The mobile phone market is up big for the first quarter of 2010 after sales declines during 2009, according to the latest sales figures released by market research firm Gartner. Smartphones are also growing faster each quarter as they continue to replace feature phones for many users. No surprise that the iPhone and Android-based phones saw the biggest gains, as the two platforms were the only two in the top five to gain market share year-over-year.
Worldwide, mobile phone vendors sold 314.7 million phones—smart and otherwise—in the first quarter, a 16.9 percent increase from the first quarter of 2009. Nokia, Samsung, and LG continue to grab most of the market with little year-over-year change, while numerous other vendors battle for small parts of the remainder. However, the importance of smartphones can be seen in the overall mobile market. Big market share drops for Sony Ericsson and Motorola allowed BlackBerry maker RIM to move into fourth place globally, making RIM the first smartphone-only vendor to crack the top five.
Data source: Gartner
Apple has moved up to seventh place overall, more than doubling first quarter shipments from 2009 to grab 2.7 percent of the mobile phone market. “Growth came partly from new communication service providers in established markets, such as the UK, and stronger sales in new markets such as China and South Korea,” said Carolina Milanesi, research vice president at Gartner, in a statement.
Global smartphone sales grew even more than last quarter, with 54.3 million units sold for a 48.7 percent year-over-year increase. Smartphones now represent 17.3 percent of all mobile phone sales, up from 13.6 percent in first of quarter last year.
Symbian still commands a large, though continually eroding, market share among smartphone platforms, shedding another 4.5 points of share. BlackBerry is holding strong at number two, losing about one point year-over year. With little innovation in its current incarnation, Windows Mobile also shed a few points as well. WebOS’s poor showing left it lumped in the “other” category with other niche platforms.
Data source: Gartner
The big winners are, as is becoming commonplace, iPhone OS and Android. iPhone OS market share improved considerably year-over-year, with its 112 percent unit growth enough to move it up to 15.4 percent among smartphones globally. However, a staggering 806 percent unit growth pushed Android well ahead of Windows Mobile into fourth place. Both iPhone OS and Android are poised to catch up to the BlackBerry platform in short order. Apple will have its work cut out for it to stay ahead of Android globally, even as the open source mobile platform has by some accounts surpassed iPhone OS-based smartphones domestically.
“To compete in such a crowded market, manufacturers need to tightly integrate hardware, user interface, and cloud and social networking services if their solutions are to appeal to users,” Roberta Cozza, principal research analyst at Gartner, said in a statement. “Just adding a QWERTY keyboard will not make a device fit the communication habits of today’s various consumer segments.”
However, Cozza said, “mobile OS ecosystems are developing and will move beyond smartphones to continue to deliver consumer value and a rich user experience.” Apple strengthened its iPhone OS platform by using it to power its iPod touch and iPad mobile devices. Android runs a few similar devices, mostly e-book readers, but it has yet to make a big move into the tablet or PMP space. However, Android will also face competition with Chrome OS in the tablet market. HP announced that it will definitely expand the webOS platform into the tablet space after its acquisition of Palm, but the desktop PC market leader has its work cut out for it.