Chris Evans: The future of smart phones

10 Mar 2010

The concept of your mobile phone as a social hub excites Chris Evans, senior global product manager for the Telefonica Group at Samsung.

It is the social hub plus future electronic commerce mechanisms, he believes, that will ignite the smart-phone revolution around the world in the coming years.

“What has driven the social hub is the explosion of social networking and the idea of carrying your interactions with you everywhere and get real-time responses and updates, as well as find people and places on maps that is particularly relevant. Now your phone is more than just a phone, it records your life and keeps you connected.”

The onset of the Wave smart phone from Samsung, Evans believes, will coincide with an early maturation of the touchscreen device market.

“It has been a steady continuous growth for touchscreens. Samsung have been at the forefront of the touchscreen revolution and our latest smart phone comes with super AMOLED technology that will give a bright and crisp image quality far superior to what’s on the market today.

“We expect that more than half of all mobile devices sold this year will be touchscreen. This is because touchscreen devices will go from being a high-tier device category to more affordable smart-phone devices for many people.”

This, Evans adds, will coincide with more relevant pricing plans from operators that will take out the fear factor consumers face about using internet applications like social media while out and about. “Many operators are coming up with imaginative bundles with competitive data plans. As more go that way, other things will follow. Mapping applications are being made available for free and that will propagate throughout the industry.

“You will also see app-based devices go down in price range.”

Bada and the open operating system

Evans said that Samsung’s bada platform is helping to drive the open operating system (OS) down to the lower tiers of the market. “This will be significantly under the price of the iPhone and will bring open OS-based devices to the mass market.

“While the apps market really started with Apple, there’s been a huge hunger for it to be opened up to the world in an affordable way. Google, for example, has entered the game in a big way with Android and expect many more future devices to come this way.”

Evans says that he anticipates at least 2,000 apps on the Samsung Apps store by the end of the year.

He says the company’s view is on supporting not only its own platform but multiple platforms, such as Windows Mobile 6.5, eventually Windows Mobile 7, and Google Android, to name a few.

“We will be covering several platforms that will give us a strategic position in the overall mobile market.”

According to its latest ranking of the global smart-phone industry, Gartner revealed recently that Samsung comes second worldwide, taking a 19.5pc market share representing a 3.2pc growth year-on-year.

Smart phones for everyone

Samsung’s view of the mobile phone as an affordable social media hub for millions worldwide is a laudable objective, but what was clear at the recent Mobile World Congress in Barcelona was also the opportunity around enabling the billions of people around the world who don’t have bank accounts to hold one for the first time.

A key facet of this is the notion of the mobile device as a personal wallet, enabled by near field communications (NFC) which also heralds a future of secure contactless credit and debit card payments.

At the Congress, GSMA, Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., Telefonica, and Visa, together with Giesecke & Devrient, Ingenico, ITN International and La Caixa, announced the arrival of contactless mobile payments. The companies unveiled the result of months of collaboration and have brought the first-ever SIM-based NFC payments pilot to Mobile World Congress.

The participating companies provided more than 400 NFC handsets to guests for use at the congress. The Samsung Star NFC handsets contain Telefonica SIM cards from O2 pre-loaded with €60 airtime credit, as well as a La Caixa Visa Mobile Payment Application. Participants used their NFC phones to pay for food and drink up to a value of €75 at more than 30 merchant locations around the congress.

Near field communications at work

Evans showed me how NFC content could be accessed instantly by a handset by placing the phone directly over my identity badge. The device was able to grab various data sets, including name and email address.

“We are investing a huge level of R&D in NFC,” Evans said. “This year, NFC will gain momentum and over the next five years we see it becoming more widespread than even contactless payment cards because of the ubiquitous nature of mobile devices.

“The key is getting the general ecosystem working together. It requires the banks, credit card issuers like Visa, and of course various handset manufacturers and technology providers working together.

“In five years’ time we see people carrying NFC on their mobile devices rather than credit cards.”

“We are hoping that this year there will be an all-in effort to see the commercial launch of NFC.”

By John Kennedy

Photo: Chris Evans, senior global product manager for the Telefonica Group at Samsung

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years