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Worldwide mobile phone sales up by third

Gartner reports that world-wide mobile phone sales to end users totalled 417 million units in the third quarter of 2010, which is a 35 per cent increase from Q3 2009, while Smartphone sales grew 96 per cent from the third quarter of last year, and accounted for 19.3 per cent of overall mobile phone sales in Q3 2010.

"This is the third consecutive double-digit increase in sales year-on-year, indicating that consumer demand is healthy," says Gartner research vice president Carolina Milanesi. "This quarter saw Apple and Android drive record smartphone sales. Apple's share of the smartphone market surpassed Research In Motion (RIM) in North America to put it second behind Android while Android volumes also grew rapidly making it the No. 2 operating system worldwide."

The Gartner report notes that although sales of the top three worldwide mobile device manufacturers — Nokia, Samsung, and LG — remained the same, albeit with reduced market share, the third quarter of 2010 saw Apple rise into the top five manufacturers, even surpassing RIM to take fourth place (see Table 1).

In another development, the rise of white-box phone manufacturers from Asia helped the Others section as a proportion of overall sales, increasing its market share to 33 per cent in the third quarter of 2010. Gartner says this is having a profound effect on the top five mobile handset manufacturers' combined share, which dropped from 83 per cent in Q3 2009 to 66.9 per cent in Q3 2010, according to Ms. Milanesi.

In the third quarter of 2010, Nokia sold 110.4 million units into the channel. Its volume sales were slightly lower than expected due to shortages of components, such as camera modules and displays, which restricted availability of lower cost devices. However, this combined with favourable currency exchange rates, meant Nokia's financial results
were better than expected.

Samsung enjoyed a strong third quarter, as mobile phone sales reached 71.7 million handsets in the third quarter of 2010, up 18.2 per cent from Q3 2009. However, Samsung's market share actually experienced a small decline to 17.2 per cent in Q3 2010, as its global market share dropped to 6.6 per cent. Gartner notes that LG's traditional strengths in marketing stylish mid-tier devices are becoming less relevant in
mature markets that are moving increasingly toward smartphones.

Apple delivered a stellar performance in the third quarter of 2010, selling 13.5 million units, and Gartner says it could have sold more had it not been for ongoing supply constraints. Apple now holds down fourth place among phone makers worldwide, with its phone sales in Europe, Asia and Japan more than doubling from Q3 2009, and sales in
Western Europe giving Apple number three spot in the regional ranking. And this not only with consumers, as enterprise adoption of the iPhone and iPad is growing.

RIM sold 11.9 million devices to end users in the third quarter of 2010, with its global share of the smartphone market declining to 14.8 per cent, and the Canadian firm's overall North American market share eroding to 11.2 per cent in Q3 2010, from 12.7 per cent in the same quarter of 2009. It also lost its erstwhile leading smartphone market position to Apple.

The third quarter of 2010 produced record sales of more than 81 million communication devices based on open operating systems (smartphones), with Android-based units accounting for 25.5 per cent of worldwide smartphone sales, making it the No. 2 operating system, with Android particularly dominant in North America.

Gartner principal research analyst Roberta Cozza concludes that smartphone OS providers have entered a period of accelerated platform evolution, stimulated by more regular product releases, new platform entrants and new device types, noting that: "Any platform that fails to innovate quickly, either through a vibrant multi-player ecosystem
or clear vision of a single controlling entity, will lose developers, manufacturers, potential partners and ultimately users."

For 2010, Gartner expects overall device sales to show over 30 per cent year-on-year growth fuelled by white-box manufacturers, and predicts that the impact of media tablets on mobile device sales will be tested in 2011. The oufit reckons 54.8 million units will ship in 2011, also noting that Apple's dramatic expansion of iOS with the iPad and the continuing success of the iPod Touch are important sales achievements in their own right, but more importantly, contribute to the strength of Apple's ecosystem and the iPhone in a way that smartphone-only manufacturers cannot compete with.

Ms. Milanesi observes that to a developer, the iPod touch and iPhone (and to a lesser extent the iPad) are effectively the same device and a single market opportunity.

Additional information is in the Gartner report "Competitive Landscape: Mobile Devices, Worldwide, 3Q10", available here.