Western European mobile phone market grows, thanks to smartphones

The Western European mobile phone market grew 8.1% year on year to 42.7 million units in 1Q10, according to IDC’s European Mobile Phone Tracker.

Shipments of smartphones surged in the quarter to 12 million units, 57% higher than in last year’s first quarter, to represent 28% of total shipments. Traditional mobile phones (TMPs) declined 4% year on year to 30.7 million units, showing the continuous trend toward smartphones.

“The first quarter is traditionally tough for phone makers as operators clear out old stock from the previous holiday season,” said Francisco Jeronimo, European mobile devices research manager, IDC.

“Still, operators are more cautious when launching new models and committing to high volumes, which drives more efficiency to their stock management policies and lower volumes to clear out after peak sales seasons. But last year’s first quarter was the worst quarter ever for the mobile phone industry in the region, which makes this year’s growth less expressive. On the other hand, the surge in smartphones also bolstered market growth at this time of the year.”

The TMP segment, which has been impacted by the increase in smartphone demand, declined 4% year on year and 30% sequentially to 30.7 million units. Sales of Samsung and LG feature phones have also impacted the TMP segment. Both Korean manufacturers, Samsung and LG, have successfully been launching and selling feature phones, as they understand most users are not yet ready for massive smartphone adoption as they still see these devices as complicated handsets.

Smartphone shipments rose to 12 million units, 56% higher than in last year’s first quarter, but 7% down from 4Q09. Apple, Research in Motion, and HTC were the main contributors to this quarter’s smartphone surge, growing over 100%. By operating system, Android shipped more units than Windows Mobile for the first time to take fourth position, while Symbian continues to lose market share to the iPhone OS and BlackBerry OS.

Nokia faces fierce competition from Samsung and could lose market leadership in Western Europe in 2010. Samsung became the market leader in TMPs.

Nokia’s shipments decreased 9% year on year to 14 million units and market share declined from 39% a year ago to 33% in 1Q10. Smartphones increased 13% to 4.9 million units but at a significantly lower growth rate compared with the market growth. Nokia’s market share in the segment slumped 16%, from 57% in 1Q09 to 41% in 1Q10. Nokia’s TMP shipments declined 18% to 9.1 million units, performing poorly compared with the overall market and direct competitors Samsung and LG. Market share in this segment fell from 35% to 30%.

Samsung’s shipments grew 18% year on year to 12.5 million units and market share increased from 27% in 1Q09 to 29% in 1Q10. Samsung became the market leader in TMPs after gaining 10% market share in the segment, ahead of Nokia. Samsung shipped 12.2 million TMPs, for a market share of 40% in the quarter. Strong sales of feature phones and touchscreen devices have helped Samsung gain the market leadership in the segment from Nokia. Smartphones continue to be Samsung’s Achilles heel, however. Shipments declined 25% year on year and market share halved from last year’s quarter, and the lack of portfolio in this segment has had an impact on Samsung.

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