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.