Author(s): Geoff Blaber
Ben Wood, George Jijiashvili, Jasdeep Badyal, Kester Mann, Marina Koytcheva, Martin Garner, Nicholas McQuire, Paolo Pescatore
This is the first of our daily reports from Mobile World Congress 2016 in Barcelona.
Divided into six research areas, it contains a round-up of the show's notable announcements followed by initial comment by our team of analysts.
Samsung unveils Galaxy S7 and S7 edge smartphones
CCS Insight: The Galaxy S7 edge is the stand-out device, offering a great-looking update to the well-received Galaxy S6 edge. Samsung has listened to consumers and the inclusion of a bigger battery, expandable memory and IP68 water and drop resistance opens up some differentiators over Apple's iPhone. An enhanced camera appears to perform well and extensive support for gaming will prove a popular addition.
LG G5 smartphone offers snap-on modular accessories
CCS Insight: In an effort to differentiate its flagship smartphone, LG has implemented additional snap-on elements, dubbed "friends". They offer features such as longer battery life, better audio play-back or enhanced camera controls, including a dedicated shutter button and a zoom dial. The system will allow consumers to personalise their devices with different hardware configurations, and provide LG with an additional revenue source as margins on smartphones are pared ever thinner.
Lenovo unveils Connect global roaming service
CCS Insight: Lenovo's launch of a global roaming service for Europe, the Middle East, Africa and China sees the Chinese manufacturer addressing a clear need as a proliferation of devices and services become connected. The move also supports Lenovo's growing services strategy as a means to build profit margins beyond hardware.
Lenovo reveals Tab3 tablets
CCS Insight: The family of devices consists of seven-, eight- and 10-inch models. The largest variant is aimed at businesses with full support with Android for Work. In a challenging tablet segment that is struggling to identify opportunities for growth, Lenovo is pricing all Tab3 products very keenly in an attempt to win share. The Tab3 7 starts at €119.
Lenovo unveils Yoga 510, Yoga 710 laptops and Miix 310 two-in one
CCS Insight: These three Windows 10 devices underline Lenovo's PC market leadership and ability to span a broad range of segments and prices. The integration of LTE underlines a revitalized commitment among manufacturers to delivering WAN connectivity in tablets and two-in-one devices.
Alcatel unveils Idol 4 and Idol 4S smartphones with VR headset packaging
CCS Insight: Alcatel OneTouch has rebranded as Alcatel. The Idol 4 and 4S add well-designed affordable products with decent specifications to Alcatel's extensive portfolio of smartphones with a variety of prices. Both phones come with cleverly designed packaging that doubles as a virtual reality (VR) headset. The lowest-cost variant is keenly priced at €279, making this a very attractive entry-level smartphone VR bundle.
Alcatel announces Plus 10 Windows-powered two-in-one device
CCS Insight: Alcatel joins a growing number of manufacturers offering Windows 10-powered hybrid tablet-and-laptop devices. At €379 it is among the most competitively priced two-in-ones with integrated LTE support.
Huawei enters two-in-one market with Windows 10 MateBook
CCS Insight: The MateBook is Huawei's first step into the PC market. Given the lacklustre demand for tablets this is a sensible direction for Huawei as it looks to expand its product portfolio. However, it will need to work hard to strengthen its brand in this segment and will need to expand into new distribution channels experienced in PC products. The MateBook has an impressive fanless design that is only 6.9 mm thin; Huawei's experience in delivering quality smartphone hardware is evident. The company can expect to receive strong support from Intel and Microsoft, which will be delighted to see another large Chinese device-maker entering the market.
HTC announces One X9 and Desire 530, 630, 825
CCS Insight: HTC's devices see the Taiwanese manufacturer revamping its mid- and high-end line-up with a full range of customized products. The use of MediaTek rather than Qualcomm for the One X9's silicon should help margins but the manufacturer continues to face a stiff challenge from Samsung and an abundance of Chinese players.
HP reveals Elite X3 Windows 10 phablet aimed at enterprises
CCS Insight: The Elite X3 is arguably more important to Microsoft than to HP, as enterprises offer a better opportunity for smartphones powered by Windows 10 than the consumer space. HP is offering a desk docking station that lets the Elite X3 be used like a PC through Windows' Continuum feature. It is also offering the Mobile Extender, a "dumb" notebook with a 12.5-inch screen and a docking slot for the Elite X3. The concept was previously explored by Motorola in 2011 with its LapDock.
ZTE becomes official sponsor of Sevilla football club
CCS Insight: This moves underlines ZTE's desire to increase its brand visibility in key markets beyond China. It echoes moves by a host of rivals, most notably Huawei. ZTE's historical resistance to brand development appears to be receding as smartphone market competition intensifies.
ZTE announces Spro Plus
CCS Insight: This is the successor to the Spro 2 and sees ZTE deepening its commitment to the Android-based projector category. Available in Wi-Fi and LTE models, ZTE's investment is indicative of the superior margins that can be garnered in accessories in contrast to an increasingly commoditized smartphone market.
Cat S60 announced as first smartphone with integrated thermal camera
CCS Insight: Bullitt Group's Cat S60 smartphone is a strong product that aims to target the rugged segment with a highly differentiated integrated thermal camera. The phone's thermal imaging technology from Flir has already generated a significant interest in Barcelona and should enable valuable applications that cater to the needs of sectors such as building, manufacturing, utilities and the emergency services.
Samsung showcases Gear 360 camera
CCS Insight: We believe user-generated content will be a major contributor to sales of VR headsets. The release of an easy-to use 360-degree camera furthers Samsung's goal of being a market-maker in VR. It has already made solid progress with its Gear VR headset. Support by Facebook and YouTube will allow owners to share their videos with hundreds of millions of viewers and drive up adoption.
LG announces 360-degree camera
CCS Insight: As we predicted, several 360-degree cameras have been launched at Mobile World Congress. Like Samsung's Gear 360, the LG 360 Cam allows users to easily create their own 360-degree content. This will help fuel demand for VR accessories such as LG's 360 VR viewer and broader acceptance of 360-degree material among consumers.
LG 360 VR glasses offer new take on headsets
CCS Insight: LG's new design, which is more akin to traditional glasses, puts forward an alternative to the bulky VR headsets that are the dominant design today. Their custom design permits higher screen resolution than smartphone-based models, but limits the viewing angle and fit. Nevertheless, the design will prompt other manufacturers to evaluate a similar approach to future VR headwear. Exclusive compatibility with the LG G5 will limit the product's appeal.
HTC confirms $799 price for HTC Vive and pre-order date of 29 February
CCS Insight: The $799 price point for the HTC Vive puts it above that of the Oculus Rift ($599) but it includes two controllers and, for a limited time, two free games. Nonetheless, the total cost of hardware will exceed $1,500 given the need for a high-end PC and graphics card. CCS Insight believes this is a crucially important category that will develop the premium VR experience, but the mass-market opportunity will come from smartphone-based VR companions.
Zeiss shows next-generation optical system for smart glasses
CCS Insight: The new technology promises to move augmented reality products beyond "geek ware" and much closer to everyday fashionable items. For computing to cross the chasm and become highly personal wearable devices, significant improvement in product design is critical.
Garmin introduces vivofit 3 and vivoactive HR activity trackers
CCS Insight: The vivofit 3 is a $99 tracker with a one-year battery life, interchangeable bands and waterproofing. The $249 vivoactive HR smartwatch has an always-on touch screen, GPS, heart-rate monitor and apps to track a range of sports. Garmin continues to broaden its device portfolio beyond specific sports segments to address mass-market appetite for sports and activity tracking. It is trying to differentiate with long battery life and water resistance. Arguably more important is the company's latest software advancements: Move IQ for intelligent activity recognition and analysis, and the Connect IQ app store for specific sports activities.
Internet of Things
Samsung launches Connect Auto connected car product
CCS Insight: Samsung is aiming to bridge the gap between mobile and automotive industries with Samsung Connect Auto. Based on its Tizen operating system and Knox security platform, the solution can be fitted retrospectively to a vehicle to provide connectivity, driver monitoring and safety prompts. This is an ambitious undertaking that seeks to create an ecosystem of manufacturers, mobile operators, insurance companies, roadside assistance operators and maintenance networks. This will take time and investment to develop market by market, but will ensure Samsung learns lessons from early involvement in the convergence of mobile and automotive.
Visa brings secure payments to the Internet of things
CCS Insight: The expansion of the Visa Ready program to the Internet of Things is a logical move as more and more "things" become connected and require secure digital payment functionality. The move will see Visa span wearables, automobiles, appliances, public transport, clothing and other connected devices.
LG unveils Rolling Bot
CCS Insight: This is a smart innovation by LG that will prove highly attractive to affluent gadget-lovers. It builds on the growing popularity of IP cameras, but with the added dimension of being able to move the device around a house or other building for use as a monitoring device. Its ability to control appliances such as air conditioning units and TVs with infrared is a clever way of making this device compatible with existing devices in the home.
Samsung announces commercial availability of Artik Internet of things platform
CCS Insight: Commercial kits will allow developers to create connected "things" using Tizen, Linux or the Nucleus real-time operating system. Samsung has put considerable effort into building up its platform in just eight months. The launch represents a response to solutions from Broadcom, Intel, MediaTek, Qualcomm and others.
GEMA collaborates with Brightstar to offer managed mobility to Fortune 500 firms
CCS Insight: This collaboration combines the significant distribution scale of Brightstar with GEMA's expertise in managed enterprise mobility services. This will expand the addressable market for GEMA members and provide Brightstar with a richer services capability.
Qualcomm launches Snapdragon X16 LTE modem
CCS Insight: The Snapdragon X16 LTE modem is the first modem to support Category 16 downlink and Qualcomm is touting it as the first modem to offer gigabit-class LTE with downlink speeds of up to 1 Gbps. To put this in context, its predecessor, the X12, can support download speeds up to 600 Mbps. It is also the first modem to support License Assisted Access, the 3GPP standard for LTE in unlicensed spectrum. It illustrates Qualcomm's connectivity leadership and raises the bar for those seeking to address high-tier connectivity requirements.
Qualcomm unveils Snapdragon Wear platform and 2100 system-on-chip
CCS Insight: As predicted, Qualcomm has opted to launch a fully optimized platform designed specifically for wearables. This follows a strategy of using its Snapdragon 400 platform designed for smartphones in a host of wearable designs. The new line will enable more power efficient and compact designs thanks to its lower power requirements and smaller size than Snapdragon 400. We believe it will help Qualcomm by separating smartphone and wearable product lines, which have differing price and margin characteristics.
Qualcomm announces three new mid-tier Snapdragon processors
CCS Insight: The new Snapdragon 625, 435 and 425 include a number of premium features such as carrier aggregation, 802.11ac with MU-MIMO, Quick Charge and Qualcomm's Hexagon DSP. This is a clear example of Qualcomm's increased focus on driving high-end specifications down the price curve in order to capture a greater share of the mid- to low-end market. Although this risks denting margins by offering more fully featured offerings alongside its flagship Snapdragon designs, it is taking the fight to MediaTek and gaining significant design wins among Chinese manufacturers. It highlights Qualcomm's pragmatism in offering octa-core solutions for the Chinese market.
Qualcomm introduces support for Khronos Vulkan graphics API on Adreno 530
CCS Insight: Vulkan is the next generation API for graphics and computing on high-end graphics processing units that can be used on a broad range of devices including smartphones, TVs, desktops, consoles and embedded applications. The advent of multithreaded architectures in the Snapdragon 820 will deliver significant improvement in performance and the user experience. Although Qualcomm is unlikely to be alone as a barrage of announcements associated with Vulkan emerge, the company's contribution to the standard means it will be among the first to support the new API and to help developers make the most of its feature set.
Nokia announces acquisition of Nakina Systems
CCS Insight: Nokia's planned purchase of network security firm Nakina Systems highlights the mounting importance of security in the connected world.