Apple, Nokia, RIM Power Global Smartphone Market

Apple gains in worldwide smartphone market share, while handset makers Nokia and Research in Motion (RIM), maker of the BlackBerry, continue to see strong growth.

Smartphone volumes continued their climb in the first quarter of 2010 as volumes reached 55.2 million, according to a report by research firm Canalys. Nokia led the market once again, with a new smartphone volume high of 21.4 million units shipped, around twice the volume of nearest competitor Research In Motion. The sector weathered the period of economic uncertainty well, according to Canalys analysts, and growth has fully rebounded at 67 percent year on year, the highest growth rate seen since the end of 2007.
According to the report, Nokia showed strong growth across all regions, with Latin America the highest growth market, but with the lowest volume. Notable growth came from the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region, which reached just under 10 million units and saw 70 percent growth year on year. Canalys reported the Greater China area alone has seen nearly 90 percent growth compared with a year ago, reaching 5.7 million units. Under competition from rivals, Nokia broadened its touch-screen portfolio over the last six months, with devices such as the 5230, 5800 and 5530, the report said.
"For the first time, touch screens represented over 50 percent of Nokia's smartphone shipments this quarter, which were historically dominated by the keypad-based candy bar form factors," said Chris Jones, a Canalys vice president and principal analyst. "Aggressive pricing has enabled Nokia to deliver smartphones that appeal to a broader consumer audience. With the launch of its -all-you-can eat' Comes With Music subscription service in China and the recent announcement of Ovi Music Unlimited in India, Nokia is flexing its muscles in crucial developing markets."
RIM was another vendor to forge ahead, particularly on the back of its "impressive performance" in Latin America, where it saw 297 percent growth in the first quarter 2010. Canalys also pointed to the company's strong performance in APAC with 215 percent growth, which the firm said was driven primarily by the markets of Southeast Asia. "RIM is continuing to demonstrate its growing appeal among consumers worldwide, and its ability to build new operator partnerships and effective channel strategies in developing markets," the report said.
While the top two vendors performed well in terms of volume, Canalys noted their market share is still under pressure from Apple, which has made share gains over the past year, climbing from 11 percent a year ago to 16 percent in Q1 2010. Canalys reported volumes have been helped by the ending of operator exclusivity arrangements in some markets, as Apple caters to the pent-up demand among customers of other networks.
Other notable performers with triple-digit growth among the top 10 vendors include Sony Ericsson, which saw the successful launch of Android-based devices, while Palm is continuing to expand its operator footprint in Europe. "Under HP's ownership, Palm will have a better opportunity to make webOS devices a success," noted Canalys senior analyst Pete Cunningham. "The combined assets of Palm's webOS platform and innovation culture with HP's geographical reach, extensive and loyal channel partnerships, and solid financial position will form a formidable force in the future. Growing consumer awareness and demand for smartphones and associated services will provoke substantial volume increases over the next two years worldwide, bringing many opportunities."