Nokia Oyj (NOK1V), set on Sept. 5 to unveil smartphones that use Microsoft Corp. (MSFT:US)’s Windows Phone 8 software, is teaming up with audio-electronics maker JBL on a wireless speaker to tap into the lucrative accessories market.
JBL, a unit of Harman International Industries Inc. (HAR:US), and Nokia will develop speakers equipped with Bluetooth and near field communication, or NFC, wireless technologies, Hans Henrik Lund, head of accessories at the mobile-phone maker, said in an interview. Speakers will come in a variety of colors, including “bold” yellow, as Nokia sticks to coordinating device and accessory design, Lund said.
Nokia isn’t revealing details about the next generation of its Lumia smartphones before introducing them next month in competition with new versions of Apple Inc. (AAPL:US)’s iPhone. Nokia has offered NFC, which lets devices at short distances transmit data such as so-called mobile wallet electronic payments or music and games, on some phones since 2006, including the current Lumia 610 model.
“One of the areas growing really fast is headphones,” Lund said in a phone interview from Nokia headquarters in Espoo, Finland. “With Apple, they became a fashion element for consumers. The next category for fans is portable speakers because you want to bring the music with you.”
Items such as headsets and speakers are profitable for both manufactures and retailers, Lund said. U.S. mobile-network operators set revenue targets for sales employees to push the products to each phone buyer, and “that tells you about the importance of accessories in general,” he said.
“Our channel partners make a bundle of profit from accessories,” Lund said. “I’m not here to sell accessories, I’m here to differentiate Lumia and the Lumia experience at retail.” He declined to specify the price of the JBL speakers, which will be rolled out when the new smartphones go on sale.
Mobile accessories are typically “very high margin” products, said Michael Morgan, a New York-based analyst at ABI Research. The global market for mobile speakers is expected to soar to $1.2 billion by 2017 from $459 million in 2010, boosted by the rapid growth of smartphones, he said.
“The age of the three-foot speaker in the living room is fading away,” Morgan said. “Today’s products are smaller and targeted for the emerging mobile-urban lifestyle.”
Harman rose (HAR:US) as much as 0.5 percent to $45.94 and was trading up 0.2 percent at 10:38 a.m. in New York. Shares of the Stamford, Connecticut-based audio-equipment maker have gained 20 percent this year. Nokia dropped 7.6 percent in Helsinki, paring a decline of as much as 8.4 percent earlier in the day.
Nokia already offers a speaker set equipped with NFC, which can be activated by tapping devices together, as well as Bluetooth, which allows data communication at as much as 10 meters.
“NFC technology will be supported by Windows Phone 8 and is of growing importance due to future wallet, e-commerce and other transactional applications,” Sami Sarkamies, a Nordea Bank AB analyst in Helsinki. “I expect Nokia’s new Lumias to include it.”
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