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The Android Art of War – LG and Sony’s tactical war against Samsung

The_Art_of_War-Tangut_scriptAndroid manufacturers like LG, HTC, Sony are all waging war against Samsung. Ideally, all the new smartphones would be announced at the same time. This would allow us to compare all the available options, and avoid buyer’s regret. But that is not the case. Android manufacturers are timing their launches strategically.

Traditionally, new Android smartphones were announced at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona every February of each year. New smartphones would start hitting the markets in the second quarter of the year. Right now, among the premium smartphone manufacturers, it is only HTC that still makes major announcements at MWC.

Sony has gotten into the cycle of launching its new flagship smartphone at the start of each year. In a way, this is the worst time to launch a new handset. With people’s pockets still reeling from Christmas shopping, device sales normally see a drop in the first quarter of the year. However, it does mean for a month or two, the Sony offering is the undisputed top smartphone on the market. This helped the Sony Xperia Z rake in 4.6 million in sales for its Xperia Z in its first 40 days in the market.

Samsung and HTC go head to head in the second quarter of the year. HTC announces its offering earlier and release the new phone after a month or two. Samsung launches its product in April or May and tries to make the phone available just weeks after announcement.

LG patiently waits for one of the top processors in Qualcomm’s roadmap, and launches when it is available. This pretty much guarantees that LG’s phone will be the most powerful handset released in the calendar year, until a new set of handsets is released the following year.

Motorola used to launch its new phones late in the third, or early in the fourth quarter of the year. This year, Motorola wisely pulled back its launch to July. This allows it to launch its new devices without going head to head with Google’s Nexus phone, Apple’s iPhone and the release of the new Windows Phone operating system, which is accompanied by a flurry of smartphone announcements.

This last quarter of the year is probably the worst time to launch a new smartphone. It is easy to get lost in the woods, between the iPhone frenzy and Microsoft’s gigantic marketing budgets.

Looking at how things stack up right now, most Android manufacturers have learned how to build really good phones, and most have taken lessons from Sun Tzu’s Art of War . All except HTC, which is rather ironic. HTC would probably be better off launching its new offering in the third quarter of the year, and leverage the same kind of hardware advantage LG is trying to leverage against Samsung.

This presentation is a bit too neat. A flagship phone can be released outside this cycle, like the HTC Butterfly last year. In some markets, devices get mid-life upgrades. Notably Korea. For the Android buyer, watching all this can be fun or troubling. Nothing like a newly launched device to quickly take the shine away from a new toy.

The third quarter of the year is a good time to hunt for a new smartphone. You can expect to get discounts on Sony’s early offering around this period. By this time you would have good user feedback on HTC’s and Samsung’s latest and greatest. You never know when a serious defect might unexpectedly crop up. Or you can pick up LG’s or Motorola’s offerings knowing you have seen the entire field. Nexus fans will always wait for the new Nexus offering, but I think a few may succumb early and go with an HTC or Samsung Google Edition phone.

Image Credit: Wikipedia

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