Handheld device shipments soar to new record

by Reads (3,529)

Now here’s a little wrinkle in that old canard that handhelds are dead. According to research firm Gartner, handheld sales hit an all-time record high in 2005 of nearly 15 million units sold–and that doesn’t count any of the Treos or Windows Mobile Smartphones, the inclusion of which could push the figure north of 18 million.

Here’s the breakdown: Gartner’s numbers exclude what they consider to be “smartphones,” devices that are designed for one-handed operation and voice-centric use. Examples of these are the Treo 650, Blackberry 7100, and all Windows Mobile Smartphones. These numbers do include what Gartner classifies as “wireless handhelds,” devices like the iPaq hw6500, Blackberry 8700, and others which are considered to be two-handed and data-oriented. So without further adieu, on to the goodies.




 Units shipped




Research In Motion




7100 not included


Palm Inc




1.95m Treos shipped


Hewlett Packard
















Built by HTC 












Research In Motion displaced Palm Inc at the top of the list–sort of. While Gartner’s numbers have RIM in the lead by about 425,000 units, when you add in the uncounted models by each manufacturer–the 7100 for RIM, and the Treo for Palm–Palm retakes a considerable lead. Interestingly, RIM’s legal trouble didn’t seem to weigh too heavily on their sales, which continued the spike that started in 2004.

Palm Inc posted a significant decline in sales, losing 25% compared to 2004. If you factor in the Treos, though, Palm’s sales went the other direction up by a million units last year. This would seem to indicate that some people who would have bought standard Palms are opting instead for the Treo. While this cannibalization of sales is bad for Palm’s handheld line, as is the recent flop of some high-profile units such as the LifeDrive, the Treos are keeping the boat upright.

HP finished an abysmal year, though not quite as bad as it could have been for them. Sales earlier in the year were down by over 36% for the once strong number two company. However, they were saved by improved sales later in the year, allowing them to post a mere 15% decline. HP’s troubles are myriad, with a line of overpriced, underpowered handhelds, a lack of new releases, and converged device efforts that have as yet been a commercial failure.

Nokia surprised everyone by taking the number four place, posting a sales increase of over 300%, allowing them to finish the year just above one million. Nokia recently got more involved in the handheld computing space directly with their 770 internet tablet, running on Linux.

T-Mobile rounds out the top five, also posting a massive 324% sales gain on the strength of many of their new Pocket PC phones such as the MDA Pro, Vario, and others. These devices are actually built by HTC of Taiwan, and are available under a variety of different names, but T-Mobile’s marketing reach and international empire allow them to push the greatest number.

In the “others” category lies Dell, Acer, Medion, Sharp, and all the dozens of other manufacturers who sold less than 800,000 units for the year. With a little calculation, we can determine that of these 4.8 million devices, roughly 160,000 ran Palm OS, about 3.5 million ran Windows Mobile, and the other 1.1 million presumably ran a variety of other OSes such as Linux, Windows CE, Windows XP, Symbian, and proprietary offerings.

When broken down by operating systems, Windows Mobile took the biggest chunk with just over 7 million devices shipped, not including Windows Mobile Smartphones. No reliable data is available for these, but they’re estimated to be between 700,000 and 1 million units for the year. Palm OS shipped 2.9 million without the Treos, or 4.9 million with them. The Blackberry, if you can call it an OS, was third with 3.1 million. Linux would have been fourth, but there’s little reliable data on this as well, so we can only place Linux handheld sales somewhere between 1 million and 1.5 million.

Ahh, the sweet feeling that is making a prediction and being right. I’ve been saying that handhelds aren’t dying ever since Handspring first started trying to convince people that they were, back when the company was pushing the original Treo 600. All the better to see the market reach new record highs, both with and without the smartphone segment.



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