Smartphone Sales Were Up Nearly 50% in Q1

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Worldwide smartphone sales have experienced significant growth over the past year, according to recent numbers from Gartner. During the first quarter of the year, 54.3 million units were shipped to consumers, an increase of 49% from the same quarter of 2009.

Sales of all types of mobile phones grew as well. There were 314.7 million units shipped to end users in Q1, marking a 17% increase from last year’s numbers — the strongest year-on-year gains since 2006.

Gartner claims the worldwide growth in the mobile device market has been driven by double-digit increases of smartphone adoption in mature markets like the United States and Europe. Google’s Android OS experienced an especially high level of success, and is up 707% year over year (YoY) in the North American market. Apple also did well, increasing its market share by 1.2%.

A general wider availability of products has contributed to the growth of the mobile handset industry, as well as increasing sales of white box products in emerging areas. White box sales in regions like India have driven sales upward, and are expected to stay healthy throughout 2010. Movement outside of the top five mobile handset vendors have hurt major distributors significantly, as their combined share has dropped from 73.3% in Q1 2009 to 70.7% in quarter one of this year.

How Will This Affect The “Big Five”?
Since last year, Nokia’s market share has decreased 1.2% as a result of its lack of a high-volume driver. Although its mid-tier products sold well, it still does not offer a viable alternative to a Blackberry or iPhone. Gartner thinks its new MeeGo-based devices will not rejuvenate its market share until at least the third quarter of 2010. However, the announcement of company reorganization last week reflects mounting pressure being posed by its investors, and Nokia’s desire to deliver results quickly to appease them.

Samsung held strong in its position within the top five, as its first quarter device sales yielded a 26.3% YoY increase. It has seen healthy margins thus far, and has also been able to develop a stronger presence in developing markets such as India and the Commonwealth of Independent States. It was able to increase its market share about 1.5 percentage points.

LG is in the number three spot, with 27.1 million units sold in Q1. Although its overall number of phones shipped increased, it lost share because its rate of increase was lower than its competitors.

RIM has projected itself as a major player in the global handset market, and is making its debut in the top five worldwide mobile handset manufacturer’s rankings. Mobile phone sales reached 10.6 million units in the first quarter of 2010. 

While Sony Ericsson sold enough units to remain in the top five mobile handset manufacturers, its market share declined 2.3 percentage points in the first quarter. Gartner claims that although this is troubling for the company, its brand is unique because of the relationship it has with its parent company Sony. The partnership makes it a prime candidate to lead the charge toward more connected consumer devices.

Apple is currently experiencing a period of tremendous growth, as the first quarter of 2010 has been its strongest yet. Its 112.2 % increase in mobile device sales was driven by new communication service providers in established markets like the U.K., and stronger sales in newer markets such as China and South Korea. Rumors suggest Apple will launch its newest iPhone during its Worldwide Developer Conference in June, which Gartner expects to send second quarter sales soaring, which might be enough to push it into the top five.

Moving Forward
Apple’s iPhone OS and Google’s Android OS were the only two smartphone operating systems among the top five to increase their YoY market share.

While Nokia’s Symbian retained its long-held No. 1 position, it lost nearly 5 percentage points since its high-end portfolio is lacking. The BlackBerry OS is in second place, iPhone is in third, but the Android OS replaced Microsoft Windows Mobile for the first time to take the No. 4 spot.

According to Roberta Cozza, a principal research analyst at Gartner, “To compete in such a crowded market, manufacturers need to tightly integrate hardware, user interface, and cloud and social networking services if their solutions are to appeal to users.”

Source: Gartner

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