Apple now No 2 smart phone maker in the world

9 Nov 2008

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Apple’s mould-breaking iPhone has resulted in the company usurping Research In Motion as the world’s No 2 smart phone maker, according to new research.

Despite the gloomy economic picture and the problems being experienced by some of the leading mobile handset vendors, global shipments of smart phones hit a new peak of just under 40 million units in Q3, according to the latest estimates from Canalys.

This means smart phones now represent around 13pc of the total mobile phone market, up from 11pc last quarter.

The introduction of the iPhone 3G in July, and Apple’s expansion into many more countries, helped propel the vendor to second place globally, taking it above RIM in the quarter, and resulting in higher shipments than for all the Microsoft-based smart phones combined.

According to Canalys, Symbian operating system-based handsets have a 46.6pc share of the world smart phone market with 18.5 million devices shipped in the third quarter, followed by Apple with a 17.3pc share and 6.8 million devices shipped. RIM has now fallen into third place with a 15.2pc share and six million devices shipped. Microsoft holds fourth place with 13.6pc market share and 5.4 million devices shipped, followed by Linux with a 5.1pc share and two million devices shipped.

It will be no doubt interesting to see how the pie-chart will shape up this time next year as Google’s Android operating system filters onto handsets.

By manufacturer, Nokia is in pole position with a large 38.9pc world market share and 15.4 million devices shipped, followed by Apple with a 17.3pc market share and 6.8 million devices shipped. RIM is now third with just over six million devices shipped and a 15.2pc marketshare.

Motorola is fourth with 2.3 million devices shipped and a 5.8pc mark share and HTC is fifth with 2.3 million devices shipped and a 5.8pc market share. Others including Palm, Sony Ericsson and Samsung make up the remaining 17pc of the market and 6.7 million devices shipped.

“It was expected that Apple would figure among the smart phone leaders this quarter with that huge initial new product shipment, it was just a question of how high up it would be – and this is impressive,” commented Pete Cunningham, Canalys senior analyst.

Cunningham added that despite RIM being nudged into third place, its growth of over 80pc shouldn’t be overlooked either. “This is also a tremendous performance, especially considering the delays it experienced in rolling out the BlackBerry Bold.

“Some customers will also have been waiting for the Storm to arrive. With these new products and the clamshell Pearl 8220 available in Q4, it is quite feasible that RIM will return to the No 2 position.”

The success of Apple and RIM, as well as fifth-placed HTC with its Windows Mobile devices, has eaten into Nokia’s share of the smart phone market – a market it has led consistently for several years.

Nokia’s broad portfolio of models, and the wider audience it attracts, does leave it more exposed to the trends affecting the overall handset market. Year-on-year, its smart phone shipments fell in Q3 for the first time.

“Nokia is also transitioning from some very successful volume drivers, like the N95 and E65, to a number of successors, such as the flagship N96, and shipments of these new models have not yet ramped up,” noted Canalys analyst, Tim Shepherd.

“And Nokia has taken time to bring a touchscreen product to market in the wake of the iPhone’s success, despite having had the experience of producing the Series 90-based 7710 four years ago. Conversely, vendors such as HTC with its Touch Diamond have capitalised on customer demand for this type of product.”

Through its Consumer Mobility Analysis service, Canalys has surveyed over 13,000 European mobile phone users on a wide range of mobility topics. Having identified strong underlying acceptance of using touchscreens on phones back in April 2007, another survey in early 2008 revealed that three-quarters of consumers in countries where the iPhone had launched expressed interest in having a touchscreen on their phone.

Touchscreens also proved to be the most popular device design when users considered their future mobile usage of applications, such as playing music, using maps and web browsing.

Nokia is focusing on these applications, for example through Nokia Maps and Ovi, and has led in including technologies such as GPS. However, other vendors are doing a good job of conveying the impression of having innovative devices optimised for such usage.

“With competition in the smart phone space heating up, being able to introduce technology and user interface enhancements quickly is critical,” added Shepherd.

“You also need to be able to integrate them seamlessly into the device to provide a great total user experience. And that means having sufficient control of development of the operating system, which Apple and RIM clearly have already. Nokia’s acquisition of Symbian should help it in this regard, regardless of what other Symbian Foundation members choose to do.”

Motorola, currently holding onto fourth place in smart phones thanks largely to its Linux-based models, recently announced it would move away from using the Symbian OS and focus more on Android.

With T-Mobile’s G1 now shipping in the US and the UK, Android will appear in the Q4 smart phone numbers, but more vendors and a wider range of device designs will be needed to achieve significant global shipment levels.

“While they will appeal to some, particularly professional users, research suggests that devices with large, slide-out keyboards just don’t resonate as well in the consumer market as pure touchscreen designs,” Shepherd added.

By John Kennedy

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Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com