Phone sales decline more slowly

Analysts give cautious welcome

Jake Saunders, vice president of forecasting at ABI Research, said: "The outlook for mobile handset markets continues to improve. While the third quarter of 2009 showed a year-on-year 6.5% contraction in shipments to 291.1 million, 2009 should close out with only a 4% to 5% contraction to 1138 million for the year.”

ABI Research says "handset vendors are starting to mutter confidently of 4Q-2009 cash tills jingling to the tune of robust handset sales. In 3Q-2009, North America and Asia-Pacific helped to spearhead a recovery. In North America, the avid enthusiasm for smartphones was the driver. In Asia-Pacific, recovery in the local economies has been stoking interest in upgrades."

Market shares are changing. Nokia saw its market share slip from 38.3% to 37.3% in the third quarter of 2009. Samsung has raised its market share to 20.7%. LG’s market share softened to 10.9% despite the introduction of novel handsets in the previous quarter. All the other vendors either held their ground or lost a small amount of market share. And Apple managed to push up its market share from 1.9% to 2.5%.

“Despite the successes of the iPhone operating system, the leading player in the smartphone OS market is still very much Symbian (48%), followed by Blackberry (18%),” said Kevin Burden, practice director. “The dark horse in all this is Android.” ABI Research estimates Android could capture 10% of the smartphone market by 2014.

GPS is also driving handset sales. By the end of 2009, ABI Research estimates, 21% of all handsets shipped this year will have onboard GPS.

At Strategy Analytics, senior analyst Bonny Joy said, “The handset market is edging toward recovery.”

Neil Mawston, director at Strategy Analytics, added: “We forecast 300 million handsets to be shipped worldwide in Q4 2009, growing 3% from 294 million units in the fourth quarter of 2008. We believe this will be the first time the industry has returned to positive growth since the third quarter of 2008, signaling an end to the handset recession after four quarters of decline. Consumers and handset vendors are gradually regaining a little confidence.”

Meanwhile Ramon Llamas, senior research analyst with IDC's mobile devices technology and trends team, said: "The mobile phone market is showing the first signs of improvement since the onset of the economic crisis. During the third quarter, we saw a number of channels promoting older devices at significantly lower prices. For many, this was enough to spur demand and push volumes higher. Now that we have moved into the fourth quarter, vendors are setting the stage for further gains by launching their flagship devices to meet pent-up demand."

Will Stofega, research manager of the IDC team, said: "Despite the outlook for a slower economic recovery, we think vendors should increase R&D spending as well as engage in a broad portfolio review in order to ensure the best competitive stance as the market recovers."

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