Minor tech players head for round two against Samsung at MWC

By 정주원
  • Published : Feb 21, 2014 - 10:26
  • Updated : Feb 21, 2014 - 10:26
With Samsung Electronics Co., the world's No. 1 smartphone maker, out to prove its dominance at the Mobile World Congress 2014 next week, smaller players are set to scramble for niche markets at one of the industry's highlight events.

The event opens a month after the U.S. Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where South Korea's Samsung Electronics, LG Electronics Inc. and other Chinese and Japanese players fought it out for a technological lead in the display sector.

Samsung and its rivals are this time expected to face off in smartphones, a sector led by the South Korean giant.

Hosted by the Global System for Mobile Communications Association, around 1,700 companies from 220 countries are expected at this year's MWC, which runs through Feb. 27 in Barcelona, Spain.

Samsung, the world's No. 1 smartphone maker, said earlier it will roll out its next smartphone line-up on the first day of the event, although it did not provide details of the device, including its name.

Samsung's press release, however, carried a blue stamp showing a box being unpacked with the number five showing on the right, implying the new device will be the much-awaited Galaxy S5.

The next Galaxy smartphone is said to come with a 5.2-inch Quad HD screen and other latest features such as finger screening and eye detection.

Samsung usually unmasks its new Galaxy smartphones in the first quarter of the year. The company unveiled the Galaxy S4 in March 2013.

A high-profile Samsung official previously said that the company will also showcase its next smartwatch line-up, presumably the Galaxy Gear 2, at the event.

Samsung released its first smartwatch in September. The device can make phone calls, display messages and conduct other functions in concert with a tucked-away smartphone. The model accounted for 54 percent of the global smartwatch market in the second half of 2013.

Although Samsung appears without a significant challenger at MWC, with its only significant rival, Apple Inc., slated to roll out its next flagship smartphone model in the second half of 2014, smaller players are hoping to woo new customers.

LG Electronics Inc., the perennial smaller rival of Samsung at home and abroad, released its much-awaited phablet at home ahead of the MWC, reflecting its anxiety amid stiff competition among smaller tech players in the global market dominated by Samsung and Apple Inc.

LG's latest phablet, G Pro 2, a cross between a smartphone and tablet PC, boasts a 5.9-inch display, larger than its predecessor's 5.5-inch screen, and will compete with rival products such as the Galaxy Note series.

The most prominent feature of the phablet is "Knock Code," an updated feature of its previous "KnockOn," which allows users to unlock the device by simply tapping the screen several times. The previous version only allowed for the device to be turned on and off.

LG said it will also showcase the L line-up during the MWC, with the more affordable smartphones to run on third-generation networks. The firm will also roll out a smaller edition of its flagship G2, which a reduced screen size of 4.7 inches.

LG's strategy is a testament to the challenges facing the company, including from China's Lenovo Group which made news with its purchase of Google Inc.'s Motorola Mobility handset unit.

With Nokia Corp. also anticipated to release its first Android-powered smartphone at the MWC this year, the race among small players for the third spot is destined to intensify.

Data compiled by market researcher Strategy Analytics showed Samsung is anticipated to take up 36.2 percent of the world's smartphone market in the first quarter of 2014, followed by Apple Inc. with 17 percent.

LG is estimated to garner a 5.9 percent market share over the cited period, with Chinese smartphone makers including Huawei Technologies Co., Lenovo Group Ltd and ZTE Corp. also expected to see their market shares hover near 5 percent each.

This year's MWC will become the battle ground for mobile carriers as well, with South Korea's No. 1 SK Telecom Co. and its smaller rival KT Corp. expected to feature their latest mobile network technologies, such as wider-bandwidth LTE-Advanced services.

A handful of other South Korean tech players will also join this year's MWC, with the head of Kakao Corp., the developer of the popular Kakao Talk mobile messenger service with more than 100 million users around the globe, delivering a speech on the mobile industry.

South Korea's Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning plans to operate a joint exhibition hall for local content providers and feature 14 applications that can be used on smartphones, tablet PCs, and smart TVs. (Yonhap News)