An outstanding final quarter in 2009 and a projected substantial growth for smartphones in 2010 has led to the mobile phone industry proclaiming the recession is over … for their segment, anyway.
According to iSuppli, a resilient performer in an otherwise moribund world economy during the past year, mobile phones ended 2009 with shipments of 1.15 billion units.
While that number is down from the overall 2008 figure of 1.2 billion handsets, shipments in the fourth quarter of 2009 represented the culmination of an increasing growth pattern throughout all of last year.
Compared to third-quarter shipments of 290 million, about 335 million mobile handsets shipped in the fourth quarter, up 15.5pc.
“Given the recovery of the market in the final quarter of 2009, and with Europe, Latin America and the Middle East/Africa regions doing exceptionally well during the period, the recession can be said to be officially over for the cell-phone industry,” said Tina Teng, senior analyst for wireless systems at iSuppli.
“The continued growth this year of total handsets — up a projected 11.3pc to 1.3 billion units — further bolsters such a view.”
Among the various handset categories, smartphones — defined as handsets with a high-level operating system — are projected to expand 35.5pc in 2010.
Drivers of smartphone growth
Smartphone growth will be driven by a number of promising developments, including the introduction of entry-level smartphones, enthusiasm from vendors across the mobile phone and PC industries, the prevalence of 3G network deployments and the promotion of data-centric services in mature markets.
With handset shipments in the fourth quarter of 2009 amounting to about 257.6 million units, the Top 5 players accounted for a whopping 77pc share of the total handset market.
Nokia remained the leader of the handset market, shipping 126.9 million handsets during the period, giving it a 37.9pc share of market.
Runner-up Samsung Electronics, which has introduced its own smartphone operating system, held the No 2 spot with 20.6pc share.
The remainder of the Top 5 is rounded out by LG Electronics, in third place with 10.1pc share; Sony Ericsson in fourth, with 4.4pc share; and Chinese giant ZTE, whose impressive 77pc growth from the earlier quarter vaulted it into fifth place, with a 4.0pc share.
A second Chinese handset manufacturer, Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd., landed in seventh place after also finishing an outstanding quarter with 82.4pc growth.
Together, the two Chinese companies indicate the strong momentum occurring in the emerging market as well as an increasing presence in Europe on their part with key operators.
By John Kennedy
Photos: The Nokia N8 (above) and Samsung Wave (below) smartphones