While sales of mobile handsets picked up in the final quarter of last year, the market actually remained flat for 2009, according to Gartner, Inc. The research firm noted that the combined market share for the top five mobile handsets actually dropped by more than 4 points in 2009, but that the worldwide sales grew by about 8 percent in the fourth quarter. End user sales actually surpassed 340 million units during this period.
“The mobile devices market finished on a very positive note, driven by growth in smartphones and low-end devices,” said Carolina Milanesi, research director at Gartner. She added that smartphone sales to end users further saw strong growth in the fourth quarter of 2009, totaling 53.8 million units, which was up 41.1 percent from the same period in 2008. For the year, smartphone sales reached 172.4 million units, a 23.8 percent increase from 2008.
The leaders were smartphone makers, notably Apple and Research in Motion (maker of the BlackBerry) gained marketshare reports Gartner, which came at the expense of the other device makers, including Nokia, Motorola and Sony Ericsson. Apple’s iPhone now accounts for 14.4 percent of the worldwide market, while the BlackBerry is very much in the black with 19.9 percent. Nokia saw a decline from 38.6 percent to 36.4 percent, while Motorola fell from 8.7 to 4.8, and Sony Ericsson fell from 7.6 to 4.5 percent. LG and Samsung both saw an increase however, with LG up to 10.1 from 8.4, and Samsung increasing from 16.3 to a 19.5 percent.
What is interesting about these numbers is that Nokia actually outperformed industry expectations, so while the company saw a decline, it wasn’t nearly as bad as expected. Likewise, while the company may face a rough first half of 2010, its new Symbian handsets, as well as the Meego mobile platform could put the company in good shape for the second half of the year. Last week at the Mobile World Congress in Spain, the Symbian Foundation also made the interesting announcement that Symbian^3 would be available this winter for developers, with handsets on the market by late summer. This was the first official announcement from the group since Symbian became fully open source.
The Symbian OS also remained the leading smartphone operating system, but lost 5.4 percentage points, down to 46.9 percent in 2009. This comes from increased pressure from RIM as well as Apple, and of course the strong push from Android, which saw a market share increase of 3.5 percent in 2009.
The latter isn’t surprising, considering that Android only had one handset available at the end of 2008, so this increase is actually up from a mere 0.5 percent! That’s something to keep in mind. However, this reporter likely expects Android to pass Linux in 2010, and could even displace Microsoft in the number three position. That is unless Windows Phone 7 takes off and sees Microsoft regain the number three spot it lost to Apple last year.
But I’ll add this as we play the numbers game. We shouldn’t rule out Symbian either. Nokia has been in the smartphone market a long, long time and the open source of Symbian is really a game changer. More importantly, with 46.9 percent of the market, Symbian surpasses RIM, Apple and Microsoft combined, and it takes the 4.7 percent share of Linux to finally surpass it. Factor in the 3.9 percent from Android instead (ruling out Linux) and it is the exact same number – 46.9. That shows that while Symbian is on the decline, it is still very dominant today.