Global sales of mobile phones continued to go from strength to strength in the first quarter of 2006, as total shipments reached 226.7 million units representing 26 per cent growth over the same quarter in 2005.
However, IDC's latest Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker noted that the market experienced a sequential decline of 7.3 per cent when compared to the record fourth quarter of 2005, due predominantly to expected seasonality.
"The year-over-year increase indicates that consumer demand in mature markets is still high enough to drive replacement handset purchases," said Ramon Llamas, research analyst for IDC's Mobile Markets group.
"At the same time, continued growth in developing markets around the world is being fuelled by new subscriptions and replacement purchases.
"The fact that the market is starting the year above the 200 million unit mark in the historically slower first quarter is a good indicator of where the market may be by the end of the year.
"It also gives vendors some early indications of consumer preferences, which will need to be translated into feature sets and form factors."
According to the analyst firm, much of the worldwide growth has been attributed to developing markets which have not only seen an influx of entry-level devices for first-time users, but an increasing interest in mid-range and higher-end devices.
Simon Baker, research analyst for IDC in Russia, noted: "The headlong expansion of the Russian handset market has been driven over the past few years mainly by first time mobile users in the provinces who tended to buy cheap phones.
"But in Russia's post-Communist society of huge income disparities, there has always been demand from the new rich for the latest upmarket models.
"Replacement purchases in the mass market are now becoming much more significant, and with this trend the average retail price of a handset is increasing.
"The pace of change continues to be rapid. Despite the continuing Russian economic boom, the handset market started to slow markedly after the middle of 2005.
"The slowdown can partly be attributed to increased retail prices following a series of crackdowns on import tax evasion, but saturation in demand for mobile services in most big conurbations must also play a part."
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