Mobile phone demand up 14.5pc, big brands feel pressure

30 Jul 2010

The legions of Android devices hitting the market not to mention the continued success of Apple’s iPhone family is putting pressure on the top 5 global mobile brands, IDC says. Demand for mobile devices grew 14.5pc in the second quarter.

According to IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, mobile phone vendors shipped a total of 317.5 million units during 2Q10, up 14.5pc from the 277.2 million units shipped during the second quarter of 2009 (2Q09).

For the first half of 2010, vendors shipped a total of 620.6 million units, up 18.5pc from the 523.5 million units shipped during the first half of 2009.

“That worldwide growth was driven primarily by vendors outside the top vendors is particularly noteworthy,” said Ramon Llamas, senior research analyst with IDC’s Mobile Devices Technology Trends team.

“Directly contributing to this is growth in the smartphone category. Companies with a strict focus on the smartphone market, like RIM, Apple and HTC have clearly benefited from steadily increasing user interest. But it’s not just smartphone vendors that have driven the market forward – it’s also the companies with a presence among entry-level handsets and mid-range devices, which have long been the domain of the worldwide leaders.

“To dismiss the worldwide leaders would be a mistake,” added Llamas. “Each currently enjoys broad distribution, a deep portfolio, and brand recognition. Moreover, each is in the midst of refreshing its respective product portfolio, with greater emphasis on smartphones during the second half of this year.

“Still, the upward pressure from vendors outside the current top 5 vendors, particularly Apple and Motorola, will provide tough competition in the quarters to come,” Llamas said.

Kevin Restivo, senior research analyst with IDC’s Worldwide Mobile Phone Tracker program, said some traditional mobile phone makers and brand owners, such as ZTE, have gained share due to higher volumes of lower-cost models, which are increasingly popular with wireless service providers.

Restivo added that smartphone growth, especially in regions such as Latin America and Asia/Pacific (excluding Japan) will power market growth this year. “Lower smartphone average selling prices, increased consumer interest, and aggressive expansion plans on the part of key suppliers will keep the device type growing above market growth rate.”

Market leaders in mobile

Nokia remained the overall mobile phone market during the quarter, with total shipments exceeding those of the next two vendors combined. But despite this accomplishment, Nokia’s challenges in the high-end of the smartphone market, against Chinese vendors within emerging markets, and from falling behind other vendors in the Americas have contributed to its declining stock price and device profitability.

Still, the company should not be taken lightly with its strong brand, manufacturing and distribution. Nokia remains optimistic with the upcoming launch of the N8 smartphone, the warm reception to its C3 messaging device, and continued success within key emerging markets.

Samsung experienced strong year-on-year growth, citing progress in the United States and emerging markets and success in its touchscreen devices. At the same time, the combination of soft demand in Europe, late launches of key smartphone models, and product mix adjustments resulted in revenue and profit decline for the quarter.

Still, Samsung anticipates improvement during the second half of the year, as its highly anticipated Galaxy S smartphone series readies for launch and more touchscreen models are on the way.

LG Electronics rebounded during the quarter, sending shipment volumes back above the 30 million unit mark after a one quarter lull. The launch of two Android-powered smartphones – the Ally and the Optimus Q – helped bolster the company’s smartphone portfolio, while the continued success of the youth-oriented phones and messaging devices helped drive continued success in the traditional mobile phone market.

From a financial perspective, however, LG’s revenues and profits declined sharply from a year ago, reflecting ASP declines from an ageing portfolio and expenses incurred from R&D and marketing.

Research In Motion posted the highest year-over-year gain (40pc) of all the top 5 vendors, a feat accomplished by its singular focus on the smartphone market. The company shipped its 100 millionth BlackBerry device last quarter – it also launched the BlackBerry Pearl 3G and the BlackBerry Bold 9650.

These joined their popular cousins, the BlackBerry Curve 8520 and BlackBerry Bold 9700. RIM also unveiled its new BlackBerry 6 operating system, featuring a new user interface and browser, which answers some of the criticisms and comparisons against other operating systems currently available on the market.

Sony Ericsson continued to make positive strides as the company realigned its focus. Although shipments were down 20.3pc year over year, Sony Ericsson’s launch of several Android-powered high-end smartphones (Xperia X10, X10 mini, and the X10 mini pro) has already resulted in strong revenue results.

Moreover, the company announced the Xperia X8, a lower priced smartphone featuring a touchscreen. Sony Ericsson also shipped several handsets designed for the mid-range of the market, but clearly, emphasis on its growing smartphone platform was key to its success for the quarter.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years