Smartphones drive recovery in handset market

Smartphones drive recovery in handset market

Worldwide mobile phone sales in 2009 declined 0.9% from 2008 to a total of 1.211 billion units, according to analyst Gartner.

However, despite falling sales in 2009, smartphone sales stimulated a partial market recovery in the fourth quarter with an 8.3% increase year on year, which saw sales to end users surpass 340 million units, Gartner reports.

'The mobile devices market finished on a very positive note, driven by growth in smartphones and low-end devices,' said Carolina Milanesi, Gartner's research director.

Smartphone sales to end users showed strong growth in Q4 2009, totalling 53.8 million units, up 41.1% from the same period in 2008. Over the year, smartphone sales reached 172.4 million units, a 23.8% increase from 2008.

The year saw the combined market share of the top five mobile phone manufacturers falling more than 4% in 2009, with their combined share falling from 79.7% in 2008 to 75.3% in 2009.

Three of the top five mobile phone vendors – Nokia, Sony Ericsson and Motorola – experienced a decline in sales in 2009. Over the year Nokia’s share dropped from 38.6% to 36.4%, Motorola’s declined from 8.7% to 4.8% and Sony Ericsson’s fell from 7.6% to 4.5%.

Although Nokia outperformed industry expectations in sales and revenue in the fourth quarter of 2009, its declining smartphone Average Selling Prices (ASP) showed that it continues to face challenges from other smartphone vendors.

‘Nokia will face a tough first half of 2010 as improvement to Symbian and new products based on the Meego platform will not reach the market well before the second half of 2010,’ said Milanesi.

‘Its very strong mid-tier portfolio will help it hold market share, but its ongoing weakness at the high end of the portfolio will hurt its share of market value.’

Motorola had the sharpest drop in share and needs to focus on growing market share outside the US, Milanesi added.

‘Its refocus away from the low-end market limited the volume opportunity, but should help it drive margins going forward. Motorola's hardest barrier is to grow brand awareness outside the North American market, where it benefits from a long-lasting relationship with key communications service providers,’ she said.

Meanwhile, Korean contenders Samsung and LG captured market share, with Samsung’s rising from 16.3% to 19.5% and LG’s share ascending from 8.4% to 10.1%.

Milanesi attributed Samsung’s success in a tough year to its improved channel relationships with distributors and a richer mid-tier portfolio.

The year also saw Apple and RIM consolidate its hold on the smartphone market. Milanesi said: ‘In 2009, smartphone-focused vendors like Apple and Research In Motion (RIM) successfully captured market share from other larger device producers, controlling 14.4% and 19.9% of the worldwide smartphone market, respectively.'

Intense price competition put pressure on average selling prices (ASPs) in 2009, according to Gartner. The major handset producers had to respond more aggressively in markets such as China and India to compete with white-box producers, while in mature markets competition intensified for market share.

However, ASPs are set to stabilise in 2010, says Gartner, due to economic recovery contributing to a changing mix of sales.

In the smartphone OS market, Symbian holds its lead but its share dropped 5.4 percentage points in 2009. Gartner attributes this to competitive pressure from the likes of RIM and Apple, and Nokia's weak high-end device sales.

But if Symbian continues to up its game with the release of evolved and recently opened Symbian platform it could reverse the decline, says Gartner.

'Symbian had become uncompetitive in recent years, but its market share, particularly on Nokia devices, is still strong. If Symbian can use this momentum, it could return to positive growth,' said Roberta Cozza, principal research analyst at Gartner.

Written by Mobile Today
Mobile Today

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