We are at a point in the mobile industry where the battle for the third place has become more interesting than the competition for the first position in the world market. Samsung and Apple are clearly ahead of the pack, and it’s hard to believe that anyone could disrupt their leadership in the next year or so. But behind Samsung and Apple, several players vie for the third place, and potentially, the chance to displace the leaders. These three players are LG, Huawei, and Sony.
These three companies all have ambitious plans for the rest of the year. LG puts all its hope in the G2, which will debut on August 7 at a New York event. The Korean company has already begun teasing the device, and I expect a big marketing push to drum up the interest for the G2.
LG wants to sell 10 million units of the G2, which may not seem much compared to blockbusters like Samsung’s Galaxy S4, but is quite ambitious for a relatively small player like LG. With the G2 on the horizon, and encouraged by the success of the Optimus G and the G Pro, which propelled it on the third place in the first quarter of 2013, LG increased its internal target to 45 million smartphones this year, up 5 million from the initial goal.
Huawei is just as ambitious – the Chinese telecom giant is a big player in its home market, which buoys its hopes for 2013 – Huawei wants to sell no fewer than 60 million smartphones. That’s a lofty goal, but if Huawei plays its cards right, it may profit from the LTE boom that’s expected to sweep China soon.
In the international market, Huawei will continue to push attractive devices like the Ascend P6, the current world’s slimmest phone. Are Huawei’s goals realistic? Last year, the company had the same 60 million target, which proved unreachable. Could this year be different?
Sony may be the dark horse of the smartphone race right now. After a long period of lagging behind competitors in terms of specs, design, and software, in 2012 Sony has been making up the lost ground. The company told the Chinese press gathered for the launch of the Xperia Z Ultra that it plans to sell 42 million smartphones in 2013, to end the year on the third place. The Xperia Z and its siblings were moderately successful, while the Z Ultra shapes up to be a good competitor to the Samsung Note series.
But probably Sony’s real hope is the i1, also known as Honami, which is rumored to be the first device created from scratch under the One Sony strategy. One Sony is the plan pushed by CEO Kaz Hirai to use the entire technological expertise of the Sony group in the making of each product. In other words, the i1 might benefit from Sony’s rich photography acumen and all the display expertise accumulated in years of making high-end television sets.
So, who will be in the third spot come December 31? Judging from estimates alone, Huawei, but history tells us that setting targets and actually meeting them are completely different things in the smartphone business.
In the best scenario for the Android ecosystem, all three players will meet their targets and begin putting pressure on Apple and Samsung. Both juggernauts show signs of slowing down, and in times like this, upstarts have the best chance of disrupting the status quo. And, while, disruption may not be good for the incumbents, we, the consumers, can only gain from it.