Samsung, Sony Ericsson roll out new smartphones

BARCELONA Sun Feb 14, 2010 4:20pm EST

1 of 7. Thomas Richter, Samsung Telecommunications' director of portfolio management, presents the new 'Wave' smartphone during the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona February 14, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Albert Gea

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BARCELONA (Reuters) - Samsung Electronics and Sony Ericsson unveiled their new top smartphone models on Sunday, both hoping to improve their positions in the more lucrative part of the phone market.

Samsung, the world No 2 handset maker, unveiled its flagship smartphone model Wave -- using a new touch screen technology and the first phone to use its bada operating system.

"Samsung's commitment to Bada is underlined by the fact that it is using it to power its flagship product for the show but it's going to be an uphill struggle to get the developer community on board," said Ben Wood, research director at CCS Insight.

Earlier this month Samsung unveiled a plan to treble smartphone shipments in 2010 and promote its own bada software platform.

Analysts, however, have been doubtful of Samsung's efforts to belatedly build a new open platform. With limited volume, phones using bada will have difficulty attracting application developers or operator support.

"I think the ecosystem is just not ready yet," said analyst Carolina Milanesi from research firm Gartner.

Samsung said it plans to launch five to seven phone models using bada software in 2010.

GROWING MARKET

Samsung and Sony Ericsson have seen consumers seeking Web and other PC-like functions increasingly turning away from their feature phones to computer-like smartphones from top vendors Nokia , Apple and Research In Motion.

JK Shin, the head of Samsung's mobile operations, told Reuters in an interview that with the help of bada - which can be used also in cheaper models -- the company would benefit from surging demand for new smartphones in emerging markets.

"I believe that the smartphone market will grow more than 20 percent every year for a three-year time frame, and the growth rate in emerging markets is much higher than that of advanced countries," he said in an interview.

JK Shin said the company could make phones for Google's Nexus lineup in the future, but Sony Ericsson Chief Executive Bert Nordberg said the company had turned down an offer to make phones for Google.

"(We) will only sell phones under our own brand," Nordberg said.

SONY ERICSSON: HOPE FROM NEW MODELS

The world's fourth-largest phone maker Sony Ericsson, which has reported seven straight quarterly losses, unveiled three smartphone models, using Google's Android operating system in two of them, and Nokia's Symbian in one.

"Some of the obituaries that have been written on Sony Ericsson may be a little premature. There is no doubt the company still has challenges but these new products are a first step to help fuel a recovery," CCS's Wood said.

Sony Ericsson new mini smartphones remind consumers from last small models of Ericsson itself about a decade ago.

"I think the products are competitive and certainly encouraging. The user interface is pretty good and will help them over LG Electronics," said Gartner's Milanesi.

Sony Ericsson said it aims to return to profit as soon as possible. Analysts have said parent companies could be forced to put more money into the venture already during the first half.

"We firmly support Bert (Nordberg) and his leadership team," Sony's chief Howard Stringer told a news conference.

(Additional reporting by Nicola Leske and Niclas Mika; editing by Gunna Dickson)

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