Nokia leads as mobile phone sales soar

3 Mar 2006

More than 816 million mobile phones were sold worldwide last year, an increase of 21pc on 2004 sales, new research from Gartner has revealed.

The six leading handset manufacturers accounted for 79.4pc of all global sales in 2005 and increased their share of the market at the expense of smaller rivals, Gartner said. The combined market share for the top six had been 78pc in the first three months of the year but this rose to 84pc for the fourth quarter.

Competition in the market is leading to price pressure at the entry level, while high-end handsets battle it out in an “arms race” based on design and technology, said Carolina Milanesi, principal analyst for mobile terminals research at Gartner. “The survival of the fittest depends more and more on economies of scales, or very carefully cut-out niche markets,” she said in a briefing note.

In the fourth quarter of 2005, mobile phone sales exceeded 235 million units — the biggest quarter on record since Gartner started tracking the market in 2001. “The industry experienced record sales due to continued strong growth in emerging markets, where falling prices for cellular connectivity (phones and subscriptions) resulted in higher-than-expected sales,” said Milanesi. “In more mature markets, such as western Europe and north America, replacement sales were driven by users that gave in to the charm of highly fashionable devices.”

Nokia remains the world’s largest supplier of mobile phones, with 2005 sales of 265,614,800 units giving it a total market share of 32.5pc for the year — almost double that of its nearest competitor Motorola, which itself had a share of 17.7pc. Samsung was in third place with 12.7pc, followed by LG with 6.7pc, Sony Ericsson (6.3pc) and Siemens, now known as BenQ, with 3.5pc.

All of the top five manufacturers grew market share versus 2004; Siemens was the only one to record negative growth, down from 7.2pc. The rest of the market also declined slightly, down to 20.6 from 21.6pc in 2004.

By Gordon Smith