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Mobile World Congress--Take That, Apple!

Posted by: Cliff Edwards on February 11, 2008

What’s the big message out of the giant Mobile World Congress cellular trade show in Barcelona this week?
If press conferences from Sony Ericsson, Nokia and Samsung are any indication, it’s that Apple’s one-size fits all approach to the market with its popular iPhone is doomed to failure.
Executives at the major phone makers made absolutely no mention of Apple in their speeches, but they clearly appeared to be moving to address the perceived gap in lovability between their phones and the iPhone. Nokia and Samsung had nearly identical mesages, suggesting that they alone were capable of producing a mobile phone for every lifestyle—including all you old-timers who (shudder) simply want a phone to make calls.
On the high end where they currently are competing with Apple for mindshare and marketshare, the phone makers opted mainly for evolutionary updates on existing models. Nokia’s new dual-band HSDPA N96, for instance, doubles internal memory to 16GB from the N95, while adding LED lights to the 5 megapixel digital camera for flash and video lighting.
Samsung’s “hero product” was its new Ultra III series U900 “Soul.” The metal-encased slider phone is 12.9 millimeters thick, with a 5 megapixel digital camera and face detection, and sports ICEpower sound amplification technology from Bang & Olufsen. And for fans of the iPhone’s touch features, there was the shiny new SGH-F480 itTouch.
Will they be enough to put the fear of God into Steve Jobs & crew? Not likely. But with Sony Ericsson rolling out 10 new phones, Samsung offering eight new products, and Nokia four, the main idea appears to be highlight the fact that their large portfolio can do many things Apple can’t begin to match, while not forcing you to buy features you will never use. That’s not counting the slew of new LG “experience-centric” phones, including the Viewty, that also drew crowds to its booth.
So how do you like them apples, Apple?

Reader Comments


February 11, 2008 12:11 PM

Move along people..... there's no story here. Take that Cliff.


February 11, 2008 12:36 PM

Hmm. 10 new phones that I've never heard of (each with specialized feature-sets, I assume), instead on one phone that does what I want, and has some real mindshare.

If Nokia and Samsung don't start to "get it" quickly they may be in trouble. The phone market is evaporating in front of our eyes. It's being replaced with a handheld computer. And I don't think they can deliver one.

Jon T

February 11, 2008 12:39 PM

iPhone satisfaction rankings of 80% versus their own at 20% or 30% is what is going to make the difference.

That has nothing to do with one size fits all. It's giving the customer something that works and is a pleasure to use.

David Dugan

February 11, 2008 1:53 PM

Seriously, try not to gloat so much. You're supposed to be an impartial journalist for pete's sake.

trevor edwards

February 11, 2008 4:14 PM

The genius of the iphone comes in the form of multitasking. It holds the applications of an ipod, data storage system, camera, and phone. It may not be for everyone but it is consistent with an operating system. Other brands like Sony or Nokia create all these different phones that each have differnet styles and features. What they should do is create three good phones with same os and tailor to specific categories.


February 11, 2008 4:59 PM

Doomed, doomed I tell ya! Very amusing.

Note: spell check--there's a fairly obvious error (speeched) in the second paragraph


February 11, 2008 6:07 PM

10 new phones from Sony? why so many models? cant they just get 1 phone right that they need to offer 10? like stabbing in the dark really. say what you like but the market will decide the direction of the technology not any one comapny and someone pretty much hates apple eh


February 11, 2008 8:15 PM

It seems that the iPhone was the elephant in the room, that nobody would notice. They should realize that Apple is not their enemy. Apple produces a nicht phone for a nicht of the smartphone (only) market, that does not threaten their overall market.

The last time I went to select a phone, the sales personnel fumbled endlessly, and could not show me how "all those features" worked and couldn't answer my questions about downloading and compatibility. I didn't believe their blind promises.

The enemies of of the manufacturers and carriers are too many models, too many complications, poor service and predatory practices.

I'm still waiting for features and ease of use that I want, but, so far, it looks like Apple will deliver it before Samsung, LG, and Nokia.


February 11, 2008 8:24 PM

Didn't the many iPod competitors try this "many many models" approach?

Where are they now?


February 12, 2008 12:27 AM

You are right lordsqueegee. Just look at this. Seems all the other companies are scared of Apple. 22 new phones against 1? Thats really a brave thing for apple. It stands like a warrior against the other 22. Sweet


February 12, 2008 8:54 AM

When APPLE announce the new 3G /3.5G iPhone, that can really capture all smartphone market.


February 12, 2008 9:52 AM

The itTouch? LOL

Sebastian Lewis

February 12, 2008 11:17 AM

Let them make all the damn phones they want, the iPhone (and iPod touch) on the other hand is a general purpose pocket computer with the best damn browser on the planet. The only thing missing of course is the SDK which will be here by the end of the month. :-)

Anyway, the trouble with all these "phones" is they focus too much on hardware and don't bother trying to bring the software up to snuff, meanwhile the iPhone is running a full copy of OS X (minus all the Mac specific data for the user interface, applications, drivers, packages, frameworks, and APIs like Carbon and Java), and history is starting to repeat itself. This time RIM is Novell, Symbian is UNIX, Palm is Commodore, and Nokia, Sony E., and Samsung are abandoning ship to Linux-based OSs and WinCE. Kind of funny how that turned out eh? Only this time it won't be WinCE that controls the market since Nokia is the market leader (and has little interest in WinCE) and we have someone competent running Apple now.

Just having more phones does not make any of these guys a danger to Apple, Microsoft certainly isn't a threat, the real battle will be between Apple and Nokia. One wants to add location to the internet (which sounds more interesting than it is, but I do like the idea of automatically geotagging photos) while the other built a general purpose computer and branded it as a "WiFi Mobile Platform" which I guess shows that Apple is doing what they always did: building tools and solutions.

Oh well, Take That, BusinessWeek!



February 12, 2008 2:43 PM

The fact that they are gonna have to launch 10 phones to compete with just one phone itself says who is taking what! You can come up with all the phonies that you want but the one who does it first always takes the cake. Remember the Sony Walkman in the 80s?


February 13, 2008 6:33 AM

Apple is going to blow this… Their current course will relegate iPhone to the same fate as the Mac OS. The excellent iPhone experience will be available only on the Apple hardware, which only Apple’s core fans will have.

Expect Apple to own only a tiny fraction of the mobile market. Apple is too closed – they only put their OS on Apple hardware – but in Mobile, there’s far too many competitors. (Imagine if Mac computers competed against 4 other OS’s in the PC space –- each far more ble to innovate and learn from Apple’s success than Microsoft. What a world it would be!) But unlike the PC space, Mobile has dozens of competitors, wildly innovative, learning and copying, releasing products annually, and covering divergent prices and styles.

Read the excellent analysis at


February 13, 2008 3:49 PM

Let's see Nokia sold what, 400 MILLION phones last year and Apple sold 6-7 million to date (less than Nokia sold of its expensive N95 alone)? Yup, they're scared to death. It's all over, gang. Everyone is playing catch-up. Wait until Apple has things like -- voice dialing! (already on free phones yet lacking on the iPhone); A-GPS; HSDPA; a decent camera, push email, or yeah, and ability to delete more than one email message at a time! Apple's strategy is fine for Apple (and it is nice, I might buy the next model); it's starting from zero in the mobile phone market and doing great. But the iPhone's sales aren't remotely enough to sustain any of the top ten phone manufacturers. Not everyone wants to use a large, expensive phone. Some people prefer ones that are better at actually making phone calls. Some (like 12 million RIM subscribers like to be able to type their emails on a real keyboard). Saying it is bad to offer options in phones to appeal to different market segments is like saying we should all be driving a Ford Taurus because that is selling well and thus there is no need for anything else.


February 16, 2008 12:27 AM

I actually agree that it is good to have selection in phones, and it is good that there are so many different kinds that will be available for different niches. I believe that the iPhone is an amazingly functional all-in-one machine. I personally have forgotten what it was like to not be able to check the weather, stocks, my mail, the internet, my missed calls, and jam to some music while doing these things in less than 5 minutes of spare time. I don't think there's many people who wouldn't want that. The touch-screen keyboard is more than adequate. It's almost impossible to hit the correct buttons on those itty bitty keys on flip-out keyboards, and I hope that Apple will never consider adding one of those awful things to its interface. And if anyone wants an amazing camera, I'm guessing that person would go purchase a great camera, not expect their phone to take professional pictures. Keep going back and forth on how the apple iPhone is great and horrible, but it fills a niche that many people will enjoy, and the people who complain should just go buy one of the other 22 amazing new "iphone-killers." Have fun.

Naveen Lakasmany

February 16, 2009 9:53 PM

When some releases 10 things to counter one thing- What does this say? It only shows their lack of confidence on one product. That's the difference between them and Apple. Apple never released more than one model in any of its products at a time like Nokia or Samsung nor did they give their software to others like Microsoft. Apple is brave. The others are not thinking from the customer point of view. Why releasing those many number of products and creating internal competition. Instead why cant they just release on thing which customers like. if N95 lacks something from Iphone, incorporate it or try to incorporate some if u can copy like Microsoft. Why do u bring 10 look-alikes?

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Bloomberg Businessweek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, and Douglas MacMillan, dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.



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