Mobile Phone Market Recovery Continues

Smartphones are a bright spot, and Gartner is predicting the market will grow 11 to 13% this year.
After a long slump, worldwide mobile phone sales began to pick up in the fourth quarter of 2009 and are slated to continue growing during 2010, according to market research figures released Tuesday.

Gartner is predicting the market will grow 11 to 13% this year while the United Nations' International Telecommunications Union said mobile phone growth is "remarkable" as 4.6 billion subscriptions were in use at the end of the year -- up from 1 billion in 2002. "The rate of progress remains remarkable," the ITU said.

Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi said the market dropped for the entire 2009 year as Nokia, Motorola and Sony Ericsson all delivered fewer phones than the previous year and each lost market share. Nokia, the longtime leader, saw its share of market drop from 38.6% to 36.4% while Motorola and Sony Ericsson dropped precipitously from 8.7% to 4.8%, and from 7.8% to 4.6% respectively.

The ITU said that more than one-half of the people in developing countries have cell phone subscriptions with China and India in particular accounting for substantial gains.

Smartphone sales were a bright spot globally as sales of the advanced phones jumped to 172 million representing a 24% gain over the previous year's numbers. "In 2009, smartphone-focused vendors like Apple and Research In Motion successfully captured market share from other larger device producers, controlling 14.4 and 19.9% of the worldwide smartphone market, respectively," Milanesi said, according to media reports.

Google's Android phones jumped to a 5.2% share of the U.S. smartphone market in the last quarter of 2009 and are poised to overtake Palm in subscriber numbers, according to market research firm comScore.

Just two years ago Nokia commanded a 40% market share of the world's mobile phones -- more than the next three providers combined. Nokia's market share, already declining, will likely remain under pressure for much of 2010, Milanesi said, noting that improvements for its Symbian-based phones and for its MeeGo-based higher end devices won't reach the market until later in the year.