Sales of mobile phones are set to return to double digit growth, but margins will continue to be squeezed, analyst Gartner has claimed.
Its latest figures reveal that global mobile phone sales dropped 0.9 per cent in 2009, but the fourth quarter saw a growth of 8.3 per cent to 240 million units, compared with Q4 2008.
Heading the global leaderboard was Nokia with 36.4 per cent of the market, with its nearest rival Samsung grabbing 19.5 per cent of the market. LG, Motorola and Sony Ericsson also made the top five with 10.1 per cent, 4.8 per cent and 4.5 per cent respectively.
Carolina Milanesi, research director at Gartner, said: "Smartphone sales to end users continued their strong growth in the fourth quarter of 2009, totalling 53.8 million units, up 41.1 per cent from the same period in 2008.
"In 2009, smartphone sales reached 172.4 million units, a 23.8 per cent increase from 2008. In 2009, smartphone-focused vendors like Apple and RIM successfully captured market share from other larger device producers, controlling 14.4 and 19.9 per cent of the worldwide smartphone market respectively."
In terms of operating systems, Symbian still led the pack with 46.9 per cent market share, followed by RIM with 19.9 per cent share of the market. Hot on its heels were the iPhone OS with 14.4 per cent market share, with Microsoft Windows Mobile and Linux completing the top five.
Roberta Cozza, principal research analyst at Gartner, said: "Symbian had become uncompetitive in recent years, but its market share, particularly on Nokia devices is still strong. If Symbian can use this momentum, it could return to positive growth.
Cozza said the two best performers were Android and Apple.
"Android's success experienced in Q4 should continue into 2010 as more manufacturers launch Android products, but some CSPs and manufacturers have expressed growing concern about Google's intentions in the mobile market," she added.
Looking forward, Milanesi said: "We can expect 2010 to retain a strong focus around operating systems, services and applications while hardware takes a back seat. Sales will return to low-double-digit growth, but competition will continue to put a strain on vendors' margins."
Lee Williams, executive director at Symbian Foundation said years of investment were paying off for the firm.
"Earlier this month, we not only announced the latest version of the Symbian platform, but also that the source code for our platform is now fully open source," he said. "The latter announcement represents ten years of investment and billions of dollars worth of code - all of which is now available for download and development for free. We look forward to keeping apace with Gartner's prediction for double digit growth for the mobile industry in 2010."
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