Mobile World Congress rings in the changes
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Change is coming to the mobile market. From smartphone platforms to payments and wireless connections, companies are determined to shake up the status quo.
It all kicked off with the announcement by Mozilla that the first commercial release of its Firefox OS was imminent. The new system, which was announced at the same event last year, is now on handsets and ready to begin taking on the market in a big way.
Mozilla and its partners are hoping that the open standard – Firefox OS is built on web technologies – will encourage both developers to create for it and consumers to take it to their hearts.
To start with, the new devices are being released in emerging mobile markets, with 17 operators already signed up to use the phones, targeting those who haven’t yet made the leap to more expensive smartphones.
“While the Apple and Android eco-systems have created services that have proven incredibly popular with mobile users in developed markets, there remain many, especially in developing markets, for whom it’s not profitable to subsidise a high-end smartphone,” said Informa Telecom Media analyst Paul Lambert.
“Operators signed-up for Firefox OS devices will also be hoping they can make in-roads into the applications and services market they are currently locked out of by Apple and Google, with its Android OS.
“However, operators’ track record of developing services and applications means there is little precedent to suggest the open HTML5 technology underpinning Firefox will by itself help them succeed where they have floundered in the past.”
If the devices prove successful, it could mean the days of the feature phone – traditionally a device aimed at emerging markets – are numbered.
Challenging status quo
Even among the handset makers, it seems the status quo is being challenged. Chinese mobile makers such as ZTE and Huawei showed off their next generation of devices to the crowds.
What was also clear this year is that the days when your mobile phone or smart phone functions simply as a communications or entertainment tool are long gone.
Throughout the exhibition, there were companies extolling the virtues of using your phone as a mobile wallet, a fitness tool, or to gauge temperature and humidity.
The entire exhibition was near field communication (NFC)-enabled, from information posters to vending machines, and there were plenty of exhibitors keen to show off the capabilities of the technology.
Samsung and Visa, meanwhile, announced plans for a global alliance that would see the next generation of Samsung NFC-enabled smartphones come with visa’s payWave application embedded.
“It’s a significant agreement that could give NFC a much-needed boost, given that Visa is a trusted payment brand, while Samsung is a top smartphone manufacturer in terms of shipments and a driving force behind the increasingly popular Android device platform,” said Ovum analyst Eden Zoller.
“Both Samsung and Visa are committed to NFC and we would expect them to put effort and marketing muscle behind making consumers aware of the potential benefits that NFC payments can bring. This is desperately needed as for most consumers, mobile payments – let alone NFC – is simply not on their radar.”