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Samsung, Nokia vie for control

Posted by arnon_k On February - 4 - 2011

Lack of 3G no barrier to smartphone sales
Giants Samsung and Nokia are expected to battle for supremacy in the fast-growing local smartphone market this year as prices fall and heavy use of social media networks drives demand for versatile communication devices.

Visitors flocked to the opening day of the Thailand Mobile Expo 2011 yesterday at the Queen Sirikit National Convention Center to hunt for bargains as a number of vendors showed off their latest models.

Smartphone sales are booming even though Thailand lacks a 3G wireless broadband service on the international standard 2100-Megahertz band, for which many smartphones are designed. The HSPA-based network available locally generally offers a less-optimal experience.

Wichai Pornpratang, telecommunication business director of Thai Samsung Electronics, said his company would spend one billion baht on marketing this year to lift its smartphone market share from 30% to 40% and overtake top-ranked Nokia.

Half of the 40 models the Korean company plans to launch this year will be smartphones, he said, to build on the recent success of its competitively priced Android-based Galaxy Cooper at 9,900 baht.

Samsung will focus on models priced between 5,000 and 10,000 baht that now account for 10-20% of the smartphone segment, he said.

“We certainly believe that our price below 10,000 baht is a key magnet, since our phones are the cheapest compared to those working on Android and offering similar functions,” said Mr Wichai.

He forecast smartphones would account for 30% of all handsets sold in Thailand this year, up from 9% last year.

“We expect that consumers will migrate from feature phones in a price range of 3,000 baht to buy their first smartphones at 5,000 baht. The cheaper price of smartphones is the key to expanding the smartphone user base – people would rather pay 5,000 baht if it makes them look stylish,” he said.

Samsung plans to soon introduce Nexus S, a co-development with Google, which developed the Android operating system.

Market leader Nokia (Thailand), meanwhile, will work to protect its share amid competition at the higher end from the likes of BlackBerry and iPhone.

“We foresee large room to grow in smartphones. The market size should reach 33% from only an 18% share among all mobile phone users this year,” said Shumit Kapoor, general manager of Nokia (Thailand).

However, Nokia will continue to emphasise the higher end at 15,000 baht or more, as the field is less crowded now that more players are competing at the low end.

“We have been very successful with the N8, which ran out of stock, and the upcoming E7 for business users will available in the first half. Both are offered at 15,000 and up,” said Mr Kapoor.

He said Nokia would also pay more attention to “touch-and-type” hybrid smartphones that offers both touchscreens and keyboards to tap into the youth market. These models will be cheaper at around 5,000 baht.

Somsak Athisaitrakul, senior manager for products of LG Electronics (Thailand), said it would introduce two models priced in the range of 6,000 to 7,000 baht in the second quarter to attract existing feature phone users.

Thananan Vilailuck, president of the handset distributor Samart I-Mobile, said his company would keep its price range lower than that of international brands at 4,500-6,000 baht, with a target of 100,000-200,000 smartphone sales this year out of its total of 3.5 million units.

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