The worldwide mobile phone market grew by 17.9 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2010, a new quarterly high driven by smartphones, according to a study by IDC.
Vendors shipped by 401.4 million units, compared to 340.5 million units in the fourth quarter of 2009. Vendors shipped a total of 1.39 billion units on a cumulative worldwide basis in 2010, up by 18.5 per cent from 1.17 billion in 2009.
ZTE, a company that sells primarily lower-cost feature phones in emerging markets, moved into the number four position worldwide in fourth quarter. Nokia, Samsung and LG remained the top three vendors, while Apple was in fifth place. IDC believes the worldwide mobile phone market will be driven largely by smartphone growth through the end of 2014. The market researcher estimates that the smartphone sub-market will grow by 43.7 per cent in 2011.
The Asia/Pacific mobile phone landscape was driven by low-cost and high-end devices in the fourth quarter. Domestic brands in India like G-Five, Micromax and Karbonn grew with aggressive advertising and branding activities for entry-level phones, while ZTE and Huawei worked closely with carriers to push low-cost Android smartphones in China.
High-end smartphones, however, were equally well-received, resulting in higher shipments from Apple, Samsung, and HTC in the fourth quarter. Korea had the biggest smartphone appetite accounting for two-thirds of phones shipped in the fourth quarter, up from one-eighth a year ago.
In Western Europe, carrier smartphone promotions motivated more users to scrap their feature phones, resulting in strong smartphone sales. The iPhone 4, HTC Desire, Nokia N8, Samsung Galaxy S and Blackberry 8520, which were among the region''s top sellers, contributed to the overall market''s growth. Consequently, feature phones experienced their sharpest decline ever. In CEMA, quarterly volumes breached the 70 million unit threshold for the first time, marked by an influx of Chinese and unbranded handsets. Meanwhile, smartphones experienced brisk growth due to falling prices and more Android-powered devices.
The US mobile phone market closed out the year with more vendors becoming more active in smartphones. Market leaders RIM and Apple maintained a healthy lead, while newcomers Dell, Huawei, Kyocera and Sanyo launched their first smartphones in the US market. In addition, 4G took another step forward with the commercial launch of Verizon Wireless'' LTE network.
Similarly, in Canada, the focus was on smartphones. Android-powered devices from multiple players, along with incumbent vendors RIM and Apple, pushed shipment volumes to a new record level.
In Latin America, sustained user interest in smartphones drove the market, resulting in strong results for Nokia, RIM, and Samsung as well as relative newcomer Huawei. Smartphones, as well as Qwerty-enabled feature phones, helped boost social networking and messaging. Finally, Alcatel and ZTE once again thrived in the inexpensive entry-level device market.
Nokia’s overall unit volume slipped by 2.4 per cent in the fourth quarter, which the vendor attributed to the ‘intense competitive’ environment and component shortages. The result was lower feature phone shipments. The company did, however, grow smartphone volume by 38 per cent compared to the same prior-year quarter. Still, smartphone ASPs dropped by 16 per cent on a year-over-year basis.
Samsung reached a new milestone in the fourth quarter, pushing through the 80 million unit threshold for the first time in the company''s history and improving its profit margins for the second straight quarter. Driving shipment volumes was the continued success of its Galaxy S smartphones, of which the company sold nearly 10 million units worldwide for the year.
Similarly, Samsung''s mass-market and touch-screen phones earned a strong following in emerging markets.
LG crossed the 30 million unit mark for the quarter, due in part to the success of Optimus One smartphone sales across multiple regions. LG's feature phones comprised the majority of shipments, but an aging portfolio and lower prices within emerging markets left the company vulnerable to the competition.
ZTE finished the quarter in the number four position with shipments steadily spreading from its home country of China to developing regions such as Africa and Latin America. ZTE has also recently made inroads in developed markets such as Western Europe and the US as well as Japan. While most of its shipments have concentrated on entry-level and mid-range devices, some of its recent success is directly attributable to its rapidly expanding smartphone line, such as the Android-based Blade and Racer devices.
Meanwhile, its S- and C-series entry-level feature phones provided additional competition within emerging markets.
Apple slipped to the number five position despite a record quarter for unit shipments. The iPhone sold particularly well in developed regions of the world, such as North America and Western Europe.