More than 77 million smart mobile devices were shipped worldwide during 2006, with phones accounting for 64 million of the total, according to estimates released by the UK research firm Canalys.
More than 22 million co-called ‘converged’ devices were shipped in the final quarter of last year, a year-on-year increase of 30pc. This was a reduction on the 50pc growth of Q3, but unit volumes hit a new quarterly peak, Canalys said. Of the Q4 total, 18 million were smart phones, 2.5 million were wireless handhelds and 1.5 million handhelds.
As ever, Nokia was the market leader in the fourth quarter, accounting for 50pc of all shipments. RIM, maker of the BlackBerry mobile email device, was in second place with 8.3pc of the quarterly total. Motorola, Palm and Sony Ericsson rounded out the top five manufacturers, with Palm the only one on the list to show negative growth versus the same quarter in 2005.
Canalys estimates that global smart phone shipments for the full year reached 64.1 million units – amounting to annual growth of 64pc over the 39.4 million devices shipped in 2005. Wireless handheld shipments in 2006 rose 44pc from
5.3 million in 2005 to 7.5 million, overtaking their unconnected handheld predecessors.
Symbian was the clear front runner in the operating system (OS) stakes, with a 67pc share for the full year. Microsoft was in second placed with a slightly reduced 14pc share; third-placed RIM had 7pc, followed by Linux on 6pc and the Palm OS on 5pc.
This year, Canalys said it expects to see increasing activity around Linux, as manufacturers look for an alternative to proprietary phone OSes. It forecast that Microsoft will be boosted by the arrival of new models and new brands using its Windows Mobile 6.0 OS.
Canalys senior analyst Rachel Lashford said: “The still under-penetrated market for mobile email will provide tremendous growth opportunities for Microsoft, RIM and others. But in volume terms it will be hard to catch Symbian in the near future, particularly if it provides a competitive foundation for consumer-oriented smart phones at the lower price points that market demands.”
By Gordon Smith