Smart phone shipments outgrow mobile sector

30 Sep 2005

Smart mobile devices such as smart phones and wireless handhelds are shipping at an incredible rate, far outstripping growth in the overall mobile phone market, according to new market research figures.

According to the UK firm Canalys, which surveys this market, shipments of smart mobile devices in EMEA increased from 3.6 million in the first half of 2004 to 9.6 million in the first six months of this year – a rise of 170pc. By contrast, the mobile phone market recorded 11pc growth.

This rise appears set to continue, with Canalys forecasting that combined shipments of wireless handhelds and smart phones will rise to 16.9 million units by the first half of next year, equating to around 13pc of the overall cellular device market.

“The smart part has more than doubled in proportion, from 3.2pc of the total cellular device market in the first half of 2004, to 7.5pc a year later,” said Canalys analyst Rachel Lashford.

Canalys believes the growth in converged smart mobile devices is being driven by two very different categories of customer. The first is the individual buyer who is simply upgrading to the latest high-spec model, which often happens to be a smart phone.

The other customer segment comes from the growing trend for businesses to provide mobile email to staff. Keyboard-based devices are especially benefiting from this development, said Canalys.

Breaking down the figures, Canalys estimated that just under 80pc of the smart phones shipped in EMEA in the first half of 2005 were Series 60, keypad-based handsets. Nokia’s keyboard-oriented Series 80 models accounted for another 13pc and those based on the stylus-oriented UIQ interface a further 4pc. The Windows Mobile, Palm OS and BlackBerry smart phone platforms combined to represent the remaining 5pc.

In the wireless handheld segment, Windows Mobile fared better, as it is used on almost two thirds of the devices shipped in the first six months of this year. These devices often carry the brand of the mobile operators supplying them in a particular market. The remaining third in this segment are RIM’s established BlackBerry wireless handheld.

“RIM has enjoyed tremendous growth in EMEA over the past year, with total device shipments (smart phones plus wireless handhelds) up 130pc in the first half of 2005,” Lashford added. “But it is seeing increasing competition from other players now as the market is proving to be so lucrative. With Nokia and Microsoft respectively announcing the Nokia Business Center and the Windows Mobile 5.0 Messaging and Security Feature Pack, the challenge will increase.”

Increasingly more vendors are focusing on the opportunity for connected email devices within businesses and Canalys said it expects that Microsoft’s position in this space will strengthen. Hewlett-Packard launched its Mobile Messenger product earlier this year and Palm’s recent announcement of a Windows Mobile based Treo smart phone is a further sign that the Microsoft platform is gaining momentum. The new Palm model is not expected to appear in EMEA until well into next year though and Canalys expects many more vendors to launch converged devices before then.

By Gordon Smith