Worldwide mobile phone sales reached 251 million units in the third quarter of 2006, a 21.5 per cent increase from the same period last year, according to Gartner.
New research from the analyst firm said that third-quarter mobile sales in Asia/Pacific, especially India and China, rose dramatically and drove overall growth upwards. Asia/Pacific was the fastest growing region this quarter.
"Although sales of replacement handsets during the third quarter in the more mature markets were not as buoyant as we have been accustomed to, they were offset by continuing momentum in sales to first-time buyers in emerging markets, " said Carolina Milanesi, principal analyst for mobile terminals research at Gartner.
"We have also started to see increasing sales of replacement models in some emerging markets, which helped push total sales in the third quarter."
Gartner believes that, in a market where players compete on price, technology and strategic partnerships, life is getting much tougher for the smaller vendors.
Nokia retained its worldwide number one position with 35.1 per cent market share, gaining 2.6 points compared to the same period last year.
The Scandinavian giant increased its market share in all regions except North America, and regained the top spot in Latin America after losing it to Motorola a year ago.
While Motorola increased its worldwide market share in the third quarter of 2006, the company experienced "challenges" in some regions, Gartner noted.
The company lost the number one spot in Latin American to Nokia and its number two position in western Europe and EMEA to Samsung. "Christmas might not be so jolly for Motorola in some markets," said Milanesi.
After a "shaky first half of the year" Samsung recorded a healthy third quarter with sales accounting for more than 30 million units.
Milanesi noted that Sony Ericsson had an "exceptional quarter" selling 19.4 million units.
"Sony Ericsson's success was a result of building a wider portfolio of successful products rather than counting on a single product. It also focused on better planning to avoid the supply problems that have limited its potential in the past," she said.
As a result of the strong quarter, Gartner raised its mobile phone sales forecast to 986 million units in 2006, with 281 million units in the fourth quarter of 2006.
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