Various metrics for how the handset market is faring at this juncture are swirling like the snow in a paperweight designed to be shaken for pleasant effect.
But this swirl of metrics is anything but pleasant. And how and when they settle could well mean economic doldrums, lost sales, even layoffs and company failures.
One high-end device match-up, however, gives a glimpse of what’s taking place at the very top segment of the market.
Data from Compete Inc. on Americans’ online shopping behavior reflected that the major marketing campaigns mounted by the carriers, which include alluring subsidies, and consumer expectations for new devices indeed translate into intense interest in new, cutting-edge devices.
To wit: Research In Motion Ltd.’s BlackBerry Storm captured a greater share of online shopping interest at Verizon Wireless this past week than Apple Inc.’s iPhone did at AT&T Mobility or other rivals.
“That is an impressive accomplishment for any device,” said Elaine Warner, director for telecommunications and media at Compete, which measures consumers’ online shopping behavior in the U.S. “The Storm got an impressive lift from the Thanksgiving and Black Friday holidays.”
According to Warner, the Storm doubled its interest among consumers, 300,000 of whom researched the device last week. About 260,000 researched the iPhone at AT&T Mobility. Only about 60,000 shoppers were interested in the HTC Corp. G1 at T-Mobile USA Inc.
As the astute reader will note, however, the Storm hit shelves Nov. 21 and, therefore, its advertising and marketing campaign was fresh and, apparently, still compelling when shoppers eschewed more turkey to go shopping. Despite widespread complaints about various aspects of RIM’s first touchscreen device, demand exceeded supply and those left waiting will not receive their units until mid-December.
“The iPhone is still prevailing over time,” Warner said. “It’s still a monster.”
That observation is borne out by Compete data.
Consumer interest in the iPhone, for instance, shot skyward upon its announcement in June, then spiked again three weeks later, upon launch. Consumer interest remains fairly constant to this day; the data shows a long “tail” that barely diminished over six months.
Interest share in G1
In contrast, the G1 at T-Mobile USA showed a similar steep spike in initial interest upon launch in mid-October – to above the iPhone’s “interest share” – but quickly tapered lower. But that didn’t mean more people were at any time more interested in the G1 than the iPhone, because “interest share” at T-Mobile USA in terms of real numbers is lower than a roughly similar “interest share” at AT&T Mobility, which has a vastly greater number of subscribers.
Conversely, the spike in “interest share” in the BlackBerry Storm upon launch at Verizon Wireless quickly exceeded interest in the G1, in terms of real numbers.
Thus, at the top of the hyper-marketed smartphone heap, Apple’s iPhone still reigns, the BlackBerry Storm comes in second and the G1 trailed in third place.