Handset vendors Nokia Corp. and Sony Ericsson will continue to feel the pressure from U.S. rival Apple Inc. in the high-end smartphone market through the launch of the iPhone 4 mobile device, industry watchers said Tuesday.
Apple Monday announced the latest version of its high-end handset, which will be available in key markets during the summer. The new phone includes a number of upgrades compared to predecessor iPhone 3GS, including a better camera, sharper display and more powerful battery.

The iPhone 4 will reach several key markets quickly and has a similar price to the older iPhone 3GS, so it is likely to be the best-selling iPhone ever, research director Ben Wood at analysis firm CCS Insight told Dow Jones Newswires Tuesday.
The launch will be a further blow to handset competitors Nokia and Sony Ericsson who have been losing market share to their U.S. rival. Nokia will have to work hard to battle the new iPhone in the high end market, said Wood, but added that its upcoming N8 smartphone could be a potent challenger in European markets.
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Nokia said in April it will start shipping its N8 device in the third quarter. The N8 is based on the new Symbian 3 platform and comes with features such as Ovi Maps navigation, multi-touch and pinch zoom, and a 12 megapixel camera. The Espoo, Finland-based company is also expected to announce high-end devices later this year based on the new MeeGo platform which it has co-developed with U.S.-based Intel Corp.
Underscoring its struggle to gain the upper hand in the premium handset market, Nokia last month said it will shake up its management structure for the second time in less than a year, creating a new business unit for high-end smartphones and services, in order to boost product development. Nokia press spokeswoman Eija-Riitta Huovinen Tuesday declined to comment on what the iPhone 4 launch may mean for her company's smartphone business.
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Sony Ericsson press spokesman Aldo Liguori also declined to comment on the iPhone 4 launch. He said his company aims to compete in the high-end smartphone market through attractive hardware design, high-quality cameras, and use of Google Inc's application-friendly open Android platform. The handset vendor, a joint venture between Sweden's Telefon AB L.M. Ericsson and Japan's Sony Corp., has faced declining sales and market share in the recent economic downturn and its share of the total mobile phone market in the first quarter 2010 fell one percentage point to around 4%.
Still, the company has managed to boost the selling price of its devices through strong shipments of its new high-end smartphones Xperia X10 and Vivaz. Xperia X10 in particular should help Sony Ericsson compete with rival products including the new iPhone 4, said analyst Pete Cunningham at Canalys.
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Although the iPhone 4 comes with some important improvements, it is a matter of evolution rather than revolution, Cunningham said Tuesday. But the device will nevertheless be well received by consumers thanks to Apple's marketing efforts and the hype surrounding the brand, he said.
Since Apple launched its first iPhone in 2007, it has steadily increased market share in the high-end, high-margin smartphone segment. In the fiscal quarter ended March 27, its iPhone sales more than doubled from a year earlier to 8.8 million units. According to research firm Strategy Analytics, Apple's share of the global smartphone market increased to 16.4% from 10.6% a year earlier in the first quarter 2010, outpacing market leader Nokia which grew its smartphone market share to 40% from 38.2%.
The speedy launch of the iPhone 4 suggests Apple is ramping up its distribution. Nokia and Sony Ericsson will have to work hard through launches of new devices such as the N8 and the Xperia X10 mini smartphone to fend off the competition.
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