Goodbye 2011… Hello 2012!

Ian Hardy

December 31, 2011 2:54pm

365 days of cut-throat competition. 365 days of carriers losing and winning customers. 365 days of surging mobile technology. 2011 was a benchmark year for Canadian wireless and brought very notable accomplishments. However, all the efforts in the last year will actually setup 2012 for massive success – for both the customers and the industry.

2011 was the year that Canadians fell deeper in love with their phones. The phones became faster, thinner, lighter, and graced our hands with large displays. The average wireless customer was pining for the latest device, unfortunately it wasn’t a BlackBerry, but the newest “Android”. It was the first year that I can think of that more people were asking about Android that any other, yes, more that Apple’s iPhone. At some point over the past 52 weeks Google’s “open source” OS was top of mind. Was it the Samsung Galaxy SII or the Galaxy Nexus that caught Canadian’s attention? Could it be the massive, gorgeous and vibrant display? Perhaps it was how thin it was? Maybe even its dual-core speeds. Or was it the HTC Sensation? Or the Motorola RAZR – all thin. Wait, what about the Sony Ericsson Play – a “certified PlayStation” gaming device that was first launched in Canada, then in the United States. Whatever it was, Android made its astounding leap in 2011 – two years after Rogers declared the “Android Revolution” started. September 2011 comScore data revealed that 25% of all smartphones in Canada are powered by Android, up from 12.2% in March.

The hype behind the iPhone is still powerful, but not as intense as it was a couple years ago. The same comScore report showed Apple owning 30.1% of the Canadian market. Most likely Apple would have elevated even further if the rumours of the “iPhone 5” actually panned out. This was the biggest roller coaster ride of 2011. Analysts and overseas reports promised a complete iPhone redesign with a faster processor, better camera, thinner, aluminum backing, glass backing, antenna change, bigger display etc…, we ended up with the same phone, but “better”. Apple shouted it’s the best iPhone yet with a new A5 processor and better 8MP camera, plus Siri the voice assistant. Even without a change in design, lineups happened and Apple sold over 4 million in the first 3 days.

So, according to comScore, Android and iOS have a combined market share of 55.1%. RIM, once acknowledged as an innovator, claimed 35.8% Canadian market share, but unfortunately started to sink really fast. Even with their 75 million BlackBerry subscribers RIM was riddled with embarassment. Customers were more interested in large and powerful touchscreen devices and RIM delivered familiar “iconic” QWERTY devices. The most impressive BlackBerry on the market is the Bold 9900; it’s sleek, upscale, has a touchscreen and a QWERTY keyboard. It’s the best of both worlds, but it came late to the party. The Torch 9810 and 9810 didn’t prove to be profitable, nor did the all-touch Curve 9380 or the Bold 9790.

We could continue to talk about the ongoing trademark infringement cases, poor BlackBerry tablet sales, services outages, drunken RIM employees, low stock price, upset shareholders, delay of the PlayBook OS until February 2012, or even that their next-gen devices, now named “BlackBerry 10”, are also delayed until the “latter part of 2012″… but what would it accomplish? The bottom line is that RIM hit an unimaginable level in 2011 and absolutely needs to step up and deliver in every possible way in 2012. They need to act like their most recent tagline and “Be Bold”.

Carrier competition was a daily experience. I remember speaking with Anthony Booth, Mobilicity Chief Customer Officer, when he first started his new gig. Booth came from Mars Canada (the chocolate bar) where he was Vice President Marketing. He stated to me that he had never seen competition like this and that “it happens daily”. No other industry is like wireless, it cannot be duplicated. The carriers battled it out in 2011, but the Big 3 prevailed and drastically increased their subscriber base.

Rogers still is king in Canada with the most subscribers. In Q3 big red reported their subscriber base reached  9,288,000Bell has 7,369,596, and TELUS has 7.2 million – totalling over 23 million subscribers. As for the “newer” wireless players, WIND is inching towards 400,000 subs, Mobility has “attracted” a total of 250,000, Videotron racked up 253,900, and Public Mobile has over 153,000. In addition to these numbers there is SaskTel, MTS – when these numbers are compiled the Canadian wireless subscriber base is well over 26 million, and growing. Prepaid subs at the Big 3 decreased while Postpaid subs increased. The busy Q4 numbers will be announced in January/February and it’s estimated that the year-over-year growth will be between 2-5%.

Just a couple weeks ago there rumours in the industry that WIND Mobile was “in talks” to buy Mobilicity. Both carriers declined to comment, but it would be reasonable to predict that 2012 will see carrier consolidation. The new entrants cannot keep this low handset and low monthly voice and data plans offering up another year. Something has to happen. Perhaps Mobilicity will merge with another, or it might be Pubic Mobile that gets gobbled up. Regardless, 2012 we’ll see one of the new entrants vanish. How the government lays out the upcoming 700Mhz auction will help speed this along – will or won’t they have a set aside?

One of the major trends in 2011 was the continued adoption of smartphones and data devices. All the carriers reported that smartphone usage increased, now representing above 40% of their total postpaid subscriber base. Gone are the days of a simple flip phone – people are demanding devices with more capabilities. With Canadians wanting to be connected all the time – weather to download Angry Birds, log onto Facebook, Twitter, check their email, or even watch movies, 2011 brought LTE (Long Term Evolution) to the forefront for some lucky Canadians. Rogers and Bell successfully deployed their LTE networks across Canada, bringing “peak download speeds of up to 75 Mbps” – in reality it was between 12 Mbps to 25 Mbps. Both carriers coverage map reaches millions of customers (Rogers at 8 million, Bell claims just over 3.5 million) from Yellowknife to Vancouver, Ottawa and Halifax. Mass adoption has not happened yet, 2011 was more of “who can get to market first”, and came with ridiculous pricing for devices and plans. 2012 will be very different. TELUS will join the fun, along with Virgin, SaskTel, and MTS and this should drop the prices a bit.

All this new found speed will should finally allow for a greater adoption of mobile content, something that’s been predicted since the Vancouver Olympics. Next year will see a dramatic spike in the way we use our smartphones or tablets. Watching movies, videos and TV (news, sports, syndicated shows) on the go will be the norm. But this will come at a cost of course. Carriers will have to create a better, more affordable pricing structure to make this happen.

Finally, 2011 had minor progress for mobile banking. Sure, Canadians bank by phone, but it’s simply just to transfer funds, check balances or find the closest ATM. The closest thing we had to actually paying for products and services from our smartphone was the BMO and MasterCard “Mobile PayPass Tag”. This gave those who signed up for each service the ability to place a sticker on the back of their clean looking, well designed handset. Something that just destroyed its look. It’s hideous and odd looking, but I understand that it’s a stepping stone to having more devices come with NFC capabilities. NFC (Near Field Communications) has made its way into the Galaxy Nexus, Nexus S, BlackBerry Bold 9900 and the BlackBerry Curve 9360 – more devices are on tap for 2012 and so is mobile wallet/payment competition. EnStream, the Big 3 joint venture venture, will launch their mobile payment app, plus Google will launch Google Wallet in Canada.

2011 was fundamental for wireless in Canada – but it’s 2012 that will be spectacular. The handsets will become more powerful, speed will be at a premium, mobile content and mobile banking will be at the forefront, the 700Mhz spectrum auction will raise billions for the government, Shaw and Eastlink will launch their wireless networks, plus every carrier will continue to compete for customer loyalty on a daily basis… unfortunately the low-cost subsidy pricing of 3-year contracts will still exist.

  • Nishant Bhatt

    I just hope that 2012 is a good year for Blackberry, and thus, for Canada’s economy. And I hope that 2012 brings many accomplishments for everyone and Mobilesyrup.

    I wish everyone a great and prosperous new year.

    • cybik

      I hope RIM dies this year. They don’t deserve to survive.

    • Jim R

      RIM may deserve to die, but I, for one, sure hope it pulls a rabbit out of the hat and survives and prospers.

    • 0defaced


      Don’t worry, I’m pretty sure RIM employees (as well as users like myself) wish the same for you. Sit down kiddo.

    • cybik

      @0defaced: please separate RIM the Corporate Entity, from RIM the Employee Entity. I wish the employees well on their future endavours and I wish well to the good souls who made RIM what it is today; without their expertise and brains, telecom wouldn’t be where it is today.

      But I have no pity nor appreciation for the Management “team” [I.E. the ones defining the Corporate Identity] who put RIM in such a predicament. Their corporate way should DIAF and they should be forced into retirement. RIM as the Employee Entity deserves better management, but until they grow some balls and kick the management OUT, RIM [as the sum of all its parts] is doomed.

    • Doobie Sisters

      Rim is died.

      Knock, knock.
      Who’s there?
      Rim who?

      Hahaha good riddance to Canadian crapola.

  • Sean

    This has been a really awesome writeup i think everyone i their comments should say the one thing that they think 2011 gave to the 2012 world of mobile.

    2011 brought to 2012 a world of thin and light

  • cybik – dummy

    Why would you want RIM to die? You want people to be put out of a JOB? maybe you should lose yours before you wish it upon others.

    • cybik

      they had so many chances of “correcting” their game, of getting better, and instead they just continued churning out the same stuff, over and over, only with a bit more polish each time.I’m sorry, but RIM doesn’t deserve to contribute to mobility anymore.

      And quit that bullshit about jobs, they’ll get acquired and absorbed into some other corporation and that’s IT. There’s too much potential greatness in RIM to not get acquired.

  • David

    @cybik Why would you even say something like that? Do you not think before you type your nonsense? RIM is a Canadian Company, assuming your Canadian, Why would you not want something that has a chance to be something really big for the Canadian economy to prosper? Or is it just b/c you don’t like their phones and just b/c you don’t appreciate it, it shouldn’t prosper?

    • cybik

      Yes I’m Canadian. So what? A failure is a failure. I don’t give a flippin’ /expletive/ about whether it’s Canadian or not.

      They wasted SO MANY opportunities and made Canada’s telecom expertise look /expletive/ing silly in the process.

  • deltatux

    RIM seriously need a shake-up, I’m in an agreement that they churn out the same boring products every quarter. However, I do not wish anyone to be fired except the ouster of the co-CEOs, they’re doing almost nothing to save the company.

    As for 2012, I hope to see a lot more enhancements to come, ARM is definitely on the offensive and I really hope to see what the Cortex A15 brings. Sure there’s performance boost, but how much in real world scenario? Maybe in 2012, the next Nexus phone would be built by Motorola (though I like Samsung hardware a lot more, their firmware is buggy, but that wouldn’t matter since Nexus runs on stock Android)?

    Also for 2012, I hope judges start being smart and realize that Apple’s frivolous lawsuits are becoming an annoyance and are detrimental to the entire mobile industry.

  • Theblob


    So you’re saying Blackberry doesn’t deserve one last chance to redeem themselves?

    I have high hopes for Blackberry 10. I do realize however, that it could be their savior or their demise. Hopefully it’s the former that results.


    an Android user.

    • cybik

      One more? They got enough. BBX is the only one they’re going to get, and if they blow that one, well, they’re doomed.

      And if the CoCEOs do as they always do… We all know where this is going.

  • freestaterocker

    Oh, and there was this *other* platform, WP7, that saw the mango rollout go off more or less without a hitch, got to 50,000+ apps at just over a year old, and climbed into the 3rd spot for market share. Well behind android and iPhone, but still impressive for just out of the gate. (and just becoming a complete mobile OS with mango, if I’m being honest…)

  • Alex Perrier

    (Comment system is silly. Here’s part one:)

    For one, i’d like to see more sources for your statements. For example, saying the Torches, Curve 9380 and Bold 9790 aren’t profitable. Do you have Nielsen, BBM Canada (LOL) or other sales records? Did you ask the stores, providers or RIM itself? Was there a fire sale, like for the PlayBook or (sort of) the Curve 9300?

    There are several points missing in your post. Too much about devices, too little about service. Hey, you’re lucky if any reader can afford one high-end device outright, let alone two or more. The trend is usually those “tempting” contracts, expensive plans, and the Canadian population’s general ignorance of the wireless industry.

    What about service, then? Mobilicity is the lowest, while WIND’s “Pay Your Way” plans are interestingly low too. Neither Public nor Mobilicity have expanded, while WIND has grown a LOT. Value can’t be the only thing to encourage new subscribers. There needs to be good quality devices, a growing and reliable network, friendly customer services in person, by phone and online, and many more important details that make all the difference. Which leads to…

    • Alex Perrier

      (part two:)

      [Solo-related paragraph deleted due to glitchy comment system.]

      2012 will hopefully be a better year for Syrup. More timely reporting on various important aspects, instead of just drooling over phones or saying the BlackBerry’s in white. A better comment system with login support and anti-spam, and with fair guidelines instead of just a free-for-all. Please do more surveys and ask people what they want on Syrup. Otherwise, if it’s just Ian H.’s website, people will lose interest and slow down or stop reading.

  • XER

    2012 – Rogers goes belly up!

    • Accophox

      If only. 🙁

  • Josten

    Guys,let’s put it that way.Rim is a carbon copy with Canadian society and Canadian politics .
    We think we’re better,we think we’re smarter than others just because we are living north of the US.
    We .

    We don’t listen even when the rest of the world is on a different trend . Take example of our government in international politic . The world has changed ,do the path of money flow . Harper stubbornly continue doing old politic with Europe ,USA ,Japan and Israel when the money isnt in those part of the world like before . The bric countries like Russia ,china and brazil have shortcuted the traditional economic system . Don’t judge Rim,they are simply too Canadian and stobborn .

  • Slype

    What a succinct and well written summary Ian. I remember when MobSyr started up and it had a smattering of articles. I was pining for a website devoted to the Canadian market and then you appeared.

    Thank you for all the articles, reviews and posts. That goes for the other writers as well

    I wish you continued success and I will continue to visit the site 5-6 times a day.

    Kudos and Happy New Years!

  • crimsona

    Pinning everything on a LTE chipset seems misguided for bbx

    Samsung may very well have separate variants for each major feature of the galaxy s3, there’s no reason why rim had to push back everything, people could easily live on HSPA

  • Larry

    My prediction is one of the new providers will go under or be sold,They could be bought/taken over buy Shaw.2012 should see LTE get a hole lot bigger coverage/devices.Rim will survive but could be broken up.Rogers may merge with Shaw.Bell and Telus may merge,The mergers depend mostly on political will/direction.

  • boojay

    “365 days of carriers losing and winning customers.”

    Sorry, just had to LOL at that line.

    • boojay

      ….and to clarify, I originally thought it meant carriers were losing and customers were winning…, but after a second read, I realize it meant carriers were gaining customers and losing customers.

  • astudent

    stupid Canadian carriers…show some wp7 love

  • Mike

    I think Public Mobile is working on something…. Pick up Mobi Before Wind ? And become national

  • Todd Klein

    The coolest app I found this year for mobile payments was CSI globalVCard. It’s the safest app on the market to make B2B mobile payments. Best part is- you can get it now on blackberry, itunes and android no need to wait for cell phone carriers to catch up to mobile payment technology!

  • gorn

    “it might be Pubic Mobile that gets gobbled”

    This made me lulz.

    HNY, MobSyr & readers!