In fall Apple season, rival phone makers struggle

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Nokia sold 4 million Lumia phones in the second quarter, far fewer than the 26 million iPhones that Apple Inc. sold during those three months. So far, the line hasn’t helped Nokia halt its sales decline: Its global market share shrunk from the peak of 40 percent in 2008 to 29 percent in 2011, and it is expected to dwindle further this year.

For Microsoft, the alliance with Nokia is its best chance to get into smartphones again, where it has been marginalized by the rise of the iPhone and then phones running Google Inc.’s Android software. The launch of Windows Phone 8 coincides roughly with the launch of Windows 8 for PCs and tablets. That launch is set for Oct. 26.

“Make no mistake about it _ this is a year for Windows,” said Microsoft Steve Ballmer, who joined Elop, a former Microsoft executive, on stage.

Ovum analyst Jan Dawson said that Windows Phone provides a compelling experience that’s clearly different from that of the iPhone. The problem for Nokia and Microsoft, he said, is that it’s only apparent after a user spends half an hour or so personalizing the device, and that’s not something phone shoppers do.

On the plus side, U.S. phone companies are eager to build up Windows Phone as an alternative to the iPhone and Android, to reduce the leverage Apple and Google have over them. Android and Apple devices dominate in smartphones, with 85 percent of the worldwide market combined, according to IDC.

“We believe it’s important to have balance in the ecosystem,” said Tami Erwin, chief marketing officer at Verizon Wireless.

Microsoft competitor Google Inc. is even more deeply invested in cellphones, having bought Motorola in May for $12.4 billion. But Google bought Motorola mainly for its patents, which it can use to shield other cellphone makers that use Android from lawsuits. That means that even though it has a wealthy new corporate parent, Motorola is still under pressure to produce hit phones. Google has already announced plans to cut about 20 percent of the workforce at Motorola.

Motorola’s strategy for the fall is to expand the Razr brand, resurrected from the hit clamshell phone launched in 2004.

For one of these phones, Motorola had firm details on availability. Next Thursday, the day after Apple’s press conference, Verizon Wireless stores will sell the Droid Razr M for $99. The new iPhone isn’t expected in stores until a week or two after that.

The Razr is a smaller, cheaper version of the first touchscreen Razr, which launched last year. Motorola is also updating the top of the Razr line with the Razr HD and Razr HD Maxx. All three run on Android.

Motorola is emphasizing long battery life _ up to 21 hours of talk time for the Maxx HD, or 10 hours of video streaming.

The iPhone 5 is unlikely to beat that, as its smaller body doesn’t leave that much space for a battery. But the cachet of the iPhone, and the wide range of applications available for it, mean that analysts expect the rest of the year to belong to Apple.

Gene Munster at Piper Jaffray said Apple might sell 6 million to 10 million iPhones in the last week of September. That compares with 9 million Motorola sold in the 12 weeks of the second quarter, according to research firm Gartner.

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Associated Press writers Michael Liedtke in San Francisco and Matti Huuhtanen in Helsinki contributed to this report.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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