291.1 million mobile handsets shipped in 3Q 2009

“The outlook for mobile handset markets continues to improve”, said Jake Saunders, ABI Research’s VP for Forecasting. “While 3Q-2009 showed a year on year 6.5% contraction in shipments to 291.1 million, 2009 should close out with only a 4%-5% 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% in 3Q-2009. Samsung continues to steam ahead, raising its market share to 20.7%. Despite some very novel handset model introductions in 2Q-2009, LG’s market-share softened in 3Q-2009 (10.9%).

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%. 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%), followed by Blackberry (18%),” 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% 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% of all handsets shipped this year will have onboard GPS.

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