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Handset sales up; Apple and Android growing

Wed, 05/19/2010 - 8:00am
Andrew Berg, Wireless Week

According to Gartner, mobile handset sales grew an impressive 17 percent in the first quarter of 2010 over the first quarter of 2009, with Research In Motion making it into the top-five handset makers for the first time.

Sales to end users totaled 314.7 million units, with smartphone sales to end users reaching 54.3 million units, an increase of 48.7 percent from the first quarter of 2009. Among the most successful vendors were those that controlled an integrated set of operating system, hardware and services.

Carolina Milanesi, research vice president at Gartner, said that this was the strongest quarter for handset sales since 2006: “This quarter saw RIM, a pure smartphone player, make its debut in the top-five mobile devices manufacturers, and saw Apple increase its market share by 1.2 percentage points. Android’s momentum continued into the first quarter of 2010, particularly in North America, where sales of Android-based phones increased 707 percent year-on-year."

Nokia, the No. 1 handset maker by sales, accounted for 110.1 million units, which was still a 1.2 percent decline in market share year-on-year. The Gartner report seems to indicate that Nokia's lack of a strong smartphone competitor was the reason for the decline. Samsung, RIM, Sony Ericsson and Apple accounted for spots two through five, respectively.

The report concludes that in the smartphone OS market, Android and Apple were the winners in the first quarter of 2010. Android moved to the No. 4 position, displacing Microsoft Windows Mobile for the first time. Both Android and Apple were the only two OS vendors among the top five to increase market share year-on-year. Symbian remained in the No. 1 position but continued to lose as Nokia remains weak in the high-end portfolio.

The first quarter of 2010 was Apple’s strongest quarter yet, with a 112.2 percent increase in mobile device sales. “Growth came partly from new communication service providers in established markets, such as the U.K., and stronger sales in new markets such as China and South Korea,” Milanesi said. “The second quarter of 2010 will be a very important one for Apple. We expect that Apple will present its new iPhone in June during its Worldwide Developer Conference, which will be the first to feature the latest release of the iPhone OS that includes welcome improvements for developers and users, such as multitasking.”

According to IDC research released concurrent with Gartner's numbers, HTC and Motorola made a little commotion of their own.

HTC posted high double-digit growth to start off the year, driven primarily by its growing stable of Android-powered products, including the Hero, Droid Eris and MyTouch. The company also announced several new devices, including the first WiMAX Android phone, the Evo 4G, slated to launch later this year. HTC also remains committed to Windows Mobile devices, with the HD2 receiving a warm reception and Windows Phone 7 devices expected to launch before the end of the year.

Motorola, having stormed back into the smartphone space in the fourth quarter of 2009, followed up with a new milestone in its short history of shipping Android devices. Now that the Droid and Cliq (known as the Milestone and Dext, respectively, outside the U.S.) both have a full quarter of availability, the company followed up with six additional devices. The company expects to launch 20 different models and ship 12 million to 14 million Android smartphones this year.

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