The worldwide mobile phone market is pulling clear of the recession, according to new figures from Gartner which show fourth-quarter 2009 sales figures up 8.3 per cent on the same period in 2008.
Overall sales to end users in 2009 reached 1.211 billion units, and sales in the fourth quarter surpassed 340 million units thanks to huge growth in demand for smartphones.
Sales of smartphones rose 41.1 per cent compared to the same three-month period in 2008, reaching 53.8 million units. Figures for the entire year showed that sales reached 172.4 million units, a 23.8 per cent increase on 2008.
Apple and RIM were the two big winners from this dramatic rise in smartphone sales. Apple's market share rose from 8.2 per cent to 14.4 per cent, and RIM's from 16.6 per cent to 19.9 per cent.
Google's Android also did well in 2009, increasing its market share by 3.5 per cent, but this growth may not last, according to Gartner research analyst Roberta Cozza.
"Some communication service providers and manufacturers have expressed growing concern about Google's intentions in the mobile market. If manufacturers change product strategies, or service providers change which devices they stock, this might hinder Android's growth in 2010," she said.
Samsung was the clear winner among the top five manufacturers in terms of terminal sales, growing its market share by 3.2 per cent as a result of improved channel relationships with distributors and a rich mid-tier portfolio, according to Gartner.
Nokia struggled, however, losing 2.2 per cent market share. Carolina Milanesi, research director at Gartner, said that Nokia's declining smartphone average selling prices showed that the firm continues to face challenges from other vendors.
"Nokia will face a tough first half of 2010. 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," she added.
Gartner argued that all major handset producers are under direct pressure with their average selling prices as they have to fight more aggressively in markets such as China and India, and in mature markets for market share against one another.
Overall, Gartner said that it expects the improved economic conditions to stabilise average selling prices in 2010. However, Milanesa argued that, despite providers retaining a strong focus on operating systems, services and applications, operators will still struggle.
"Sales will return to low double-digit growth, but competition will continue to put a strain on vendors' margins," she said.
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