Worldwide mobile phone sales totalled 308.9 million units in the third quarter of 2009, a 0.1 per cent increase from the third quarter of 2008, according to analyst firm Gartner.
Smartphone sales surpassed 41 million units, a 12.8 per cent increase from the same period last year. Apple overtook RIM in Western European sales for the first time since the launch of the iPhone.
Nokia’s market share declined 1.5 percentage points year-on-year, with handset sales down from 117.9 million in Q3 last year to 113.47 million in Q3 this year.
Gartner said Nokia faced pressure at the high end from competitors’ new smartphones, so even as it rolled the N97 out to more countries in the third quarter of 2009, its average selling price remained flat quarter-on-quarter at €62.
However, Gartner said Nokia should have strong end-of-year volumes as a result of good mid-tier products like the 5530 and 5230.
Samsung had a strong Q3 with touchscreen and QWERTY devices driving sales in the mature markets of Western Europe and the US. Market share increased from 17.1 per cent in Q3 last year to 19.6 per cent in Q3 this year. Sales jumped from 52.89 million in Q3 last year to 60.63 million in Q3 this year.
Gartner described LG’s performance as “solid” as a result of its competitively priced touchscreen and messaging phones such as the Cookie and KS360, but most of its sales were of mid-tier phones, in part due to its lack of a smartphone portfolio.
But LG managed to increase its market share from 7.8 per cent in Q3 last year to 10.3 per cent in Q3 this year. Sales were up from 24.07 million in Q3 last year to 31.9 million in Q3 this year.
Motorola had a difficult Q3, Gartner said, as the market waited for products that it planned to launch in Q4. Sales dropped from 24.63 million in Q3 last year to 13.91 million in Q3 this year. Market share dropped from eight per cent to 4.5 per cent.
Sony Ericsson’s sales deteriorated further in the quarter as strong competition almost halved its market share to 4.3 per cent, Gartner said. Sales dropped from 24.85 million in Q3 last year to 13.41 million in Q3 this year.
Smartphones continued to represent the fastest-growing segment of the mobile devices market.
Nokia’s share of the worldwide smartphone market reached an all time low in Q3 at 39 per cent, compared with 42 per cent in Q3 last year. Gartner said this decline caused operating system Symbian to lose ground too, while Research In Motion reached 20 per cent smartphone market share, its highest yet, compared with 15.9 per cent in Q3 last year.
RIM’s sales volumes rested on the Curve 8900 in Europe and the Tour and Storm 2 with Verizon Wireless in the US. RIM also focused on prepay sales and more flexible BlackBerry Internet Service offerings, which helped to drive volumes in emerging markets like Latin America. RIM shipped 8.52 million devices in Q3, up from 5.8 million in the same quarter last year
Apple’s worldwide smartphone share reached 17 per cent, up from 12.9 per cent in Q3 last year, as iPhone sales totalled seven million units in Q3 this year following the continued rollout of the iPhone 3G S in new countries. Sales in Q3 last year measured 4.72 million.
HTC measured fourth in the smartphone market rankings, selling 2.66 million devices in Q3, up from 1.66 million in Q3 last year. This saw its smartphone market share rise from 4.5 per cent to 6.5 per cent.
Samsung was named as the fifth contender in the smartphone market, with 3.2 per cent market share and sales of 1.32 million, compared with three per cent in the same quarter last year and 1.11 million sales.
In the smartphone operating system market, Android picked up momentum but Gartner said that with only a handful of Android devices available, its share remained modest at 3.5 per cent.
Windows Mobile 6.5 only became available in October, too late to have an impact on the third quarter, so sales of Windows-based smartphones saw another decline, Gartner added.
Gartner research director Carolina Milanesi said: “The third quarter of 2009 saw the announcement of many new mobile devices, including several Android smartphones ready for the holiday season in the fourth quarter, but hardware commoditisation and the growth in open platforms will make it harder for them to stand out.
“Meanwhile, the channel slowed its inventory reduction efforts so while some sales volumes increased, average selling prices stagnated. We expect pressure on ASP to continue into 2010.”
Milanesi added that Q4 sales were expected to increase.
Gartner principal analyst Roberta Cozza said that manufacturers should work to differentiate their user interfaces by creating distinct ways of organising users’ information and services following the increase of open platforms such as Android.
Said Cozza: “Open platforms have been a hot topic in 2009. At first they appear to spell an end to market fragmentation, but when manufacturers adopt a standard software platform, they risk losing the ability to differentiate themselves. As a result, individual open platforms will fragment as manufacturers strive to compete. Android already demonstrates this trend: individual manufacturers have deployed their own user interfaces such as HTC Sense and some like Motorola’s Motoblur, go deep into the part of the operating systems that manages contact information.”
Milanesi added that manufacturers must invest further in their smartphone portfolios as they held better average selling prices.
“They should also focus on winning developers and carrier support which will both attract users,” she said.