Apple, Android Added to Strong Mobile Phone Finish in 2009

Apple and Google's Android OS were best performers in 2009's mobile phone and smartphone markets, says Gartner. While phone sales slipped slightly over the year, the fourth quarter finished strong, leading to projections of double-digit growth for 2010.

The worldwide mobile phone market finished 2009 strong, with sales to end users exceeding 340 million units in the fourth quarter, for a growth of 8.3 percent over the final quarter of 2008, Gartner said in a Feb. 23 report.
The research firm added that the best performers of 2009 - in which overall worldwide sales slipped 0.9 percent from 2008, totaling 1.211 billion units - were Apple and Google's Android operating system, with each growing its market share.
"The mobile devices market finished on a very positive note, driven by growth in smartphones and low-end devices," Carolina Milanesi, a research director at Gartner, said in a statement.
Smartphone sales to end users in the fourth quarter of 2009 totaled 53.8 million units, up 41.1 percent from the same quarter in 2008, while smartphone sales for the year reached 172.4 million units, for an increase of 23.8 percent over 2008.
While in 2009, the major vendors were forced to respond to pricing pressures from markets such as China and India, going forward, Gartner expects average selling prices to stabilize, thanks in part to an improving global economy.
"In 2009, smartphone-focused vendors like Apple and Research In Motion (RIM) successfully captured market share from other larger device producers, controlling 14.4 and 19.9 per cent of the worldwide smartphone market, respectively," said Milanesi. She added that the top five vendors continued to lose market share to Apple and others.
Market-leader Nokia finished 2009 with sales of 441 million units, which was a drop of 2.2 percent from 2008.
"Nokia will face a tough first half of 2010 as improvement to Symbian and new products based on the Meego platform will not reach the market well before the second half of 2010," said Milanesi. "Its very strong mid-tier portfolio will help it hold market share, but its ongoing weakness at the high end of the portfolio will hurt its share of market value."
Number-two Samsung, which Milanesi describes as the "clear winner" among the top five vendors, grew its market share 3.2 percentage points from 2008, shipping 236 million units for the year.
LG jumped ahead of Motorola, growing its market share from 2008's 8.4 percent to 10.1 percent in 2009 and shipping 122 million units. Motorola, in contrast, fell from a 2008 market share of 8.7 percent to 4.8 percent in 2009, shipping 58.5 million units.
"Its refocus away from the low-end market limited the volume opportunity, but should help it drive margins going forward," said Milanesi. "Motorola's hardest barrier is to grow brand awareness outside the North American market, where it benefits from a long-lasting relationship with key communications service providers (CSPs)."
In the smartphone OS market, Symbian stayed on top, though fell 3.2 percent from 2008's numbers, shipping on 81 million smartphones in 2009. Number-two RIM grew its market share from 2008's 16.6 percent to 19.9 percent in 2009, shipping on 34.3 million smartphones, while the iPhone OS grew from 8.2 percent market share to 14.4 percent in 2009, shipping on 25 million smartphones.
Fifth-place Android also showed considerable growth, raising its market share by 3.5 percent from 2008 to 2009 and shipping on 6.8 million smartphones. However, Gartner analyst Roberta Cozza expressed concern for its longer-term growth.
"Android's success experienced in the fourth quarter of 2009 should continue into 2010 as more manufacturers launch Android products, but some CSPs and manufacturers have expressed growing concern about Google's intentions in the mobile market," said Cozza. "If such concerns cause manufacturers to change their product strategies, or CSPs to change which devices they stock, this might hinder Android's growth in 2010."
Milanesi concluded that while 2010 sales should return to double-digit growth, strong competition will continue to put a strain on vendors' margins.