America Samsung enjoys widespread admiration among its peers. It remains to be seen, however, whether the run will continue for Samsung with the S4, which seems to be hitting snags.
It is undisputed that BlackBerry does not come close to matching Apple’s ecosystem. However, Z10 and iPhone, when compared based on their specifications, are about even. Undoubtedly, both Apple as well as BlackBerry fans will take issue with the foregoing statement.
I am not in the business of recommending phones but rather in the business of uncovering investments that yield handsome returns. The main question for me is ‘How can BlackBerry beat Apple and generate a 400% return for investors?’
In my analysis, if BlackBerry stays on its present course, beating Apple and generating handsome returns is an uphill battle. However, there is an easy way for BlackBerry to outdo Apple where it counts.
It is no secret that Apple has a big problem in emerging markets. Apple products are simply too expensive for the masses in these markets. Apple cannot ignore emerging markets for two reasons. First, the growth is in emerging markets. Second, Apple has nearly saturated the developed world.
Unlike the United States, where some snobs would rather not be seen with a BlackBerry, BlackBerry remains popular in emerging markets.
There are plenty of Asian phone manufacturers capable of producing decent phones at low cost for emerging markets. To date such manufacturers have mostly relied on Google Android.
What if BlackBerry were to start licensing its BB10 operating system to the likes of Samsung, HTC, ZTE, and Huawei? These companies appear to be eager to reduce their dependence on Android and are likely to be eager licensees of BB10, and have proven capable of quickly flooding markets emerging markets with attractive phones. In the blink of an eye, Apple will be beat in the markets where it counts.
What will BlackBerry get out of such a licensing arrangement? Licensing will generate significant royalties and much faster proliferation of BB10.
From an investment perspective, BlackBerry will be treated mostly as a software company. Growing software companies are accorded very high P/Es. There are no direct comparisons in the mobile operating system. However, analyzing some other companies is instructive. Let’s take a look at Red Hat. Red Hat provides open source software solutions to enterprises worldwide. Red Hat trades at a trailing P/E of 73.
Salesforce.com, the granddaddy of cloud based application software trades at a forward P/E of 88.
Hardware companies such as Nokia are traditionally accorded low P/Es.
In the foregoing scenario, BlackBerry can easily earn $1.70 per share and at a P/E of 30, much lower than that of growing software companies, the stock will return about 400%.
Of course, painting a scenario is a lot easier than executing that scenario. In my 30 years in the markets, the only way I have found to catch opportunities before Wall Street is to do many, many painstakingly detailed scenario analyses ahead of the time. Such advance analyses is the key to reading the tea leaves correctly from new developments as they come to pass and act with conviction quickly and early.
Apple says it will begin production on a new iPad that doubles the capacity of older fourth-generation models.
The new 128 gigabyte version, complete with the retina display, will fetch $799 for the wifi-only version and $929 for the model that connects to cellular wireless. They become available Feb. 5, in black or white.
Already, Apple has sold more than 120 million of its popular tablets. Yet, the timing of today’s announcement is particularly intriguing. Less than a week ago, Apple revealed lackluster holiday iPhone sales, reinforcing anxiety among investors that the company is fading from a growth company to a stodgy, if immensely profitable, corporation and that Google‘s Android phones can fully replace the iPhone as the go-to smartphone.
The discontent has centered in part on Apple’s lack of new, attention-grabbing product releases. It’s mostly been a slow parade of product enhancements—just like what happened this morning. Fear is high that Apple is aging and that its fate will soon parallel the elder giants in the industry, like Microsoft and IBM.
Apple shares went up 2.3% in pre-market trading. So for now, investor seems pleased, after wiping away tens of billions in market value from Apple and reducing it (momentarily) to only the second most valuable company in the world.
This water-resistant feature is relatively common in Japan, but has not been included in many top-end smartphones released elsewhere.
The Xperia Z can also record HDR (high dynamic range) video, a facility borrowed from its camera division.
One analyst said it was evidence of Sony Mobile making progress but added “it still had a mountain to climb”.
The Japanese company announced it was taking control of the smartphone unit – which had previously been a joint venture with Ericsson – in October 2011.
Sony posted a full-year loss of 56.7bn yen ($5.7bn; £3.5bn) in May and has continued to lose money over subsequent quarters.
The Android-powered device was unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.Sony says the handset, which has a 5in (12.7cm) screen, is capable of being submerged in water of up to one metre (3.3 ft) in depth for 30 minutes.
“If you want to want to sit in the bath and watch an HD movie this is the device for you,” Sony Mobile executive Steve Walker told the BBC.
“You can take it in the shower if you want, or more usefully if you get it dirty you can wash it under the tap.”
He added that about one in 10 people had dropped their phone down a toilet at some point, something this would protect against.
The trade-off is that handset’s various ports, including the one for its headphones, all feature protective plastic covers that must be unclipped before they can be accessed.
Other features on the 7.9mm-thick (0.3in) device include 4G LTE connectivity, a Micro SD slot, a 13 megapixel camera and a 1080p x 1920p high-definition screen that borrows technology from the firm’s Bravia TV division to enhance video playback.
In addition a NFC (near field communication) chip is used to start streaming content to Sony’s latest televisions by tapping the handset against their remote controls.
The firm also boasts that the device includes its proprietary Exmor RS image sensor technology, allowing it to record HDR video.
This allows it to combine exposure readings to tackle problematic situations such when a person is standing against a bright background; Sony says that without HDR either the person’s face looks too dark or the background too light.
Nvidia’s latest Tegra chip can also do this but has not been built into a handset yet.
Ben Wood, an analyst at CCS Insight, noted that Sony’s mobile unit is enjoying a recovery, and recently passed HTC to become the third best-selling smartphone brand in the UK.
He added that efforts to share designs and technologies across the firm’s different divisions would likely be the key to its revival. However, he added that it was too soon to say whether the new handset would be a winner.
“In isolation this looks like a very strong product and it’s the most attractive Xperia phone that I have seen for a very long time,” he said.
“But we don’t know what this device is going to be competing with this year.”
“Until we see the next Samsung flagship device and other top-end phones at Mobile World Congress in February it’s hard to know how it will do.”