As the year is reaching its midway point, we wanted to take a look at how we felt the major mobile device manufacturers were doing, and we thought it would be appropriate to treat them like we would any other big company…by rating their “stock” (according to both Sean P. and myself) We’ll give our thoughts on everyone from Apple to ZTE, and loads more in between. Because the list is so big, we will do it in two parts, with part 1 today and part 2 coming next week. So without further ado, let’s give you a look into the crystal ball of these two day traders!
OEMS (in no particular order)
- (Shawn) This is a Hold for me. There are a lot of rumors…most prevalent that Apple will 1) release a 7s and 7s+ and the iPhone X will be delayed, and 2) maybe not as great as we think. Based on this alone, I’d say a bit of caution is warranted. Many recent pics also show the fingerprint scanner being moved to the back of the device, in the fashion of the G6, Nexus 6P/Mate 9, and the Pixel devices. This implementation leaves a bit to be desired, as it’s pretty much standard in most Android devices, and has been for a while. If the choice is between an already available Galaxy phone, and more of the same from Apple (but much much later), this Hold could be the optimistic side of the spectrum.
- (Sean P) Buy. Yes it sounds like Apple will use the same warmed over design for the 4th year in a row with the iPhone 7S and 7S Plus, and sure the long rumored iPhone 8/X may be insanely expensive and in short supply when it’s released later this year, but none of that matters. Apple is the most profitable company on the planet and they could release a Uranium powered iPhone and their fans would still eat it up. Hell, Samsung would probably release a Plutonium powered phone just to compete.
- (Shawn) Buy, and then go buy some more. There pretty much isn’t any way that if Google is producing a phone this year (and they are) it will be worse than the initial Pixel devices, which were an incredible achievement based on circumstances. Even if they do nothing more than add IP68 water & dust resistance and shrink the bezels by 25%, it would probably sell in large quantities. The recent rumor that Googs is willing to put almost a billion dollars into LG to help ensure they have access to OLED panels in great supply is a good sign they might be getting more serious about solving some of the 1st gen Pixel availability woes. And I think Google still has a few tricks up their sleeve.
- (Sean P) Hold. Google will make a Pixel 2 this year and it will almost assuredly be a great device, but none of that will matter because you won’t be able to buy one. It’s been six months since the release of the Pixel and most sku’s have been perpetually sold out. Google’s supply chain management has always been poor, but they went all in on the Pixel and still didn’t do any better. Until they solve their supply woes they just aren’t a serious player.
- (Shawn) It sounds like HTC is still going to the be the fab for the Pixel devices for at least 1 more year, and based on that – I could see a Hold here. They will make money from this arrangement, and the Vive still is one of the better mobile VR platforms (which isn’t saying much) – after the deal is up, based on their own offerings – this is a Sell. Or more accurately, perhaps a never Buy to begin with.
- (Sean P) Sell. HTC has been on the decline for years and there is little evidence to suggest a reversal this year. Their first release of 2017, the HTC U Ultra, was a poorly received, overpriced, LG V20 clone that seemed to confirm that HTC no longer has any idea what the market wants. Yesterday evleaks released a render of the HTC U 11, their mainstream flagship for 2017, and it looks to have many of the same issues as the U Ultra. It has a home button that isn’t centered vertically and sits far too low on the chin with small capacitive buttons flanking it on either side just like the U Ultra. It also has bezels that would be fine in 2015, but look huge in 2017, especially when compared to the the G6 and GS8. Their most exciting release will probably be the Pixel 2 they make for Google. When your best phone is the one you’re making for someone else, you know things are bad.
- (Shawn) I’d Buy Huawei. They have made some great devices of late, and even though the Honor branch didn’t really get off to a great start in the US market, if they continue to produce solid quality value devices such as the Mate 9 and the presumed Honor 8 Pro – the future is just fine for the world’s 3rd largest smartphone OEM. A recent Android Authority report indicated that Huawei sold 5 million of the Mate 9 devices in just the first 4 months…and 140 million total devices in the last year. I’m buying Huawei for sure.
- (Sean P) Buy. I bought my wife a Huawei Mate 9 this year to replace her aging Note 4 and she loves it. Performance is snappy, the cameras are great, it has a large, bright screen and fantastic battery life. Huawei really started their push in the U.S. market with the underrated Honor 8 last year, but it’s the Mate 9 that should put everyone on notice about how serious they are. Their biggest hurdle is getting a foothold with the carriers, but if they can do that, I suspect it will make a lot of companies nervous.
- (Shawn) I’m Holding onto to LG. I like the G6, and I think in any other year, this could be a way back to prominence for LG. The ill fated G5 and its module misfire cost LG something more precious than profits; time. The time it might have had to make a strong showing against a world where the Note 7 doesn’t exist and before the Pixel came to be. If LG had made the G5 more like the G6, I think we are having a whole different conversation. Instead…they are putting their best up against the best that Samsung has to offer, and maybe the best they have ever produced. And that puts them at a huge disadvantage.
- (Sean P) Hold. The G6 is the best phone LG has ever made, full stop. LG clearly learned their lesson from the G5 and listened to what customers wanted and for that they should be commended. The problem is that through both bad luck and poor planning they are going toe to toe with the Samsung Galaxy 8 twins which offer a superior chipset and a more eye catching design. The G6 is strong enough to keep LG afloat to fight another day, but it’s hard to see how it moves the needle much.
- (Shawn) Hold here. Nokia still has a flagship yet to come, and their latest devices while uninspiring, do have some broad appeal in the European market and the 3310 will likely sell well enough based on nostalgia alone to make this worth a “wait and see” approach.
- (Sean P) Optimistic Hold. Recently articles have circulated that Nokia wants to fill the void left when Google scrapped the Nexus line in favor of the more premium Pixel. They are committed to stock Android and fast updates. I’m excited to see the Nokia 9 later this year.
Part 2 of our OEM Stock Watch 2017 will appear on Monday – so stay tuned!