Nokia, Samsung and LG Electronics led worldwide mobile phone sales during the third quarter, though it was a period most notable for its zooming Apple and Android smartphone sales, as well as challenges posed as component makers struggled to keep pace with growth.
Worldwide phone sales reached 417 million units during the quarter, up 35 percent from a year ago. But smartphones, increasingly dominating the space, grew by 96 percent, accounting for 19.3 percent of the overall market following record shipments of 80.5 million units.
"This is the third consecutive double-digit increase in sales year-on-year, indicating that consumer demand is healthy," Carolina Milanesi, a Gartner research vice president, said in a statement. "This quarter saw Apple and Android drive record smartphone sales. Apple's share of the smartphone market surpassed Research In Motion (RIM) in North America to put it second behind Android, while Android volumes also grew rapidly making it the No. 2 operating system worldwide."
Behind leader Symbian-which commanded 36.6 percent of the smartphone market, down from 44.6 percent a year earlier-Android grabbed a 25.5 percent share, up from just 3.5 percent a year earlier. This feat was the result of a variety of handsets-from Samsung's high-end Galaxy S line, to ZTE's lower-priced options-being marketed to various consumer segments, as well as the fast pace with which Google has maintained and updated the OS, reports Garter.
"Each version brings new features and polish to Android, and the level of innovation is a major differentiator," states the report.
Behind Android, Apple charged ahead of BlackBerry-maker RIM, stealing away third position on sales of 13.5 million handsets for 16.7 percent of the market-versus RIM's 12 million handsets and 14.8 percent market share.
Thanks to the iPhone 4, Gartner reported, "Apple's share of the smartphone market surpassed RIM in North America to put it second behind Android. In Western Europe, iPhone sales doubled year-on-year, making Apple the third-largest vendor behind Nokia and Samsung in the overall devices market."
Were it not for component shortages, Apple's total could have been still higher, reports Gartner, adding that enterprise adoption of the iPhone and iPad has grown, stealing sales from RIM.
"As well as the effect of the iPhone 4," wrote Gartner analysts, "new Android devices like the Motorola Droid X, Samsung Galaxy S and HTC Incredible and Evo also reduced RIM's market share. But new devices like the BlackBerry Torch helped to maintain RIM's unit sale momentum in the U.S. due to AT&T's promotional campaigns."
Rounding out smartphone sales, Microsoft Windows Mobile handsets made up just 2.8 percent of the market (reflecting that Windows Phone 7 had yet to launch), followed by Linux with a 2.1 percent share.
In the overall phone market, leader Nokia also suffered component shortages, restricting the availability of lower-cost handsets, though this had the effect of encouraging sales of pricier devices, resulting, ultimately, in "better than expected sales."
Second-place Samsung shipped 71.7 million units, followed by LG with 27.5 million. Fourth- and fifth-place finishers Apple and RIM were followed, respectively, by Sony Ericsson and Motorola, each of which saw sales dip from a year earlier, and HTC and ZTE, each of which saw sales rise. The "others" category jumped from comprising 16 percent of the market a year earlier to a notable 33 percent.
The rise of "white-box" manufacturers from Asia, said Milanesi, is "having a profound effect on the top five mobile handset manufacturers' combined share that dropped from 83 percent in the third quarter of 2009 to 66.9 percent in the third quarter of 2010."
Looking forward, Gartner expects overall device sales to grow 30 percent year-on-year, fueled by white-box manufacturers, and for media tablets to seriously test device sales in 2011.
"To a developer, the iPod Touch and iPhone (and to a lesser extent the iPad) are effectively the same device and a single market opportunity," said Milanesi. "While Android is increasingly available on media tablets and media players like the Galaxy Player, it lags far behind iOS's multi-device presence. Apple claims it is activating around 275,000 iOS devices per day on average-that's a compelling market for any developer. And developers' applications in turn attract users."