Is the iPhone stifling competition?

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The launch of the iPhone 4S set new records in the smartphone market in 2011. Hitting the shelves in the UK, US and Canada in October, with a staggered global launch continuing to the end of 2011, Apple shifted 30 million units. It has helped their profits soar and has also quietened the naysayers who thought the iPhone 4S might not have the same impact on the market as its predecessors.

Yet the iPhone 4S might have had an even bigger and more important impact on the smartphone market, aside from the eye-watering sales figures. Reports suggest the dominance and popularity of Apple’s latest device has been so extensive, the firm’s competitors are putting off launching their own handsets because of fear that they won’t make enough of a splash.

While it may not be the most powerful or even the best looking handset available, there’s no doubt the iPhone 4S has been a hit with consumers. An 8 megapixel camera, a dual-core A5 chip first seen in the iPad 2 and promising a faster processing speed, iOS5 offering greater interactivity with other Apple devices along with the iCloud, iMessage, and Siri — the virtual talking assistant — the iPhone 4S has an impressive list of features. For some, it was merely Apple catching up with what other smartphone manufacturers, like Samsung and its Galaxy S2, had begun to produce already. Yet for Apple customers, who will wait for the company to release new devices rather than shop around, it was what they had been waiting for. Battery issues aside, the launch of the iPhone 4S generated enthusiasm, excitement and, occasionally, egg-throwing hysteria.

Figures released in the US claim Apple controls almost a quarter, in fact 24% of the smartphone market. Those numbers relate to the final quarter of 2011 but analysts believe sales figures are not going to drop off in the first three months of 2012.

That is what has worried Apple’s competitors, claims DigiTimes, a technology website in Taiwan. They claim Samsung, HTC and Nokia are biding their time waiting to release big name handsets so that they don’t have to fight for recognition alongside Apple. This is the reason, DigiTimes complains, that the only major smartphones launched at Las Vegas’ Consumer Electronics Show in January was the Sony Xperia S and the Nokia Lumia 900, although at that launch that device was only announced for the US and not the UK. Instead, the big hitters are waiting for Mobile World Congress, which takes place in the spring.

If true it’s great news for Apple, as who doesn’t want the competition running scared. Mobile World Congress has become an increasingly important platform for smartphone manufacturers. It just goes to show how far Apple have been able to dictate launch dates and the ebb and flow of the market worldwide. The trade show ensures big names will get column inches and the undivided attention of bloggers, tech writers and industry experts.

Alternatively, how far do companies like Samsung really allow Apple to dictate their own roadmap for releases? Although Apple might have dominated in the fourth quarter, before then 2011 was the Korean manufacturer’s year. Their ambition to be able to produce devices to fit in with every corner of the market has been clear. There will also be wild excitement over the prospective launch of the Samsung Galaxy S3.

It might be good for Apple-lovers to think they have the competition running scared but the one problem with breaking records is that, the next time, you have to do even better. If Apple’s competitors get the momentum in the spring and get it right with their new releases, like the S3 and the rest of the Sony Xperia NXT range, then the pressure is on for the iPhone 5, rumoured for launch in the third quarter of this year. Let battle commence, again.

This was a guest post by Simon from Best Mobile Contracts, one of the leading mobile phone comparison websites in the United Kingdom.

8 Comments:

  1. Now there was a few minutes of my life wasted, never to be gotten back.

    Happy?

  2. The question I have is how long the competing companies can sit on a handset. They’ll have to keep modifying the handset to keep up with advances – at additional cost to them. If the core technology in your device is a year old when you release it, it likely won’t be particularly popular, regardless of what the population is doing.

  3. The answer is real simple, develop and release a better phone. Stifling competition, ridiculous.

  4. Crazy that Apple is so huge that it forces competitors to actually stop production on new products. Great article!

  5. One other thing:

    “Figures released in the US claim Apple controls almost a quarter, in fact 24% of the smartphone market. ”

    Another way to put this is that 76% of the market is up for grabs among the other manufacturers. There are plenty of Apple haters out there, or people who are simple fans of the Android, Windows 7, or WebOS platforms.

    I’d expect the companies that do launch new devices to take market share away from those who don’t.

  6. I just hope that someone will lock the marketing folks up until they can actually make a SP that will stay relevant for the duration of those provider contracts!

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