“The outlook for mobile handset markets continues to improve,” says Jake Saunders, ABI Research’s VP for Forecasting. “While 3Q-2009 showed a YoY 6.5 percent contraction in shipments to 291.1 million, 2009 should close out with only a 4 to 5 percent contraction (to 1,138 million for the year).”
Handset vendors are starting to mutter confidently of 4Q-2009 cash tills jingling to the tune of robust handset sales. In 3Q-2009, North America and Asia-Pacific helped to spearhead a recovery. In North America, the avid enthusiasm for smartphones was the driver. In Asia-Pacific, recovery in the local economies has been stoking interest in upgrades.
Market shares are starting to thaw. Nokia saw its market share slip from 38.3 to 37.3 percent in 3Q-2009. Samsung continues to steam ahead, raising its market share to 20.7 percent. Despite some very novel handset model introductions in 2Q-2009, LG’s market-share softened in 3Q-2009 (10.9 percent). All the other vendors either held their ground or lost a small amount of market share. The prime exception is Apple: its iPhone range of smartphones increased its market share from 1.9 to 2.5 percent. There have been arguments that Apple’s limited handset line-up will constrain growth, but for the mid-term, ABI Research does not expect any slowdown in Apple’s market-share growth.
“Despite the successes of the iPhone operating system, the leading player in the smartphone OS market is still very much Symbian (48 percent), followed by Blackberry (18 percent),” notes practice director Kevin Burden. “The ‘dark horse’ in all this is Android.” This week Motorola announced the launch of its navigation-friendly “Droid” handset. As the list of vendors committed to releasing Android handsets expands, product momentum should translate into increased Android sales. ABI Research estimates Android could capture 10 percent of the smartphone market by 2014.
Smartphones are not the only handset segment to drive the market. GPS is also becoming a very desirable feature of handsets. By the end of 2009, ABI Research estimates, 21 percent of all handsets shipped this year will have onboard GPS.