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Mobile Handset Sales Rebound

Manufacturers shipped 15% more mobile phones in the fourth quarter of 2009 than in the third quarter, researcher says.

Global shipments of mobile phones bounced back in the fourth quarter of last year, pulling the market out of what was expected to be a dismal year, a market research firm said Friday.

Manufacturers shipped 336.5 million handsets in the quarter, an increase of 15.1% over the third quarter, ABI Research said. Competition, however, squeezed average selling prices, which fell 2% to $117.55.

Government stimulus packages helped save the industry by renewing consumer confidence in the second half of the year, ABI said. As a result, shipments for the full year shrank only 4.5% to 1.15 billion units, much better than the dire predictions early in the year.

"2009 may have started with a whimper but by 4Q-2009 the global mobile handset market ended with a pretty reasonable bang," ABI analyst Jake Saunders said in a statement. ABI forecasts shipments this year to rise to 1.2 billion handsets.

Market leader Nokia ended 2009 with 37.7% of the market, but the bigger story was the continued progress of number two Samsung, which increased its market share to 20.5%. The Korean company in June 2008 held 15.2% of the market.

Samsung's progress is due to a strong line-up of feature phones, as well as a reputation for innovative smartphones, ABI said. LG, also based in Korea, was third in the market with a 10.1% share, driven in part its S-Class smartphone series.

Fifth-place Motorola became more competitive with a refreshed portfolio in the third quarter, receiving critical acclaim for its Droid smartphone powered by Google's Android operating system. Nevertheless, the company was unable to reverse a slide to 3.6% of the market.

Sony-Ericsson also experienced a contraction to 4.3% of the market at the end of year, but the company has high hopes for this year with its new Android-based handsets, ABI said.

Finally, HTC started the year poorly but managed to improve slightly in the fourth quarter to 1%, ABI said. During the year, HTC revamped its handset portfolio strategy, targeting not only high-end smartphones, but launching smartphones that appealled to consumers with thinner wallets.

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